New Brunswick

When Saint John's north end changed in the 1960s, this photographer captured it

In the 1960s, when Ian MacEachern was a television cameraman, he noticed Saint John was changing.

Lost City exhibit launched at Saint John Arts Centre

Prominent photographer Ian MacEachern has launched an exhibit of photographs he took of Saint John's old north end in the 1960s. (Graham Thompson/CBC)

Photographer Ian MacEachern has launched an exhibition and book of photographs of Saint John's north end in the old days.

In the 1960s, when MacEachern was a TV camera operator, he noticed Saint John was changing.

Buildings were burning down, Main Street was being torn down, and children were playing in rubble on the street.

I think his body of work is just an amazing gift to Canada. It's much, much bigger than just Saint John. - John Leroux, Beaverbrook Art Gallery

He decided to document this process, one that took him a few years to name: urban renewal.

The Beaverbrook Art Gallery is displaying his photographs at the Saint John Arts Centre in the exhibit Lost City, accompanied by a book with the same title.

Girls and Laundry, from Lost City exhibit at the Saint John Arts Centre. (Ian MacEachern)

"Saint John is a city of contrast," MacEachern said in an interview. "Certainly, back then, it seemed that people were well off or poor, and there'd be really nice buildings and a tenement beside it.

"A large part of the city, there were no front yard … the kids just played on the street, the front step, that was their playground. Even then, I recognized that this is not the usual habitat for kids."

John Leroux of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton said the collection has been 50 years in the making.

"A part of the city that's no longer here, it tells a story about a group of people that were marginalized and overlooked at one time and a community that wasn't really taking them into account," he said.

Snowstorm, from Lost City. (Ian MacEachern)

"And Ian cared enough to take it into account and was able to share that with people, so I think it's a way to give voice to something that hadn't had a voice in some time."

Leroux described the photographs as "stunning."

"I see these episodes of joy and compassion … it talks about the life, and the complex life of what Saint John was like in the 1960s."

Leroux chose 75 black-and-white photographs and wrote an essay that comments on the social impact of urban renewal and, in some parts of Saint John, gentrification.

The touring exhibition opened Friday in Saint John, where it will stay until Dec. 21 before moving to Fredericton.

"I think his body of work is just an amazing gift to Canada," Leroux said. "It's much, much bigger than just Saint John."