A short project, I spent an afternoon working on back in June of 2016, was a series of photographs along Rue de la Commune in Old Montreal. I had a couple of hours “off” from shepherding my Grade 7s through Montreal on a school trip.
As I walked along this area of “Vieux Port de Montréal” I became intrigued by the barely visible signs painted on the brick and stone faces of the buildings – ghostly reminders of the past. It’s not ancient history, nor is it particularly significant to the world at large. What it is, though, is classic, vernacular history; the history of a local population.
I found it creatively intriguing, so I spent the afternoon photographing what little there was left of these painted store/shop signs, directions and directives in these few blocks, trying to find the best way to reveal them without the more modern obstructions and changes. There are also photographs of a few architectural and design details that caught my eye as being complementary to the signs.
Also of interest to me, as a photographer, was the colour palette in this area. Dingy is one way of looking at the dirty-looking grey blocks of stone, but there are also subtle, worn-looking greens, as you can see in the photo above, worn-looking reds. The colours are real, not “photoshopped”, but in their faded appearance, they give this real-life area a natural, faded-image look.
Of interest to photographers, at the time I was using a Panasonic FZ1000, a more-than-capable camera for this kind of street work, with its very flexible 25-400mm Leica zoom and high quality 1″ sensor. As you may know, I’ve since transitioned to a Sony RX10iii: a similar, but slightly more capable camera. If interested, you can read about that decision here.
I have purposely kept people to a minimum in these photographs. My point was not to show how the street and buildings have been transformed; rather, the photographs are a record of a rapidly fading past – I wanted the painted signs and the surrounding architecture to speak of that past. Photography has the ability to preserve that history, albeit in 2-dimensions.
The folio is available online on luxBorealis.com and at my Flickr account. The complete folio is also available for purchase as a set of hand-printed, 9½x 13″ fine art photographs made on the beautiful Moab Entrada Natural Rag watercolour paper, printed with pigment inks. They come in an acid-free presentation folder with title page, artist statement and colophon. The folio of 21 photographs is $350 (shipping included) and is limited to the number of orders received.
Most importantly, though, enjoy this vignette of vernacular history.