If I was to draft a list of my favourite places in Vancouver; some of the places that I feel embody what it is to be from and appreciative of East Van culture, Leeside Skate Park would be one of the top three. This is probably obvious to many who have followed my work for any length of time, as I have shot many photography projects in this space, and I’ve seen it undergo many changes in doing so. I am not a skateboarder, but I have a deep respect for the art and love that has always come through in my visits to Leeside.
Last weekend, for no reason in particular, I took my daughter to Leeside. It was right after taking the photographs that I shared earlier this week on the blog, which were taken at Barnet Marine Park in Burnaby. After leaving, and being freezing cold, we got in the van and I told her that I wanted to make one more stop at a place that was special to me. I wanted to share this place with her, and that’s exactly what I did.
Kids love skate parks. Every kid I’ve ever taken to one has been instantly transformed by the bright colours and the neat ramps. Abby is no exception. Abby was in awe of Leeside, and to be honest, so was I. What I saw there was something that moved me. First of all, what was usually a dingy and dirty place had been transformed by dedication and commitment; the community had cleaned Leeside up incredibly. Where there used to be tonnes of spraypaint canisters and cigarette butts, beer cans and discarded bags of doritos, Leeside was clean. It nearly knocked me on my ass.
I was so, so impressed with the change. But not only that, when two young men saw us coming down the hill into the park, they greeted us really politely. They were kind and considerate, and that was also really impressive.
It’s hard to say what drew me to Leeside last weekend. We had no business in Vancouver, and it’s not like anything particular was being shot in this location. I just felt that it was a good place for us to go. Which wouldn’t even be a thing if not for the fact that allegedly, vandals burnt Leeside down this week. The fire has effectively negated all of the hard work put into this spot and simultaneously smashed my heart.
It seemed pertinent to share the last photographs that I took of Leeside with the world, given the circumstances.