Photographers' Blog

Tales from a rare bookstore

By Andy Clark

The book immediately caught my eye. It was small, about the size of a deck of cards, but twice the thickness, and there was no question it was very old. It sat in a pile of other aged publications that had just arrived at MacLeod’s Books in downtown Vancouver. It looked fragile as I picked it up and opened to the title page. “Wow!”, I said.

I had been in MacLeod’s Books about five or six hours at that point, not to search for any rare or out of print books but to do a day in the life photo essay on the 50-year-old used book store. The store originally opened in the early 1960s but in 1973 a young Don Stewart bought the place and has been there ever since.

I had been in the store once before about five years ago while waiting for an assignment to begin nearby. Once inside I was in awe of the thousands of books I saw. Unfortunately, duty called and I left shortly after. Well maybe I am fibbing a bit here. I love books, always have, and when I got a glimpse of the inside I had to turn and walk out, right then. If I hadn’t I would have been in there for hours, my assignment forgotten and my wallet considerably lighter. I promised myself I would return and thought this place might even make a pretty good photo story.

My return came about two weeks ago when I happened to drive by and decided to stop in and talk to the owner. Again I was speechless once inside. After looking around for a few minutes I approached Don and made my pitch to spend a day or two in his place to photograph and produce a photo essay. I was very surprised he agreed to the idea quite quickly and we set a date for the project.

As I mentioned Don Stewart has owned the used bookstore for about 40 years. He estimates he has roughly 100,000 titles in stock. Add to that the multiple copies of many titles and the number of books he actually has far exceeds a count I couldn’t even begin to estimate.

Rushdie, Oprah and disappointment

By Altaf Bhat

When I set off from Delhi to cover the Jaipur Literature Festival (my first art beat assignment) I was full of enthusiasm as controversial British-Indian author Salman Rushdie was expected to participate in the event. I had planned a sequence of photographs on the growing “Lit Fest” but all my planning turned out to be the proverbial “castle in the air”.

The festival’s invitation to Rushdie, whose 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses” is banned in India, sparked protests from some Muslim groups who said he had offended their religious sentiments. Rushdie made headlines in Indian media much before his arrival in the country. Muslim organizations in Jaipur threatened to hold protests if Rushdie was allowed into the country, and permitted to speak at the festival. The author and the organizers of the event maintained that Rushdie would participate.

The situation was shaping into a face-off between the literary circles and the Muslim organization and I was hoping to get a few good pictures. With shoe-throwing becoming the fad form of protest in India – Rahul Gandhi, heir-apparent of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, being the latest victim – I readied myself to get the best shot if Rushdie faced a similar fate during his presence at the event.