Upstairs at Wah Lee’s: Portraits from the C.S. Wing Studio

Constable Dave Anderson on left, in front of Wah Lee Store, c. 1910. Courtesy of The Quesnel & District Museum and Archives.

July 1st to September 29th 2012

The Courtenay and District Museum plays host to the traveling exhibit Upstairs at Wah Lee’s this summer.

The exhibition consists of 30 photographs captured by Chinese Canadian photographer Chow Shong Wing circa 1910 in the town of Quesnel, BC.

Chow Shong Wing was the first professional photographer in the town and, if the intimacy of the portraits is any indication, was well acquainted with the First Nations, Chinese and Caucasian people who sat before his lens.

The Wing photographs speak profoundly of the powerful economic, religious and social forces of acculturation at work in the then young province of British Columbia. These are portraits of people in a small town, taken by a small town photographer. They are unique because the small town was an intensely multicultural community and the photographer himself was a distinct part of the milieu.

The images in this exhibition were selected from a larger glass plate negative collection housed in the Quesnel and District Museum and Archives and are fairly representative of both the conventions of Wing’s photography and the people who sat before his lens.

The contemporary prints are largely un-retouched, acknowledging the degradation of emulsion from the glass-plates.

This exhibition will be of interest to the general public as well as photographers, Chinese-Canadians and First Nations communities.

The exhibition is curated by Faith Moosang and organized by The Quesnel & District Museum and Archives.