Thursday, February 27, 2020 | 7 PM
Small World Music Centre

Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw St
Tickets: Pay-What-You-Can $0 | $10 | $15


The Koffler’s Books & Ideas series presents the launch of curator Catherine Clement’s book, Chinatown Through a Wide Lens: The Hidden Photographs of Yucho Chow, in conversation with author and Associate Professor at York University, Lily Cho. Prior to the talk, artist Karen Tam will give a tour of her Koffler Gallery exhibition, the chrysanthemum has opened twelve times.

Chinatown Through a Wide Lens: The Hidden Photographs of Yucho Chow showcases the once-hidden photographs of Vancouver’s first and most prolific Chinese photographer, Yucho Chow. He operated a commercial studio in the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown from 1907–1949 and chronicled life during a tumultuous and transformative time in Canadian history. Although Yucho Chow was Chinese, his studio welcomed other early marginalized communities (Sikh Canadians, Black Canadians, Indigenous residents, mixed-race families and Eastern European immigrants). In fact, for some communities, he was the only photographer willing to take their portraits.

Sadly, Yucho Chow’s negatives—and the individual stories and history they revealed—were all discarded when the studio closed and his work was slowly fading from memory. The images in this book were uncovered—one family at a time, one photo at a time, one story at a time—over eight years. Many of these photos have never been seen before publicly.

Together, these aging photographs bear witness to our hidden past. They show us that Vancouver’s early Chinatown was not just a neighbourhood for Chinese. They grant us a rare and private glimpse into the remarkable and resilient individuals and communities that persevered as they struggled to make Canada their home. And these images remind us that early communities, no matter how different their backgrounds, all shared common needs and aspirations, and the desire to record their lives in a photograph.

Catherine Clement is a community curator and designer based in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Her work focuses on uncovering and sharing the lesser-known stories of the community. For five years, she was Curator for the Chinese Canadian Military Museum. In 2017, Catherine art directed a Canada 150 exhibit called the “Chinatown History Windows” which brought history to the streets. For that project, she designed and installed 22 large-format, stylized historical photos and stories onto empty storefront windows.

Catherine’s latest project emerged while interviewing Chinese-Canadian WWII veterans. As families leafed through their old photo albums, she kept spotting remarkable studio images, taken over several decades and bearing the seal Yucho Chow Studio. She would soon learn that this photographer’s work was “everywhere yet nowhere,” and thus began an eight-year journey to find Yucho Chow’s “hidden” photos and piece together his story. Catherine had no idea how big his story would become and how it would encompass many other communities beyond the Chinese. In May 2019, she mounted the first-ever exhibition of Chow’s work called Chinatown Through a Wide Lens: The Hidden Photographs of Yucho Chow. Catherine’s book is a result of the many new photographs submitted during the exhibit.

Lily Cho’s research focuses on diasporic subjectivity within the fields of cultural studies, postcolonial literature and theory, and Asian North American and Canadian literature. She is co-editor of Human Rights and the Arts: Perspectives on Global Asia and author of Eating Chinese: Culture on the Menu in Small Town Canada. Her next book, Mass Capture: Chinese Head Tax Certificates and the Making of Non-Citizens is forthcoming from McGill-Queen’s University Press, which explores the relationship between citizenship, photography, and anticipation as a mode of agency.

Photo credit: Claudette Carracedo.

Koffler Centre of the Arts’ Books & Ideas series spotlights provocative writers, artists and thinkers, celebrating literary excellence and fostering critical dialogue through compelling book launches, author talks and on-stage interviews. With a thematic focus on counter-narratives, the series features books that employ fiction, memoir, and photography as tools of resistance.

The 2020 Books & Ideas series foreground authors and books that explore the complexities of gender, race, sexuality and the diasporic experience. Full details on upcoming 2020 series are coming soon.

Books & Ideas presented in partnership with:


With generous support from Dorothy Shoichet & Family, the Estate of Joseph Koenig, the Koffler Family Foundation, the Ontario Arts Council and CIBC Wood Gundy. 

Books & Ideas Media Partner:

Flowers generously provided by: