Photogenic Montreal: Activisms and Archives in a Post-Industrial City — Cheryl Simon

[Fall 2022]

By Cheryl Simon

Martha Langford and Johanne Sloan (editors)
Montreal, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2021, 368 p.

The spectacular photograph on the cover of Photogenic Montreal: Activisms and Archives in a Post-Industrial City perfectly condenses the themes addressed throughout the book. Made by photojournalist Louise Abbott in the early morning of September 8, 1973, the eponymous picture captures the demolition of the Van Horne mansion in progress. Plumes of dust and debris billow from the collapsing building. Built for a bank president and occupied by a railway baron, the mansion was the very emblem of the era of industrial capitalism in Montreal; its razing became a symbol of the forces of progress reshaping the city for the post-industrial age. Not incidentally, the demolition also spawned a preservationist movement in the city. Of all things photogenic, the inevitability of historical change that this image renders so clearly is one of the more persuasive.

Editors Martha Langford and Johanne Sloan clearly understood the photogenic qualities of the image, but an expanded sense of the photogenic is put into play in the book. “To be photogenic,” they write in the introduction, “is to be able to thrive within a range of photographic practices and relationships while resonating across architectural history and theory, urban planning, community building, civic pride and civil unrest.” The essays collected here bring together photographers and artists, historians of art and architecture, urban studies scholars, and activists and archivists in conversation about the activism and archives that have shaped Montreal as a post-industrial city…

Cheryl Simon is an academic and writer whose current research interests include algorithmic art and internet culture, photography and the archive, media archaeology, and changing modalities in screen-based art practices. She teaches in the MFA-Studio Arts program at Concordia University and in the Cinema + Communications Department of Dawson College, both in Montreal.

[ Complete issue, in print and digital version, available here: Ciel variable 121 – WANDERINGS ]
[ Complete article and more images, in digital version, available here: Photogenic Montreal: Activisms and Archives in a Post-Industrial City — Cheryl Simon ]