Dick Oulton Studios Ltd: Wedding — Color — Portraits

Richard Oulton (1918-2000) was a commercial photographer who worked in Vancouver, Canada from 1962 to 1994, operating under a variety of names—Dick Oulton Studio, Dick Oulton Photography and Ricardo Photographic Services—advertising services for weddings, portraits, passports, photographic restoration and commercial photography. Located on West Hastings Street in downtown Vancouver, the studio was also his home.

When Oulton was hospitalized shortly before his death, he was forced to abandon his studio, and with it his life’s work. A bachelor, he left no heirs, and it was only the alertness of two friends who saved ten boxes of his photographs and negatives from destruction. These were subsequently offered to Presentation House Gallery, whose staff unsuccessfully sought a permanent home for it in local city archives. Oulton’s photographs remain with the Gallery today.

This vast trove of images is unedited, with few “final” shots. Portraiture, including weddings, publicity and fashion shoots, is predominate. Oulton’s forte was glamour photography, and he maintained an avid interest in certain female models, many of whom were likely his friends. He shot products for advertising, from widgets to prayer beads, as well as industrial products, building sites, nightclubs, wrestling matches, hairdressing championships, promotions, and visiting celebrities. His eclecticism is indicative of the role of a professional mid-century photographer, one who worked to produce imagery for an emerging middle class. Taken together, Oulton’s photographs form an oblique social and historical picture of Vancouver at a moment when the city was mutating from a working class logging town into one with metropolitan aspirations.

Dick Oulton’s photographs have been included in two group exhibitions, The Just Past of Photography in Vancouver, (1994) and Juliette and Friends (2008) as well as in the publication Meet Dick Oulton; Lynn Valley #5. This exhibition is the most extensive of his work to date. However the bulk of his archive, which contains thousands of unprinted negatives, has yet to be seen.

North Shore News article

Vancouver Sun article

Galleries West article

Tours

Tours of Dick Oulton Studios Ltd will be hosted every Saturday at 2PM. To join the tour, meet at the ground floor lobby at 1:55PM. These tours are recommended for general visitors as an introduction to the exhibition.

A French language tour will be available on Sunday, September 23, at 2pm.

For a more tailored experience, visitors are encouraged to book a private guided tour with a member of our curatorial team. For more information about private tours, visit the Contact Us page, or email tours@thepolygon.ca.

Dick Oulton with his camera
Oulton Rooftop
Oulton Interior
Oulton Interior 2
Oulton Bride Table
Oulton Diana Ross
Oulton Medals
Oulton Hands Lady
Oulton Bride

Dick Oulton, Hairstyle Portrait #5

Inkjet c-print
22 x 15 inches / 55.8 x 38.1 cm

Unframed

Published in collaboration with Bywater Bros. Editions
November 2008

Richard (Dick) Oulton (1918-2000) was a commercial photographer who worked out of Vancouver from the late 50s to the mid 80s. He operated under a variety of names–Dick Oulton Studio, Dick Oulton Photography and Ricardo Photographic Services–advertising services for weddings, portraits, passports, photographic restoration and commercial photography. Located in downtown Vancouver, the studio was also his home until 1994. A bachelor who had an eye for attractive ladies and a flair for fashion, Oulton continued to photograph until his death.

With no heirs, the bulk of Richard Oulton's image collection was rescued by friends and subsequently came to the attention of Presentation House Gallery. A sample of his work was included in the 1994 exhibition, “The Just Past of Photography” in Vancouver, but the bulk of his archive, which contains thousands of unprinted negatives, has yet to be seen. It is a rich social and historical document of middle class life in Vancouver. Unedited with few 'final' images, the archive also reveals the photographic processes, client expectations, production methods, and obsolete technology of the period.

Oulton's commercial assignments took him out on location to document businesses and events including restaurants, store displays, parades, nightclubs, boxing matches, promotions, countless weddings, and beauty contests - however his forte was portraiture and glamour shots, usually of attractive young women.

This selection of Dick Oulton's photographs, which reveals the commercial and vernacular imperatives of his production, showcases the idiosyncratic power of his images. Restricted to particular genres and conventional formats, his pictures indicate a stylized sensibility and personal vision.

 

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The Polygon Gallery continues the forty-year reputation of Presentation House Gallery in engaging the public with the most visionary artists of our time. A new waterfront landmark on Vancouver's North Shore, The Polygon offers a one-of-a-kind space to encounter contemporary visual art with a focus on photography.

Admission always by donation, courtesy of Slice 1