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Saturday in the City 5: Mac Parry and his importance

June 28, 2013

The remarkable Mac Parry – the Sun’s Town Talk columnist since the beginning of this century – was present at his own creations this weekend.

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 Hundreds of black-and-white portraits covered the walls of Bob Rennie’s Wing Sang Gallery: a collection of the power elite, the performers and the poseurs who  attend all those parties and openings that you and I aren’t likely to get invited to.  But Mac has, and he kept the records.

The exhibition was only open to the public last weekend, so I was glad to have been at it even if I wasn’t in it.  Just don’t have the teeth and tits.

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Well, that was a cheap shot, wasn’t it.  It is true that Mac captured a lot of décolletage from his six foot-three perspective and wide-angle lens.  He has an affection, I suppose, for that glossy, casually coifed look that I still associate with Valerie Gibson and her Dear Barbie columns in Vancouver Magazine during the years that he edited it.

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But I have a hunch that Mac was up to something else as he was documenting the ephemeral and superficial.  Because invariably in his items and photos there would be references to those who represented what Vancouver was becoming, and who through placements in his columns were effectively welcomed as equals into the elite.  You can see that to the right in the shot above – or here:

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More gorgeous rich people whose names I didn’t know but presumed I should if I wanted to know how this town really worked.  And Mac was there to tell me who they were, and in doing so widened our perspective of what we were.

Of course, there were people I did know or knew of:

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And some who were in their way engaged in the same exercise as Mac Parry:

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People like Milton Wong and Terry Hui (above), who understood that even with its deeply racist history, Vancouver was a city that was becoming something else – a hybrid city, an emergent Pacific Rim culture where Europe and Asia interfaced. And this was the moment in which it had to work, the time when we moved beyond a token multiculturism and blended our own masala.

That, I think, was the motivation for the Dragon Boat Races, and I know it was the reason why Milt Wong and others made the effort to keep it alive, why Hui’s Concord Pacific backed it with money, boats and space on their False Creek site. That Dragon Boat Festival is that new Vancouver.

The distance from the race site to the walls of Rennie’s gallery was only a kilometer on my bike, and I didn’t expect to find a connection.  But there it was, just one of the many links that Mac has made, maybe without explicit intent but certainly as a result of his ubiquitous presence, his camera, his words and his own way of documenting who we are.

This is in its own way our history, and it needs to be preserved, archived and exhibited, ideally online, so that the future has some insight into our past. And can share in the gossip and the décolletage.

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