Author Tags: Chinese, Photography

Faith Moosang of Vancouver gathered the photos and wrote the text for First Son: Portraits of C.D. Hoy co-published by Arsenal Pulp Press and Presentation House Gallery in North Vancouver. [See below] There is a brief introduction by Paul Yee in which he discusses the relations between Chinese and First Nations people. They acquired the right to vote in provincial elections in 1947. That same year Chinese Canadians could vote federally whereas Indians could not vote federally until 1960.

[BCBW 2003] "Chinese" "Photography"

Portrait of C.D. Hoy in c. 1912

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
First Son: Portraits by CD. Hoy

First Son: Portraits by C.D. Hoy (Arsenal $27.95)

The man who would become Quesnel’s first professional photographer, Chow Dong Hoy, was born in the village of Sui Soon Lee, Hoi Ping district, Guangdong province, on August 16, 1883. As a first-born son, Hoy was forced to leave his village to find work to help support his family at age 12. He worked in an opium den for room and board until age 15. During his three-year apprenticeship in a cotton and silk factory, 400 miles from home, he earned himself two dollars per year plus room and board. Then his father borrowed $300 to send him to Canada on the Empress of China in 1902.

As described in Faith Moosang’s First Son: Portraits by C.D. Hoy (Arsenal $27.95), Hoy paid the required head tax of $100 and entered the province without any relatives or job prospects. With his $5 per month earnings as a houseboy, he hired someone to teach him English for $5 per month. Hoy borrowed $20 and set off for the Cariboo in 1903. He worked as a dishwasher in Quesnel, then as a Hudson’s Bay camp cook in Fort St. James. Learning some of the Central Carrier dialect, he started his own trading company, then worked as an axeman and surveyor for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. Hoy walked from Fort George to Quesnel in 1906, then arrived in Barkerville in the spring of 1909. It is not known how Hoy acquired a camera, taught himself photography and opened a part-time photography studio—but that’s where his career as B.C.’s third Chinese-born photographer began.

In Barkerville Hoy also worked as a miner and a barber and he repaired watches. “Most watches,” he wrote in his family memoir, “95% are not broke, just dirty. I fill basin with coal oil, lay watches down--shake, shake, shake. Soon watches tick, tick, tick. By morning all ticking away. Drain coal oil from watches and charge $2 each. Any watch not ticking, not repairable.”
By 1910 Hoy had saved the $2,000 he needed to return to China and marry Lim Foon Hai, chosen by his mother. She would not be able to join him in the Cariboo until 1917, however, until Hoy could save enough money for her travel and head tax.

Returning to Quesnel in 1911, Hoy began to supplement his income by taking approximately 1,500 portraits of Native, Chinese and Caucasian locals until 1920. He took approximately equal numbers of pictures of these three groups, mainly working out of his drygoods store.

After Hoy died in 1973, his negatives were kept in his son’s basement for 15 years. Upon his death, his daughter-in-law mentioned them to Leah Hubensky. They were later transfered to the public archives in Barkerville in 1990.

Taking a break from treeplanting in 1996, Faith Moosang, a recent graduate of Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, visited a friend in Wells and met the Barkerville curator, Bill Quackenbush, who turned her attention to the Hoy photos. “It was then I first laid eyes on a whole new world,” says Moosang, “so beautifully rendered and so profoundly silent. I had not known these people. I could not hear them. Their silence, which is characteristic of their invisibility to me (until that moment), is what drew me into them.”

After three years of research, Moosang curated the new Hoy exhibit at Presentation House in North Vancouver. First Son: Portraits by C.D. Hoy was published simultaneously, with an introduction by Paul Yee. 1-55152-071-0

[BCBW 1999] "Chinese" "Photography"