The agency of photographs is a recurrent concern within the context of the city. Whether found in architectural records, social documentary, photojournalism, or artistic practice, photographic objects are embedded in urban contestation, aesthetically charged by artists, reinserted into social histories, and mobilized to imagine a future city. Photogenic Montreal takes a question initially posed by heritage debates – what does photography preserve? – and creates a rich conversation about the agency of the human actors before and behind the camera, and of the medium itself.
The interplay of archives and activisms structures the book. Photographs that appear to be sealed off in newspapers, storage rooms, or archives accrue new meaning when they cross the threshold back into social spaces and circulate anew. It is through the reactivation of archival photographs that submerged traces of urban experience are discovered, and alternate histories of Montreal can be recounted. Multiple forms of activism and artistic expression complement this archival work. Beginning in the 1960s, community-minded and heritage groups responded to the tensions arising from urban reconstruction, gentrification, and the erasure of neighbourhoods; this activism also left its photographic traces.
Attentive to the still-changing face of the city’s architecture, neighbourhoods, and street life, Photogenic Montreal participates in debates about who the city belongs to, who speaks on its behalf, and how to picture its past and present.
About the authors
Martha Langford is research chair and director of the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art at Concordia University and author of Suspended Conversations: The Afterlife of Memory in Photographic Albums.
Johanne Sloan is professor of art history, Concordia University, and editor of Urban Enigmas: Montreal, Toronto, and the Problem of Comparing Cities.
"Post-industrial Montreal has engendered countless photographic representations of itself, which have in turn shaped the city's sense of its own changing urbanity. The delightful essays in Photogenic Montreal synthesize the competing activist and archival impulses behind the photographic practices they explore. With its city-centric approach, the volume makes an important, Montreal-focused contribution to the study of architecture, photography, and the city." Peter Sealy, University of Toronto
"Photogenic Montreal is remarkable for its novelty of theoretical approach, meticulous argumentation, and erudition. Circulating amidst this scholarship are the no less remarkable voices of photographers and artists who provide informed and unnostalgic perspectives and new insights into works with historical importance, however recently they may have been created. With its careful selection and beautiful reproduction of illustrations, the book is a must-read for scholars, students, and all inquiring minds." Lise Lamarche, Université de Montréal