Is it a diner, a drive-in or a dive?

Chrome Stools, Chez Josée, Îles-de-la-Madeleine, 2007

© Leslie Hossack

How do you distinguish between a diner, a drive-in and a dive? A diner is defined as a small, usually inexpensive restaurant, with a long counter and booths, and housed in a building designed to resemble a dining car, according to

When I set out to photograph diners, I needed to establish my own defining characteristic. So for me, a restaurant is a diner only if it has a counter with chrome stools. The number of stools is not important, but they must have chrome rims and no backs.

The stools in this photograph clearly establish Chez Josée as a diner, according to my own personal definition. Chez Josée is located in Îles-de-la-Madeleine, an archipelago in the middle of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, over 100 kilometres across the sea from Prince Edward Island.

In 2007, I photographed more than 30 diners, both vintage and contemporary. These include classics such as The Templeton in Vancouver, and lost icons such as The Canary in Toronto and Bens in Montreal. This is a study of retro diners from Chez Josée in Atlantic Canada to Sodas in Vancouver.

Public spaces and familiar items from previous generations fascinate me. I love the way the camera allows me to attribute elevated status to everyday objects and places, to portray the inclusive as exclusive – even diners.

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