These Vancouver photographers have been documenting Main Street since 2011 — and it's disappearing

David Niddrie and Jen Okrusko have been creating a love letter to their changing Vancouver neighbourhood.

David Niddrie and Jen Okrusko have been creating a love letter to their changing neighbourhood

Correspondent Joella Cabalu is breaking down the project Disappearing Main Street. 4:25

In 2009, I moved to Vancouver's Mount Pleasant neighbourhood — its central artery, running north and south, is Main Street. For the past eight years, this place has been a constant presence, the backdrop to the many transformations in my young adulthood: living on my own for the first time, changing careers, dealing with heartbreak and falling in love. And as I have changed, so has the cityscape of Main Street.

It's a change that comes with gentrification, and photographer David Niddrie and collaborator Jen Okrusko have been documenting that transformation since 2011. Their series of photographs covers 31 blocks of Main Street, from East 2nd Avenue to East 33rd Avenue.

Okrusko and Niddrie began the project, Disappearing Main Street, as a response to the approval of a major condo development in the heart of Mount Pleasant at Main Street and Broadway. Over the course of five months in the summer of 2011, David and Jen would set up in the early mornings to avoid parked cars and traffic and, over time, they took the equivalent of a 62-block photo, shooting both the east and west side of the street.

A photo from David Niddrie and Jen Okrusko's Disappearing Main Street. (David Niddrie and Jen Okrusko)

In this video, co-created with CBC Arts correspondent Milena Salazar, we captured one of Main Street's "Hall of Fame" businesses — Bean Around the World — on its last day of operation after 16 years of serving coffee and home-baked pastries. But like many other establishments along Main Street, "The Bean" (as it was affectionately called) was more than a coffee shop. It was a "mini community centre" for many residents and neighbors.

A neighbourhood should have a feeling like you know where you are, know where you belong.- Libby Russell, Bean Around the World customer

We also caught up with David and Jen, who have been compelled to take updated photos of the blocks, no matter how small or large the changes may be. Because even though the Main Street that David, Jen and myself knew back in the early aughts is slowly disappearing, there is another generation of residents and business owners who have created their own Main Street. This is the hopeful spirit of the project — a love letter to Main Street, what was and what it is today.

Keep up with Disappearing Main Street here.

Watch Exhibitionists on Friday nights at 12:30 a.m. (1 NT) and Sundays at 3:30 p.m. (4NT) on CBC Television.

About the Author

Joella Cabalu

Joella Cabalu is a Filipino-Canadian Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker who holds an Art History degree from the University of British Columbia (2008) and is a graduate of the Documentary Film Production Program at Langara College (2013). In 2015, Cabalu delivered her first broadcast documentary It Runs in the Family as a producer, director and writer.


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