Hochelaga — Evolving Montreal by Joannie Lafrenière - McCord Stewart Museum


March 28, 2023

Hochelaga — Evolving Montreal by Joannie Lafrenière

Communiqué de presse

Showcasing the neighbourhood’s wonderful people

Montreal, March 28, 2023. — From March 31 to September 10, 2023, the McCord Stewart Museum will present the exhibition Hochelaga — Evolving Montreal by Joannie Lafrenière. For this second part of the Evolving Montreal photographic commission, the photographer and filmmaker offers an intimate dive into the Hochelaga neighbourhood. This non-linear exhibition brings together different encounters, videos, photographs and poetry and is an invitation to explore the artist’s view of what constitutes the essence of Hochelaga today.

Encounters in the heart of Hochelaga

Joannie Lafrenière 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 the artist’s path and who, in her opinion, personify the heart of Hochelag’.

“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,” explains Joannie Lafrenière.

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.

  • Joannie Lafrenière, <i>Autumn Load, De Rouen Street, Montreal</i>, QC, 2010
  • 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

Object photographs

A poetic journey

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.

Hochelaga, an evolving neighbourhood

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,” explains 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.

With Hochelaga — Evolving Montreal, Joannie Lafrenière immerses visitors in spaces evoking their usual surroundings with tenderness and humanity, reflecting her affection for the beautiful people who make up the social landscape of her adopted neighbourhood. “A big wish that I have in connection with this exhibition and my artistic practice is that the people represented in the exhibition feel seen, recognize themselves and feel represented with honesty, dignity and respect. I’m looking forward to being able to encourage an encounter between people from various backgrounds, origins and horizons. I also see this dive into my tight-knit community as a unique opportunity to make a wide audience aware of the neighbourhood’s different social realities, which is entirely consistent with my intention of telling the stories of people who touch me while forging human connections and participating, at my level, in making art more accessible to a greater number of people. Through this exhibition, I am honouring my desire to take part in the life of my neighbourhood by positioning myself as a bridge between the different communities to which I feel I belong,” said Joannie Lafrenière.

“The McCord Stewart Museum is very pleased to be able to present the result of the photographic commission awarded to Joannie Lafrenière. The documentary value of a project like Joannie’s is invaluable for a museum that aims to document Montreal’s social history, but also to celebrate the lives of its people and communities, past and present. The accelerated transformations that the neighbourhood is undergoing for better and for worse make this exercise even more relevant when it comes to preserving a record of an era,” said Pascale Grignon, Senior Director, Marketing, Culture and Inclusion.

Exhibition views

Biography of Joannie Lafrenière

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

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.

Credits and curatorial team

An exhibition created by the McCord Stewart Museum.

Artist (photographs, multimedia and texts): Joannie Lafrenière
Project manager: François Vallée, McCord Stewart Museum
Scenography: Pierre-Étienne Locas
Literary texts: Benoit Bordeleau
Curator: Zoë Tousignant, Curator, Photography, McCord Stewart Museum
Graphic design: Philippe Legris

Joannie Lafrenière would like to thank the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec for supporting this project.

Hochelaga – Evolving Montreal, the book

The photography book Hochelaga – Evolving Montreal features 45 of the photos by Joannie Lafrenière presented in the exhibition. With writing by Joannie, poetry by Benoît Bordeleau and quotes from the photographed subjects, this colourful work invites readers to discover the streets, alleys and buildings that make up the urban landscape of Hochelaga, and to meet the people who make up its heart and soul. Intended as an extension of the exhibition, this book allows visitors to continue their multisensory encounter with the Hochelaga neighbourhood.

Sold at the Museum Boutique and at the bookstore Le Renard perché at the price of $18.
Graphic design by Justin Mignot.

Download the documents

Press release (PDF)
Press release (WORD)

Press images

Object photographs
Exhibition views

Activities related to the exhibition

Imagine Hochelaga — Roundtable

Wednesday, April 19, 6 p.m. — Free — At the Museum

Joannie Lafrenière, Benoit Bordeleau and Caroline Breault are three artists living in Hochelaga. Their neighbourhood inspires their photography, poetry and illustrations. This panel discussion explores the creative act as a means of appropriating urban territory and bearing witness to a neighbourhood as a social and cultural structure. Don’t miss this conversation at the crossroads of art and anthropology!

Activity in French, hosted by Jean-Philippe Pleau, sociologist and host-producer at Radio-Canada, and Méralie Murray-Hall, anthropologist and consultant at Humain Humain. Audience discussion will be in French and English.

Space is limited, reservation required on the Museum’s website.

Hochelaga invited to the McCord Stewart: welcome to neighbourhood residents — Poésie croisée x Joannie Lafrenière

Saturday, June 3, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. — Free for residents of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (proof of address required)

Hochelaga residents are invited visit the exhibition Hochelaga – Evolving Montreal for free with the artist Joannie Lafrenière. A fun and poetic day punctuated by activities including a public reading of the poems created for the project Poésie croisée  by La rue de la Poésie: based on photographs by Joannie Lafrenière, four community organizations in Hochelaga created poetic works that will be unveiled during a public reading session. The poet Benoit Bordeleau will also read extracts from his texts inspired by the neighbourhood.

A project created in collaboration with La rue de la Poésie and Maisonneuve Library. With La gang a Rambrou, CJE Hochelaga, La Marie Debout and Le Tour de Lire.

Activity for all audiences.

Guided Tour of Hochelaga with Joannie Lafrenière

Sunday, June 4 and Saturday, June 10, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. — Paid — Departure from Préfontaine metro station

The McCord Stewart Museum invites the public to a walking tour where they can discover Hochelaga from the intimate and loving perspective of artist Joannie Lafrenière. A fun and sensitive visit that testifies to the photographer’s relationship with the neighbourhood where she has lived for close to 20 years.

We recommend visiting the Hochelaga – Evolving Montreal exhibition prior to this activity to get the most out of it.

Activity in French. Space is limited, reservation required on the Museum’s website. Recommended for ages 13 and over.
Tickets: $10 per person

Cin’Hoch outdoor screening: Colorama by Joannie Lafrenière

Friday, September 1, at sunset (around 7:45 p.m.) — Free
Dairy Queen parking lot, 4545 Sainte-Catherine Street East.

The McCord Stewart Museum and the SDC Hochelaga-Maisonneuve invite you to explore the cinematographic universe of photographer and filmmaker Joannie Lafrenière for an evening of screenings.


  • Les danseurs d’Hochelaga (short film)
  • Vue de ruelle (short film)
  • Hochelaga, mon amour (short film)
  • King Lajoie (medium-length film)
  • The woman who saw the bear (medium-length film)

Outdoor screenings. The public is invited to bring their own folding chairs and blankets. Access to the activity is free.

The McCord Stewart Museum


The McCord Stewart Museum’s photography collection encompasses over 2.15 million photographs that primarily document the social history of Montreal, but also that of Quebec and Canada. Ranging from a series of daguerreotypes created in the 1840s-1850s to contemporary digital images, the collection illustrates the development of the art of photography along with the great transformations that have marked the city over the last two centuries. The Notman Photographic Archives constitute the core of the collection with some 450,000 photographs from the Montreal studio founded by William Notman (1826-1891) in 1856 and run by his sons until 1935 under the name Wm. Notman & Son. In the fall of 2019, the Notman archives were listed in the prestigious Canada Memory of the World Register of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO.


The McCord Stewart Museum celebrates life in Montreal, its people and communities, past and present. Reaching beyond the city to the wider world, the Museum creates and presents engaging exhibitions, educational programming and cultural activities with a critical and inclusive take on social history. Its collections of Archives, Documentary Art, Dress, Fashion and Textiles, Indigenous Cultures, Material Culture and Photography comprise 200, 000 objects and works of art, 2.15 million photographs, 3,500 rare books and 340 linear metres of textual archives. The McCord Stewart Museum: Our People, Our Stories.

Opening hours and admission fees

Opening hours

  • Regular schedule (Until June 25 and starting September 5)
    Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. | Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. | Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Summer schedule (June 26 to September 4)
    Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. | Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. | Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Holiday hours:
    Easter Monday – Monday, April 10: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    Victoria Day – Monday, May 22: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day – Saturday, June 24: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    Canada Day – Saturday, July 1: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.


  • Until March 31:
    Adults: $19 | Seniors: $17 | Students (13 to 30): $14 | 12 and under: free | Indigenous persons: free
    Wednesday evening: free (3rd floor exhibition and permanent exhibition) or $9.50 (2nd floor exhibition).
  • From April 1:
    Adults: $20 | Seniors: $19 | Students (13 to 30): $15 | Indigenous persons: free | Family package: $50 – fixed rate for two adults and twoteenagers| 12 and under: free
    Wednesday evening: free (3rd floor exhibition and permanent exhibition) or $10 (2nd floor exhibition).

COVID-19 : Measures for a safe visit

The Museum respects the health measures recommended by the public health authorities. To see the measures in effect during your visit, go to the Museum’s website.

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