text & photography patrick la roque
Our parents would take us to Montreal’s Chinatown when we were kids. For children of the suburbs, this might as well have been Jupiter. I remember the smells, the ducks hanging in the windows, the tiny restaurant where we’d always stop for lunch, all red and black and bathed in bright neon light. We were in a new land then, everything alien and mysterious - beautiful.
Eventually Chinatown was choked by the city’s evolution. What used to be an entire district was relegated to a couple of streets and alleys, given a plaque and a few token statues where tourists pose for snapshots. The Peking ducks dangling in the shop windows were deemed unsanitary by the type of stupid bylaws professing to move us forward, only really stifling identity and uniqueness. And yet… The community is still present, surviving between the high rises, hotels and congress center. The smells are more timid but still there, floating on a spring breeze like an old dream. Like a child’s rêverie.
Last Friday, I needed oxygen and carbon dioxide all at once. I needed streets around which to wrap my camera and gather my thoughts. I needed regeneration. Without thinking I gravitated to those old foreign quarters. Before even taking a single shot a retired photographer came up to me, having spotted my X100. Soon, we were talking shop and Josef Koudelka, right there under a bright April sun. The tone was set.
I walked and walked, drinking in as many images as I possibly could. And it felt like a dance, forever moving, like cinema and theater, scenes unfolding, screaming to be captured and remembered. A freakin’ multitude waiting for the eyes of the world. Such a flow, such waves washing over me. The streets.
I stood on corners, sat on new lawns hunting for movement. I walked into a modern art fair and out again, wanting more. I watched and learned and reached for air in the lungs of the city.
Man, if I could only frame everything.