Director: Eli Gorn
Location: Alberni and Vancouver, British Columbia
Director Eli Gorn's film, ‘Copy right: Leonard Frank', is a film about the human spirit of one man, and how he rose above adversity to capture the beauty of a Province. Leonard Frank came to Canada from German in 1892, at the age of 22. He came via San Francisco, where he was lured by the dream of striking it rich during the great gold rush. By the time Leonard arrived in San Francisco, stakes had been claimed and fortunes made.
Leonard Frank was an optimist, so when he heard that gold was being found a steamship ride away in a place called Vancouver, made his way north. Again, Frank, found that the gold had already been found. He, however, fell in love with Vancouver Island, the magic of the mountains, and the sense of impending economic prosperity. Vancouver was a small town on the verge of greatness. Frank stayed. If there wasn't gold on Vancouver Island, there was copper. So, he staked a claim for a copper mine, but was unable to survive on just the mining. He worked as a grocer, small business man, guide, and lumberjack.
It was while working in a logging camp near Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, that fate stepped in. He bought a ticket in a lottery and won. First prize was a camera. It was as though his life had gone full circle. Frank's father had been a professional photographer in Berne, German, a village of roughly 750 people on the Dutch border. Leonard had apprenticed with his father and learned the craft of photography before setting off to seek his fortune in America.
With the skill of a professional photographer, the eye of an artist, and the love of the landscape, Frank spent the next fifty years photographing every day life events and the coast line of British Columbia. His nearly 50,000 images captured a now vanished British Columbia. His photographs, German heritage and propensity to photograph isolated places around the province, raised people's suspicions during World War I. He faced public ridicule, scorn and ostracization during those years, and he was accused of everything from being a foreign spy to indecent assault. His reputation destroyed, Frank left Port Alberni for Vancouver.
After the war, Frank became the official photographer for the West Coast of the Dominion of Canada. He photographed dignitaries, Royalty and everyday people. He became the most sought after photographer in the rapid growing city of Vancouver. His experience during World War I may have shown him the ugly side of human nature, but his spirit and eye for beauty were not diminished. Frank took some of the most extraordinary pictures of British Columbia. Pictures which are still considered some of the greatest photographic images of Canada's West Coast. Frank's sense of beauty, his gaze towards the mountain peaks, helped to define Canada as a nation.