Thursday, February 15, 2018

McCord Museum 2018: Michel Campeau

February 16 -  May 6, 2018

The McCord Museum is presenting a survey of work by the Montreal photographer Michel Campeau, who is also a collector of amateur photographs. Composed of works executed between 2005 and 2017, the exhibition reflects the artist’s subjective and emotional approach to photography before the digital era. The exhibition consists of approximately 90 works that summarize the material culture and aesthetic legacy of silver-based photography. They include images of historical colour and silver prints, photographs by Campeau himself, and reproductions of slides he bought on eBay.

Life Before Digital offer an exploration of the essential components of silver-based photography, including its cameras and darkroom process, as well as a number of amateur photographs that the artist has selected for their autobiographical resonance.

By combining his own images with those of anonymous photographers, Michel Campeau reveals a practice that has crystallized his childhood memories and his quest for the existential meaning, nourished his poetic vision and, ultimately providing him with an artistic family. His point of view is not to capture a sociological moment in the collective history, but rather to present his personal vision of the poetics of the past. Thus visitors will be drawn into the world of pre-digital photography as seen through the prism of Campeau’s love of the medium: its rituals, people and faces, its capacity to immortalize a moment and make it the stuff of history and identity. By encompassing the amateur snapshot, this artistic review of the tools and techniques of silver-based photography pays tribute to the universal community of photographers.

The exhibition also presents Romain Guedj’s film Michel Campeau: Looking Back at “The Americans” by Robert Frank, which shows Michel Campeau collecting and sorting anonymous slides taken during the 1950s and 1960s, searching for those that strike him as comparable to the photographs published by Robert Frank in his famous book The Americans (1959).

Hélène Samson, curator of the exhibition and Photography Curator at the McCord Museum, stats this about the exhibition:
“Michel Campeau examines a theme that is pivotal in the history of photography – the switch from silver-based or analogue photography to digital. All of us, as amateur photographers, have witnessed and been affected by the changeover. The exhibition explores a type of photography that has been practised for many years but that is now obsolete. It represented a quite different way of making, sharing and collecting images.” 
The exhibition coincides with the publication of Michel Campeau's book Rudolph Edse : Une autobiographie involontaire/An Unintentional Autobiography, which includes essays by Michel Campeau and Hélène Samson. Co-published by the McCord Museum and Les Éditions Loco, Paris, the book is on sale at the Museum Boutique.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a number of other activities, including lectures, discussions and screenings.The events calendar can be consulted on the McCord Museum website.

Three images below show Campeau's Rudolph Edse: An Unintentional Autobiography series.

Michel Campeau

Michel Campeau (Montreal, 1948) has been active on the Montreal photography scene for the past four decades. Since the documentary project titled Disraeli : une expérience humaine en photographie (1973), which marked a milestone in the history of Quebec photography, he has developed a practice that explores the subjective, narrative an ontological aspects of the medium. The extended series Week-end au « Paradis terrestre »! (1970s) expressed his fascination for his fellow human beings with an earthy realism reminiscent of street theatre. It was followed by a more introspective period, during which he examined his own life in relation to nature and photography. Around 2005, in reaction to the switch to digital, Michel Campeau began photographing darkrooms. The resulting series earned international recognition, giving rise to two publications and several exhibitions, notably at the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa (2014), and at the Centre Pompidou, in Paris (2015). During the same period, he began collecting vernacular photography and pursuing his creative path via the photographs of others, seeking to unveil the underlying motive force behind the practice of photography and his own desire to narrate the world. Michel Campeau is a recipient of the Bourse de carrière Jean-Paul-Riopelle from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (2009) and the Duke and Duchess of York Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts (2010). The original and multifaceted path taken by Michel Campeau’s career establishes him as one of the most important photographers of his generation, in Quebec and beyond.

Two images below: Michel Campeau at the press conference and the press visit of his McCord Museum exhibition.

Click on images to enlarge them.

About the McCord Museum

The McCord Museum is dedicated to the preservation, study and appreciation of Montreal’s social history, both past and present, as well as its people, artists and communities. It is home to one of the largest historical collections in North America, consisting of First Peoples objects, costume and textiles, photographs, decorative and visual art, and textual archives, totalling more than 1.5 million artefacts. With its contemporary perspective on history, the McCord Museum produces exciting exhibitions that captivate visitors from Montreal, Canada and beyond. It also offers educational and cultural activities, as well as innovative projects on the Internet. McCord Museum: Our People, Our Stories.

All photos in this article © Nadia Slejskova

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