Along a crowded sidewalk in downtown Montreal panels of mounted photographs overlook McGill College Avenue. At first glance, the photographs offer a simple glimpse into the past, but on closer look, they are mementos of individual lives that have been touched by the city. On another level, the photographs offer a poignant perspective on the evolution of the city. The black and white photographs offer a moment to take a pause and discover what lies hidden, yet is available for all who wish to look.
The McCord Museum’s current outdoor exhibition, David W. Marvin: Street Chronicles 1965-1975, is a display of Marvin’s finest work. His images inspire a direct dialogue between the past and present, as the viewer engages with the people in the photographs and the city at large.
Marvin’s version of Montreal exists through his personal lens as an artist and shines in street corners, alleyways, and busy roads. Marvin—an orphan who came to Montreal as a teenager—worked as a proofreader at The Montreal Star and spent his spare time photographing people and the streets of Montreal. Through his photographs, viewers can catch a glimpse into Montreal life amidst great social changes. The people in his photographs remain anonymous, despite the iconic backdrop of their surroundings.
The 1960s and 1970s marked a transformative time in Montreal, with vast construction and building projects that gave rise to a more urban lifestyle. The succession of images give insight into the development of Montreal through depictions of the city landscape juxtaposed with the simplicity of the everyday experience. Marvin communicates individuals’ experiences in a rapidly transforming city, which makes viewers feel as if they are simply a passerby.
Just as the city is accessible through the photos, so is the exhibit. Seeing the photographs displayed along the street evokes the era when they were taken. Essentially, what was once a contemporary scene can now be seen through a historical lens. The choice of location is a testament to how Montrealers experience city life and the photographs are presented in such a way that allows for individual reflection and pleasure. The exhibit captures the movement and the ever-changing city through a single lens and although the frame remains still, one can feel the individual’s interacting with their surroundings.
Marvin exposes the simultaneous drama and simplicity present in the everyday moment; drawing our attention to the beauty of the present. He brings together a narrative and creates a montage of shared experiences linked together by Montreal and a new urban lifestyle. The photographs are as much a remembrance and look into the past as they are a look into the heart of the modern city.
David W. Marvin: Street Chronicles 1965-1975 will be on display from June 12 – October 18, 2015 on McGill College Avenue.
Street Chronicles: Impressions of Montreal