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Neering, Rosemary.

Photography by Michael Breuer. Toronto, Oxford University Press, c1984. 88pp, cloth, $16.95, ISBN 0-91-5 40465-3. CIP

Grades 6 and up
Reviewed by Adele Case

Volume 13 Number 2
1985 March

It seems appropriate that the Breuer/ Neering annotated collection of pictures of buildings and locations in British Columbia should appear close to Christmas. The book is a visual celebration, an eclectic choice of places and spaces that were significant in the relatively few decades that the westernmost province has attracted sailors and settlers, missionaries and miners, gamblers and glamour girls.

Breuer seems most at home with close-up shots, and some of his elegant compositions of the architectural details or gingerbread decoration, favoured for the turn-of-the-century dwellings, clearly demonstrate the artistry to be seen in the churches, and even some of the commercial buildings and homes. Many of the structures designed in British Columbia's infancy were constructed of wood, in clapboard or log finish (not a long-lasting finish), so this coffee-table sized compendium will serve as a useful record of historic sites.

Rosemary Neering, the author of Winners & Losers, Gamblers All, defends her speculation that B.C. "soars and sags" with the highs and lows of the stock market, and that British Columbians are still gamblers at heart. Recent unemployment, recession in the forest industry, and a threatened fishery, justify this premise. Most of the successful gamblers on the west coast have been entrepreneurs who hit the jackpot with prudent land purchases, or who finished with a handful of aces after a venture into mining. Other winners saw a potential for trade, or capitalized on the needs of prospectors or settlers.

Losers came West, too. Townsites failed. Settlements lost residents through the draining away of young men for wars in Europe, or fluctuations in the market price for minerals, beef, fruit or produce. Weather and transportation problems in mountain areas frequently created insurmountable difficulties.

If there is a weakness in this collection of annotated photographs, it is certainly not in the layout or arrangement: this is a handsome book. Neering's comments, though brief, are evocative and lively. However, there are many close-ups, a few "reflection" shots that could be clearer, and some scenic shots that have a snapshot quality, lacking in definition and vitality. Logging operations (though important in the history of the province) are scarely considered, and whole sections of the coast are not dealt with. In fairness, the book does not claim to exhaust all places with historic connections. A sequel should show us Sointula, Butedale, Port Neville, Clo-oose, Masset. . .but the list could go on and on. Recommended.

Adele Case, Britannia S.S., Vancouver, B.C.
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