Category Archives: Arts & Artists

Art and artists made in Whistler.

Leonard Frank: Whistler’s First Pro Photographer

With the incredible advances in digital photography over the last decade, it’s become a cliché that everyone is now a pro photographer. Simply attending the annual Pro Photographer’s Showdown, or browsing the catalogue of one of Whistler’s many true professional photographers, however, will quickly dispel such notions. Still, technology has levelled the playing field to a certain extent, making it quite simple to take competent, even beautiful images with minimal training.

Go back eighty or nintety years and this was most certainly not the case. Cameras were heavy, expensive, cumbersome, and complicated, not to mention the challenges of processing film (remember that stuff?) in the 1920s.

Take the couple of thousand photos we have in the Philip collection. Judging by the sheer quantity of images, it can be safe to assume that Myrtle Philip was a fairly competent amateur photographer for her time. Still, a solid majority of the images are imperfectly focused, overexposed, or awkwardly composed. As documentary artifacts they are wonderful, but for the most part they are lacking  in artfulness.

Scanning through the Philip archives, however, the occasional gem stands out. Crisp images, deliberate composition, some have even been hand-painted to add the magic of colour. These are undeniably the work of a professional.

These images are not the culmination of years of devotion to the photographic arts by Myrtle. Instead they were gifts and mementos from a friend and frequent Rainbow Lodge guest, Leonard Frank.

Leonard Frank, undated self-portrait.

Leonard Frank, undated self-portrait.

Son of one of Germany’s earliest professional photographers, Leonard Frank was born in Berne, Germany in 1870. Gold fever drew Frank to San Francisco in 1892, then Vancouver Island two years later. Like so many would-be gold barons, his dreams of mineral riches never panned out. As fate would have it though, he won a camera in a raffle, sparking a lifelong passion.

While managing a general store and continuing to prospect, Frank honed his craft taking  pictures of the surrounding countryside. Eventually, in 1917, Frank moved to Vancouver and quickly became the city’s leading commercial photographer, following in his father’s professional footsteps.

North Vancouver's iconic Lions.

North Vancouver’s iconic Lions.

From then until his death in 1944, Frank ‘s diverse photographic catalogue is a crucial document of Vancouver and British Columbia’s history. Beyond his personal and commercial work, he was frequently commissioned to photograph for both the provincial and federal governments, as well as being the official photographer for the Vancouver Board of Trade.

Brandywine Falls from a now inaccessible vantage point, circa 1920s.

Brandywine Falls from a now inaccessible vantage point, circa 1920s.

A boater's view of Rainbow Lodge and Rainbow Mountain.

A boater’s view of Rainbow Lodge and Rainbow Mountain.

Frank’s Alta Lake images in our collection span from the 1920s until the 1940s, indicating multiple trips to the valley. For the most part it is unclear whether the images were commissioned by the Philips to promote Rainbow Lodge, were commissioned by other parties, or were taken on his own volition.

The following image, surely one of the most beautiful in our entire collection, is accompanied by a typed note “Presented to Mr. and Mrs. Alex Philip, with my compliments, Leonard Frank, A.R.P.S.” ARPS is short for “Associate of the Royal Photographic Society.” Frank was the first British Columbian bestowed with this honour.

Alex Philip takes some Rainbow Lodge guests for a paddle down the River of Golden Dreams, 1941.

Alex Philip takes some Rainbow Lodge guests for a paddle down the River of Golden Dreams, 1941.

From today’s perspective, where visual media is such a crucial tourism-promotion tool, these photographs are of heightened historical interest. Leonard Frank was the first professional photographer in a town that has become known for its abundance of pro photographers.

By any standard, Frank’s images expertly portray an idyllic destination amidst a grand, inspiring landscape. In his own way, he contributed to the Whistler Valley’s development as a nature-tourism destination, and led the way for dozens of others who have made  a living capturing our valley’s natural charms.

For more information about Leonard Frank, and examples of his images, check the Vancouver Public Library‘s extensive Leonard Frank Collection, this short blog post by Miss 604,  or try to track down a copy of the 1990 book An Enterprising Life : Leonard Frank Photographs, 1895-1944 by Cyril E. Leonoff.

Museum Building Gets a Facelift

A common definition of “artistry” is the ability to create beauty where it was previously absent. By this measure, in our latest partnership the Whistler Museum has found an artist of the highest order.

Over the last week the east wall of the Museum building has been beautifully remade as a massive mural by talented local spray-paint artist Kris “KUPS” Kupskay. The sixty-foot long piece pays homage to our community’s heritage with an eye-catching scene that features iconic local figures such as Myrtle Philip, Teddy the Bear, the PGE Railway, the original Creekside Gondola, and of course, plenty of breathtaking Coast Mountain scenery.

The scene begins to take shape.

Prior to its revival, the long, irregular-shaped wall offered an awkward “canvas.” Drawing from his background in graffiti, where working with unconventional spaces like inner-city alleyways and far-raging freight train cars is the norm, KUPS saw opportunity where others might be dissuaded. The result is a bold design that makes creative use of the wall. The dynamic work flows naturally across the whole space and even transforms a pre-existing A/C shed into a makeshift train station.

KUPS at work.

KUPS’ enthusiasm for the task was unmistakable, keeping museum staff and curious onlookers entertained throughout. Working energetically, KUPS brought his vision to life in a matter of days. The guy simply loves to create, and it shows in his work.

Hangin’ with Myrtle and Teddy.

The mural was made possible through funding from the RMOW’s Village Enhancement funds, and is part of ongoing efforts to rejuvenate the vacant lot created by the dismantling of the former museum building. In addition to KUPS’ artwork, the wall now features a beautiful new ten-foot long “Whistler Museum” sign as well, made by Whistler’s Cutting Edge Signs.

KUPS in front of the finished work.

Let’s Get Poetical

We’ve brought you dozens of blog posts about historical characters and events from our archives, crazy photos, and other Whistler stories. One thing that we feel we’ve brought you too little of is poetry composed by Museum staff. I’m sure you’ve been thinking the same thing. I can almost hear you thinking, “‘H – E – double hockey sticks’, when will Sarah, Jeff, Robyn, Allyn, and Myles write some goddamn poetry? A limerick maybe? A Haiku? Is that really too much to ask?”

Well, patient reader, the wait is over. Without further delay, here is a selection of poetry (mostly haiku) composed by the Museum staff (and friends).

Two mountains, strung with
cable- rise above this town,
this valley of dreams.

– Robyn

Seppo Makinen:
The mighty man among us.
His spirit rests here.

– Robyn

Stillness on Alta –
Alex Philip falls in drunk,
Myrtle shakes her head.

– Sarah

Myrtle and brother Phil Tapley on shores of Alta Lake

We love history.
We love Whistler’s Whistory!
Whistler is awesome.


Extreme sports paired with
endless good times, paradise
is Whistler-Blackcomb.

– Robyn

Jack Bright and Jim McConkey skiing Whistler Mountain, 1972

Silently gliding
Through deep, endless white powder –
Another Whistler day.

– Robyn

Truth Hurts

Rainbow Lodge, Seppo,
Crazy Canucks, HISTORY!
Kids just want LEGO.

– Jeff

On hot afternoons
Molly and McGee nap on
While Freckles watches.


Molly and McGee share a nap while a forlorn Freckles the Dog surveys the scene, alone in the distance.

Outside is too hot?
Museum has two words for you:
Air conditioning.


There once was a Texan named Millar
Whose life was something of a thriller.
He first was a cook,
But two lives he took,
So he fled here where life was much stiller.


There once was a pub called the Boot
Just next to the highway’s main route.
It had dancing girls
And drinkers who twirled
In a “ballet” of well-known repute.


Ski Boot Hotel, later the Shoestring Lodge and Boot Pub

An ode to the archives

Last night I dreamt of a magical place,
Dreamers, doers, and icons all shared one space.
Oh, to visit this land where our legends can thrive.
Why, it already exists, our almighty archives!

Our collections are vast, rich with ripe tales,
From diaries and drawings to bent, rusted nails.
All with the ineffable scent of the past,
A real-life time machine that’s built to last.

Archival documents in acid-free boxes,
Fight group amnesia from LSD memory losses.
Fifty thousand pictures worth fifty million words.
Fishing rods, ice axes, taxidermied birds!

We record more than elections, wheelings and dealings,
Our shelves carry facts, dates, but also a feeling.
Whistler’s free spirit – it’s impossible to fake it,
Live here long enough you’ll end up in here naked!

Cynics deride Whistler’s history as short,
But we prove that the truth is none of the sort,
Our peaks, trees, and tales are all very tall,
And we’ve done big things for a town that’s so small.

Next time you’re curious of Whistler’s glorious past lives
Stop in (appointments only) at the Whistler Archives!
Thus concludes these haiku, limericks and jingles,
From the only folks in town still selling Boot Pub shingles!



All night long (all night)
All night (all night) All night long,
All night long (Ooh yeah)

– Lionel Ritchie


Alex Philip: Author

Alex Philip: passionate outdoorsman.

Alex Philip, one of Whistler’s pioneers and the co-proprietor of Rainbow Lodge, was apparently a man who had varied interests. Among these interests was a great passion for romance, and in particular, romantic novels. His first novel, The Crimson West (1925), was turned into a fairly successful film called ‘The Crimson Paradise”. He wrote three novels, the other two are titled The Painted Cliff (1927) and Whispering Leaves (1931). Because of Philip’s important place in Whistler’s history, I was curious to read his books. When I first looked them up online, I found Alex Philip described as a “literary embarrassment” by one reviewer. However, another described The Painted Cliff as “a really excellent yarn”. Leafing through the pages of any of these books, it becomes abundantly clear that Alex was a man of his time. Women are weak and in need of gallant men, racial stereotypes abound, and the heroes enjoy unrealistically favourable outcomes at the end of the books.

Alex Philip had some adoring fans!

For their racial stereotyping, misogyny, and clumsiness, they are perhaps not fine works to be put in the Canadian literary canon, but they do hold a certain charm, especially for people who have familiarity with the landscape around Whistler. These books provide a glimpse into the 1920’s idea of adventure and romanticism.

One of the charms of the books is the archaic expressions and language employed by the characters. Remarking on an acquaintance, one Painted Cliff character says, “An’ we crave his company like a fish craves a shoehorn”. As an expression of exasperation one character cries out, “Suffering cats!”

Alex Philip enjoyed being out in the great outdoors.

His books tell stories of men who are redeemed and renewed by their excursions into the wilderness. The Painted Cliff, for example, begins with a near death experience in the city, before the main character takes off into the wilderness with some companions. They have many adventures, and seem to become better men as a result of these events.

Perhaps most valuable in these books are Philip’s descriptions of the landscape; his passion and romanticism is clear in his extensive use of descriptive language. His descriptions convey a true passion for nature, and his belief that there was great value in leaving cities to explore the great outdoors. Several examples of these descriptions are reproduced below to give you an idea of Philip’s attachment to the Western Canadian landscape.

The day was waning. The sun blazed low through an ice-filled notch in the valley ramparts, the sides of the mountains darkened into purple shadows, while above the sky was resplendent with vivid orange hues.

The lake was a shimmer of coppery light; a little brook chuckled; a grouse at the edge of the woods eyed the tent; and then with a soft “prut-prut” glided to shelter. A goldfinch caroled its evening song from a swaying rosebush. Standing on long legs in the shallow water of the lake, a blue heron stood as motionless as if painted on a Japanese screen, watching and waiting to spear some unwary fish.

Peter thought of the desperate dirty cities, of the sooty air brooding above the buildings and dusty pavements. Surely it was difficult to keep one’s soul clean there. Here in the great outdoors it was easy. He felt he could stay in this valley forever. Here one could live with no great physical effort or mental strain, far from the harrowing influences of the conventional struggle for existence.

– All of the above are excerpts from The Painted Cliff.

Apparently Alex’s romanticism was popular with the ladies.

Listen to the top 5 Whistler Anthem entries!

Now that we’re able to let out a sigh of relief after last week’s greatly successful 100 Years of Dreams celebrations, we can take a look back on some of the events. The Whistler Anthem Project was certainly a highlight for us. Of the 29 initial submissions, the field was whittled down to five top candidates to become Whistler’s official anthem. These were then performed last Wednesday night at Millennium Place in an American Idol-style showdown.

The panel of judges: Long-time radio host Tarzan Dan; Juno Award-winning singer/songwriter Norm Foote; Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed; Sophie Simmons, daughter of KISS frontman Gene Simmons. Photo: Joern Rohde/

The judges repeatedly noted how tough they found it to choose a single winner, but in the end, singer/songwriter Chad Oliver took home the glory (and $5000) for his catchy country-rock tune “Top of the World.”

Chad Oliver with his big cheque! Congrats Chad! Joern Rodhe /

Event sponsor MountainFM has uploaded the 5 top entries for your listening pleasure. Enjoy these for now, but several times throughout the night allusions were made to a potential CD compilation including more of the entries. Keep your ears open for that.

Glen Mishaw brought a full backing band out to perform his classic rock tune.       Joern Rodhe /

Jeremy Thom and friend. Joern Rodhe /

Rachel Thom performs her ballad for Whistler. Joern Rodhe /

Adam Legget and friend perform “Drive”. Joern Rodhe /

Deep Summer Slideshow

For those who missed it (or not), here’s the slideshow that our summer student Jeff made for the intermission of the always-awesome Deep Summer Photo Challenge. We don’t have many mountain bike images in our archives (something we plan on rectifying in the future) so Jeff decided to craft his show around some of our beautiful old mountaineering photographs. Enjoy.