Contemporary Flâneurs

[Summer 2008]

by Jacques Doyon

Photographing the street, over time, to record the evolution of the city and how it is used is a strategy that remains current. In these pages, it reveals the survival of small businesses in the era of globalization of markets, it allows us to follow the radical transformation of a city centre, and it confronts us with the invasive illusion of advertising images that rival reality. The contemporary figure of the flâneur, the artist-photographer, literally surveys the city to flush out the most notable changes.

For some ten years, Zoe Leonard, a New York multidisciplinary artist, has harvested, in New York and various foreign cities (notably Jerusalem and Kampala), pictures of the small businesses that comprise the Analogue project. The Montreal photographer Robert Walker scrutinized Times Square from every angle to form the matrix of a gaze that reveals the growing standardization of cities, borne out by thirty years of images taken in different cities all over the world.
In parallel with his work as a medical photographer, Fred Herzog recorded the evolution of Vancouver for five decades, building an important corpus of images that bear witness to the city’s diversification and densification. The work of these artists is critiqued by Petra Halkes, Pierre Dessureault, and Helga Pakasaar.

Also in This Issue
In an interview, Chantal Pontbriand comments on the current situation for contemporary-art magazines and discusses the future of Parachute. The “Focus” section is devoted to the issues related to technological mutations of the image. First, Sylvie Parent presents the third part of her trilogy on Web-based art projects – works that explore the form of the digital photo album. Jean Gagnon analyzes the conservation problems that arise for artworks with technological components in an era of accelerated obsolescence of these components. The “Current” section surveys ten exhibitions that recently took place in Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, New York, and Berlin, and includes, among others, artists from Iran and Afghanistan. Finally, Olivier Asselin reviews the noted publication by Nazraeli Press of Michel Campeau’s collection Darkroom, edited by Martin Parr, and Sylvain Campeau notes the simultaneous publication of four photograph books by Éditions J’ai VU.

This magazine’s new format, instituted with No. 77, has received a very good reception since it was launched. We then made further graphical and editorial improvements in No. 78, Collecting Photography, which had very successful newsstand sales. With this issue, we are including complete translations of all of our essays. From now on, our priorities will turn to increasing distribution and the magazine’s print run. Your subscription to the magazine would show your support and be greatly appreciated.
Translated by Käthe Roth