What makes a diner a diner? Chrome stools!

by Leslie Hossack

At the Counter, Bramasole Diner, Ottawa 2007

© Leslie Hossack

“Diners, drive-ins and dives are popular again thanks to faithful baby boomers, a slew of younger fans and a whole new generation of owners.” Hosted by Guy Fieri, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives is a popular TV program on the Food Network. www.foodnetwork.com/diners-drive-ins-and-dives/index.html

Originally, diners reflected the style of railroad dining cars. Over time, diners evolved into community gathering places where people from all walks of life shared a home cooked meal in a small and comforting atmosphere. Even today, diners are usually outfitted with a counter, stools, and a food preparation area along the back wall, like a railway dining car. www.americandinermuseum.org

When I first set out to photograph diners, I needed to identify 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 The Bramasole as a diner, according to my personal definition.

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 Atlantic Canada to the Pacific Coast.

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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