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Monday, 27 October 2014

Foncie Pulice - Street Photographer


On September 27, 1979 street photographer Foncie Pulice took his last picture. Foncie and his Electric-Photo camera had been a familiar sight on Vancouver, BC, city streets for 45 years, having begun as a 20-year-old back in 1934 as an assistant to street photographer Joe Iaci. In his career he took millions of photographs.

When he started in 1934, Pulice recalled that “there were six companies in Vancouver, but when we really started to go was during the war. The public couldn’t get film, you see, so the street photographers were all they had. Servicemen would come home on leave, they’d have pictures taken. Families would get together, we’d take their picture. At one time, I was taking 4,000 to 5,000 pictures every day.”  My parents had their photo taken by Pulice about a month before they were married in 1943 while my Dad, in uniform, was on leave from the Royal Canadian Air Force and my Mom was wearing her fur coat.  They were both only 22 years old.
Did he save all those millions of negatives? They’d likely be worth a small fortune now. “I never did,” he said. “I didn’t really think about it at the time. I’d keep ’em for a year, then throw ’em out. I realize now I should have saved them, but it’s too late.”

People even made appointments for street pictures! “Oh, yes. They’d phone ahead and tell us what time they’d be walking down Granville. Dr. Peter Bell-Irving had members of his family photographed every year. I have shots showing one little tyke in that family growing all the way up to six-foot-five.”
Pulice says that one of the reasons he got into street photography was because he wanted to meet girls. He had a whole wall of phone numbers up on his wall and beside every number he put a little description of the girl. He used to get calls from other fellows saying, ‘Hey, Foncie, you know all the girls--can you fix us up with dates?

Well, the wall didn’t go into a museum, but his camera did, a remarkable artifact of a remarkable career.  Made of war surplus materials, Pulice’s camera is preserved at the Vancouver Museum. It’s part of their 1950s gallery and is accompanied by a slew of Foncie’s Fotos.
All across Canada and in other countries there are thousands and thousands of Foncie’s Fotos showing thousands and thousands of people striding along the street, captured in motion in unposed moments that may be closer to the spirit of the people shown than any carefully composed studio portrait.

Foncie Pulice was the last of the street photographers. He took his first street photo in 1934 and his last on September 27, 1979. He died January 20, 2003 at age 88, but his work lives on . . . everywhere.

(Information on Pulice taken from: http://www.vancouverhistory.ca/archives_foncie.htm)
You can also check out some of Pulice’s photos at the following sites:

http://fonciescorner.knowledge.ca/about-foncie/

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20 comments:

  1. Wow, what a cool legacy. So glad you shared this Leslie!

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  2. Perfect Photography Post for P !! Am a big fan of his work. My real name and my nom de plume are both P as well :)

    PhenoMenon
    http://throodalookingglass.com/2014/10/pyramid-valley/

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  3. What an interesting personality is he! Thanks for this story.

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  4. I like his method of getting to know girls!

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  5. I remember the time that it was very special (and expensive) to have one's own camera!

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  6. His PHOTOGRAPHIC work sounds like it would be PHENOMENAL to PERUSE through. Blessings!

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  7. After reading about Pulice, I want to be a street photographer.

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  8. Fascinating, and the best post by a host for months! Well done and thank you. More of the same please in future weeks?

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    1. Thanks very much, Chrissy, but I'm just doing the odd intro now and then as I'm dealing with my husband's health issues. I'll be back in full form one day, I hope.

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    2. I second that Roger, I miss her interesting writing and wonderful photography,
      Di xx

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  9. Absolutely fascinating, thanks for such an interesting post.

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  10. "P" is for Parks, pleasant promenades, popular pastimes and pleased people...
    Thanks for hosting.

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  11. And "P" is for Perth, in Australia!

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  12. That was a most interesting POST Leslie and good to have you back! Clever way to make a living...btw my daughter' grandfather Chris Christianson from Edmonton Alberta was in the RCAF at about the same time as your father, sadly he was killed in action over Holland, He was also a Mountie !....curious links again!
    love,
    Di xx

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    1. Wow! We might have been sisters in another life, Di! XX

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    2. It's amazing the amount of times paths have crossed during our lives Leslie
      . My Great grandfather Capt. William Jones Ben was a Welshman, from North Wales.
      He sailed regularly across the Atlantic to Canada, he was in the Merchant Navy.
      I mention this as I think you have relatives in North Wales....Definitely 'spiritual sisters'
      lol Di xx

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  13. Great post, very interesting! Good that they didn't put the wall of ladies numbers at the museum, the now grandmas would be very embarrassed :)

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  14. Ah, Leslie, I just realized that was your Post. So good to have you back! I missed recognizing you in my post, but must say you chose the Perfect subject in Foncie Police. I have long admired his work. Make sure to let me know if you are ever anywhere near Vancouver's downtown area and have a bit of extra time for a cuppa something! You and Lorne are often in my thoughts.

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    1. Thanks, Carol, and I will take you up on that one day. As you know, we're struggling with a different issue with Lorne's health so give me some time. Hope and pray that your dear one is doing well.

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