Hochelaga – Evolving Montreal - McCord Stewart Museum
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Photography Exhibition

From March 31 to September 10, 2023

Hochelaga – Evolving Montreal

Joannie Lafrenière

Photographer and film director Joannie Lafrenière offers an intimate dive into the Hochelaga neighbourhood in Montreal with this non-linear exhibition bringing together different encounters, videos, photographs and poetry.

The artist has a deep affection for the streets and alleys, but especially for the people of this neighbourhood where she has lived for 18 years. The close relationships she establishes with the subjects of her photographs and films are at the heart of the stories she tells. The exhibition introduces the public to individuals who have crossed her path and who, in her opinion, personify the heart of Hochelaga.

  • Joannie Lafrenière, <i>Michel Contant, Salon Michel, Lafontaine Street, Montreal</i>, QC, 2022
  • Joannie Lafrenière, <i>Renaud’s Shop, Hogan Street, Montreal</i>, QC, 2008
  • Joannie Lafrenière, <i>Dépanneur Bécotte, Cuvillier Street, Montreal</i>, QC, 2020
  • Joannie Lafrenière, <i>Garage Gauthier Adam Street, Montreal</i>, QC, 2020
  • Joannie Lafrenière, <i>Autumn Load, De Rouen Street, Montreal</i>, QC, 2010

In spaces evoking their place of living, we meet characters who are as colourful as they are endearing: Renaud, the bike repairman, whose garage is a meeting place for neighbourhood residents looking for human contact; Michel the barber, who knows how to cut hair as well as share in the pitfalls and joys of his loyal clientele; the caring Diane, former waitress at La Québecoise, now replaced by a pawnshop, who remembered every patron’s favourite dish; Pierre-André, the florist who accompanied locals at every milestone, through carefully crafted floral arrangements, for five decades until the closure of his store in 2021; Claude, a veteran, met while temporarily residing in a makeshift container near the railway and with whom she shared a decade of moving and overwhelming confidences; not to mention Mrs. Grandchamp, contacted during the pandemic as part of an outreach program set up by a local organization to break the isolation of elderly people.

Visitors will notice Benoit Bordeleau’s poetry on the walls of the exhibition. Composed for the exhibition or excerpts from his collection Orange Pekoe (2021), the poet’s verses and stanzas dot the gallery with reflections on life in the neighbourhood and tributes to the resilience of his community, in dialogue with the images encountered in the exhibition.

  • Joannie Lafrenière, 2023 | Photo : Roger Aziz – Musée McCord Stewart Museum

“Through this intimate portrait of my neighbourhood, I want to give a dignified voice to forgotten and marginalized people as well as to important individuals who have crossed my path during the last two decades spent in Hochelaga. My intention is to highlight their beauty and colour, without masking the harshness of the experience imprinted in their features, bodies and hearts, to highlight both what is left of this working-class neighbourhood and what is being transformed as it is gentrified.”
– Joannie Lafrenière

Poésie croisée X Joannie Lafrenière Project

Inspired by Joannie Lafrenière’s images, four community organizations in the Hochelaga neighbourhood created a series of poetic works with poets Sarah Khilaji and Victor Bégin of la Rue de la Poésie. A visual and literary dive into the heart of Hochelaga as perceived by its residents.

From July 12 to September 10, 2023, extend your visit to the neighbourhood to discover these works! Presented in dialogue with the exhibition on display at the McCord Stewart Museum, this collaborative community project is rooted in Bibliothèque Maisonneuve and 7 local businesses and can be visited when you’re in the Montreal neighbourhood.

A project created in collaboration with la Rue de la Poésie, Bibliothèque Maisonneuve, Joannie Lafrenière and the McCord Stewart Museum.

Learn more

Joannie Lafrenière | Artist

Joannie Lafrenière holds degrees in journalism and photography. She is interested in all the captivating people who cross her path. Combining her anthropological curiosity with her love for humour, human beings and pop culture, she approaches documentary making as the art of encounter, and her camera as the tool for real connection.

Her previous films, The woman who saw the bear, Snowbirds, and King Lajoie, have been shown on television and in theatres around the world. She feels privileged to have recently completed Gabor, a documentary feature film about the oh-so-inspiring individual that is Gabor Szilasi.

Joannie lives, works and plays in Montreal and wherever life takes her.

Evolving Montreal | Photographic commission program

Launched by the McCord Stewart Museum in 2019, the Evolving Montreal photographic commission program supports documentary projects that testify to the transformations of Montreal neighbourhoods through unique points of view.

“The idea behind Evolving Montreal was born from the conviction that the Museum should play a more active role, both in supporting the local photographic community and in building its own photography collection. The remarkable creativity and documentary value of the projects produced so far in the series are eloquent proof that encouraging contemporary photographers to capture the continuous transformation of the city is a fruitful undertaking.”
Zoë Tousignant, Curator, Photography

Located in the south-east of the city, Hochelaga is steeped in a working-class and French-speaking past, and its population has played a major role in the city’s industrial development. Like other Montreal neighbourhoods, Hochelaga has rapidly transformed over the past few years. The vision of a popular Hochelaga is slowly fading away under the social and economic pressures of gentrification.

One of the exhibition spaces is dedicated to a photographic series by Yvon Lebeau and Lise Robichaud made in the late 1970s. Next to Joannie Lafrenière’s works, these photographs reveal the changes that have taken place in the neighbourhood over the past 50 years, but also show that residents have been able, despite the challenges, to preserve the soul of the neighbourhood.

Follow Joannie Lafrenière in Hochelaga! The photographer and film director tells us about her work and the Evolving Montreal commission.

Discover the exhibition through the eyes of visitors! Comments given on March 28, 2023

Not to be missed!

What people are saying about it

« Take a walk in Joannie Lafrenière’s beloved Hochelaga neighbourhood » CBC radio
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