Serge Allaire, Martin Breault, Lise Gagnon et Jean Lauzon, Montréal au XXe siècle. Regards de photographes – Robert Legendre

[Summer 1995]

Edited by Michel Lessard,
Les Éditions de l’homme, Montréal, 1995
336 pages, 59,95 $.

As part of a remarkable series on photography in Quebec, Montréal au XX’ siècle. Regards de photographes is a truly magnificent book. Its foremost quality is that it unites and makes accessible a large number of outstanding photographs presenting the visions that different photographers, at different periods, had of Montreal and its inhabitants – visions that are at once striking, incisive, and critical.

The four authors outline the image of a distinct society and discuss some of the great moments of its history. Some texts are rather nostalgic, aspiring, it seems, to perpetuate the memory of Montreal’s social, cultural, and economic effervescence of the 1960s and 1970s. As a result, the proposed photographic landscape seems somewhat amputated: clearly, first choice has been given to photographic works with narrative, even literary, approaches. In this respect, Serge Allaire’s essay stands apart.

Montréal au XXe siècle allows us to distinguish our own documentary production from those of European and American schools – an aspect of this publication that is well worth noting. And for the future, we may hope that Michel Lessard will extend his interest to the photography of such artists as Bill Vazan, Pierre Boogaerts, and Ronald Labelle. They, like others of their stature – who are all too scarcely represented in this book – have developed a body of work that has largely contributed to the articulation and typification of the evolution of photography in Quebec. Should he choose to walk this path, Lessard will have completed a prodigious panorama of Quebec photography, a project begun over ten years ago.

Also worth mentioning is the quantity and, more particularly, the quality of the book’s reproductions. Furthermore, Lessard should not go unrecognized for the care and meticulousness with which he has produced this magnificent album. It lives up to his Montréal, métropole du Québec. Images oubliées de la vie quotidienne 1852-1910, also published by Les Éditions de l’Homme (1992).