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Viewing Montreal Through a Pinhole: Guy Glorieux at the McCord Museum

Guy Glorieux’s Impressions of a City, Montreal Through a Pinhole presents our vibrant metropolis in a ghostly new light. This French-born Canadian’s eighteen large black and white portraits, on display at the McCord museum until May 27th, make the recognizable almost unrecognizable—his pinhole technique turns what is dark, light; what is left, right; and what is black, white—transforming Montreal into a series of uncanny scenes. The exhibit’s unique perspective allows its visitors to rediscover Montreal’s most iconic places—as well as re-evaluate the city’s bleaker sights.

Pinhole photography itself creates a reversal of expectations: Glorieux’s crude and rather rudimentary cameras produce elegant and evocative images. Having used this technique for twelve years, Glorieux has a remarkable collection of pinhole cameras, some of which he has put on display. His innovative picture-making devices include matchboxes, paint cans, a cardboard box previously used for fresh dates, and a handmade wooden box held together with Velcro.

Most of his prints, however, were made with entire hotel rooms turned into makeshift cameras. For these photos Glorieux blacked out the windows, left a hole about 1.5mm in diameter on a window, and covered the back wall in film. The tiny hole allowed just enough light to enter so that an image could be imprinted on the photographic film. After leaving this print untouched for several hours, Glorieux closed off the pinhole and developed the picture. In this type of photography, there are no negatives.

The result is a city almost without human presence; the long exposure time removes any memory of people, leaving only barren city scenes, as if Glorieux has frozen Montreal in time. In this city, expectations are reversed: buildings and trees are eerily lit up while the sky is an ominous black. The exhibition draws attention to the tension Glorieux creates between lightness and darkness; the room is dimly lit apart from the prints, each of which is under spotlights.

These photos showcase everything from City Hall and the Jacques Cartier bridge to a construction pit and La Belle Province’s 95-cent hot dogs. Especially notable is the fifteen-feet-wide image of Montreal’s Place des Festivals—the largest work the McCord has ever installed! The feature piece of the show is a five-meter long view of the Montreal Contemporary Art Museum, which totally distorts the building from every angle except a single designated spot.

The exhibit is a must-see for all those who want to see their city from a unique point of view. The prints’ surreal unfamiliarity attest to how, sometimes, the most intriguing artwork can be made from the simplest and lowest-tech devices.

For more information and a video of Guy Glorieux explaining his method, visit the website.

Olivia Lifman is in her final year at McGill University, where she is completing an Honours BA in English Literature with a minor concentration in International Relations. Passionate about writing, reading, and the Arts, she is the Editor-in-Chief of both Her Campus McGill and McGill's English Department's Undergraduate Academic Journal, The Channel, as well as a literacy tutor. She has coached tennis for five years and is an avid haf-marathon runner. Olivia is very much looking forward to extending McGill's campus beyond its university borders and into the city of Montreal at large as she works more closely with Her Campus this year.
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