After featuring the Assiniboia Inn in a photo set last year, along with photographing a number of vintage neon motel signs along the Trans Canada, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I returned to capture the infamous Assiniboia Inn neon sign. The hotel has been closed for years now and the sign is permanently turned off, but it's still an eye-catching marquee. It's also a location that I can see changing dramatically in the short term, either with eventual renovation, or demolition / dismantling (which frankly seems more likely at the moment).
The sign was erected in the early 1950s, when the building was renovated and expanded to become the brand new Assiniboia Hotel (before later becoming the Inn). The last memories I really have of the sign being lit up were from before I left for university in 2002. I remember the yellow lights around the edge of the sign flashed in a way that made them look like they were moving. It was incredibly bright and lit up the entire intersection on South Railway Street.
Sadly, the sign has been left wasting away for years now. The fading paint only emphasizes the neglect of the building, and I can only guess how long it will be before the three story sign is removed out of fear of it falling. I hope I'm wrong. It would be amazing to see it lit up again.
It's been a decade now since my first ever film school production class in the winter semester of 2003. We did a lot with slides that year and used them as an introduction to visual storytelling. Several years ago I actually shared a bunch of these images as a glimpse into what I'd come up with. See that here.
I pulled out these slides again as a bit of a reminder of some of my early photo work, and stumbled onto a few shots I didn't remember. There was one of Ward, who I did a lot of touring around Regina with during this project, and various shots of Regina landmarks that I hadn't remembered shooting. It's not really that my style of photography has changed that dramatically over the years, but looking back at things like this is a nice reminder of how much you've improved and matured. It's just a nice flashback really.
Constructed in 1916, Earl Kitchener was a primary school for the better part of its life, before becoming an alternative school and mixed used community facility in more recent years. Just last summer the nearly hundred year old building was up for sale, as the board looked for community minded groups to use the space.
With styling similar to that of the now defunct Elizabeth Street School, also in Medicine Hat, it's easy to see a theme in the growth of the city. Earl Kitchener's original bell dome, brick work, and cornerstone are all in pretty good shape today. Despite the location still needing a few upgrades, it's a beautiful building worth preserving, and it happens to be just across the road from another classic, the former Crystal Dairy.
Have a look inside the former Earl Kitchener School here.
Earlier this month I announced that I was making custom postcards of 40 images from my Around the Hat photo series. Well, the wait is over. They're here, they look amazing, and I'm incredibly excited to finally share them. It's been about a week now that I've had the postcard shop open for preview, and thanks to pre-orders, several of the designs are already nearly out of stock with only a single card of some prints left.
You can make selections and order here.
It's exciting to share some of my work this way. Not only have I had a fascination with vintage postcards from Medicine Hat, but creating my own has made me realize that I'm capturing a piece of history too. Photographing these locations was never about tourism for me, but about showcasing the evolution of the place I grew up in and discovering some of the history behind it.
This photo series isn't merely a collection of beautiful images, it's a document of some lesser known treasures, some fading histories, and some distinctly iconic places in Medicine Hat. To my knowledge, there has been no other series more deliberate or thorough in documenting Medicine Hat's historic landmarks, and it's probably why interest has grown so rapidly. Frankly, this experience wouldn't be anywhere near as incredible if I weren't able to share it.
This first series of postcards is a test run really, and it will determine whether further postcards are ordered down the road. Don't get me wrong, they're fun to produce, but at this level they certainly aren't lucrative and are more about promoting the project. One thing is for certain though, it's likely that when (and if) a second series of postcards are made, they will feature different images, making these cards a bit rarer in the grand scheme of things. I keep telling myself how cool it would be to stumble onto one of my own postcards 50 years from now and be reminded of how this all started.
Ultimately, I just want to say thank you to those of you who have chosen to buy a postcard or two. The action is not only very humbling, but it's genuine encouragement for me to continue producing these original photo sets and features of some truly amazing (and highly underrated) places. Around the Hat has been shot and edited entirely on my own time, and money raised from this undertaking simply helps to justify further creative ambitions - like my desire to publish a photo book.
The archival and heritage value of what I feel I've been building is incredibly rare for Medicine Hat, and at the end of the day, this is just one step forward in discovering the potential that this project really has. Have a look at the collection and get in touch.