August 7th, 2014

reds under the bed

blocks from vintage grocery ads

These are images produced from plates made for offset printing. They came from Ho Sun Hing Printing in Vancouver, BC, Canada; it was Canada’s oldest Chinese printing shop when it closed down this spring. There’s a good article in the Vancouver Sun, here, and some excellent photos by Peter Chow, here.

I find the images interesting mostly from a graphic standpoint, but there is also a lot of historical depth here. For instance the Gold Mountain brand points to the long history of Chinese (mostly Toisanese) in North America (see Wikipedia article Gold Mountain for more info). Many of the labels are Chinese-only, which places them before 1974’s Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act which demanded French and English packaging on all products sold anywhere in Canada. At the time there was violent disagreement about whether other languages were to be excluded from labels, with the usual suspects bleating about cultural purity etc etc as a flimsy pretext for racism.

There is one image of some officials doing official stuff, what’s interesting about it is that it’s composed using a “grid” of parallel horizontal lines of varying thickness. Areas of adjacent thick lines appear black, thin lines make light greys. I’ve been racking my brain trying to recall the name of the technique (anyone?)

Turning the raw scans into readable images involved a variety of different techniques, but most of them started with something like the colour image below, and ended up like the BW version below it.

I do wonder what Imitaion Noodles (Fried) with Chicken Shrimp Soup Tablets was. Perhaps a precursor of instant ramen as we know it?

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