Our annual Day in the Life of Port Alberni souvenir section will be published with the print edition of the Alberni Valley News this week (Aug. 26, 2020), on the 14th anniversary of our paper opening in the city.
We started this tradition 13 years ago—giving ourselves a year to get to know the community first. It has since become one of the most read sections of our newspaper every year. A couple of years ago videographer Andrew Nixon followed me around for the day and created a video about our project. It was nerve-wracking to be on the other side of the camera for once.
A Day in the Life is not a new concept. It originated in this country in 1984, when authors David Cohen and Rick Smolan gathered a massive crew of photographers and videographers across the country to create a pictorial celebration of life in Canada. The result was the hardcover book A Day in the Life of Canada, and accompanying documentary about the process. Many newspapers in Black Press Media publish similar sections as ours, and the BC and Yukon Community Newspaper Association recognizes the sections in one of their annual award categories.
We always end up taking more photos than we have room for, and the editing process is painful. I remember when A Day in the Life of Canada took place, but what I didn’t realize until now is that only 255 photos made it into the book out of thousands of images.
This is the first year that we photographed Day in the Life from behind non-medical masks. (If you’ve seen reporter Elena Rardon or I out and about since March, you’ll notice that we wear our masks as much as possible, especially for indoor assignments.)
We had numerous discussions in the office about how we would go about photographing Day in the Life of Port Alberni this year, while keeping safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Being a journalist, publisher or sales associate means we encounter numerous people during our week, so our bubbles are not small. Shooting this photographic project in the summer usually means we can hit a lot of outdoor events—which didn’t happen this year. We endeavoured to keep our assignments outdoors and minding six feet of physical distance with the people who we encountered.
This year’s project saw a lot more organized appointments with people and fewer “on-the-spot” photo requests as a result. We appreciated everyone who allowed us to visit your business or home, and who gave us a heads up that you were doing something that you felt was photo-worthy.
Even though COVID-19 has restricted a lot of activities this summer, when we asked our readers to submit their photos taken on July 23, they complied in great numbers. This was our second ask of the year, as well: we produced a special colour “Pandemic edition” of Day in the Life on May 20, 2020, featuring people’s activities during self-isolation.
We started a new tradition last year, the coveted “Day in the Life Winner” mug. I’m proud to announce that Richard Spencer will be receiving the official 2020 mug for his photo of Frank Holm measuring a hand rail on a CN caboose at the Alberni Pacific Railway roundhouse. Holm has spent hundreds of hours restoring the 1909 caboose, which was once located outside a Nanaimo McDonald’s and used for kids’ birthday parties.
Holm restored the caboose in memory of his wife Karen, who passed away five years ago. Karen Holm was a well-liked primary teacher in Port Alberni and supported Holm’s involvement with the APR.
Congratulations to Richard for his winning photo this year, and to Frank for all the work he has put into the restoration.
Susie Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor.