Home Arts The 1950s in Quebec through the eyes of Lida Moser

The 1950s in Quebec through the eyes of Lida Moser

by Ambre Sachet February 2, 2016 0 comment

The photojournalist explored our province with vigour and artistic talent

Many faces emerge from the frame as a halo of light, and yet the tone is set in black and white. No less than 129 gelatin silver photographs taken between 1950 and 1994 are featured at the 1950: The Quebec of photojournalist Lida Moser exhibit, presented at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. Hosted by the Quebec National Museum of Fine Arts, the work of the American photojournalist was presented in Quebec City last year. The sweet paradox of Lida Moser goes beyond the visual; her work is demystified because of the humanist stance she had to take as a photojournalist. The spontaneous journey in which the American photojournalist discovered the Quebec of Maurice Duplessis can be of great interest to anyone even slightly interested in Quebec history.

Two students of Quebec City’s École moderne pose with sculptures.

Two students of Quebec City’s École moderne pose with sculptures.

What should have been an article on Canada for Vogue turned out as an in-depth report about Quebec contradictions. Moser’s exploration keeps oscillating between traditions and post-war contemporary inspiration.

The selection of Lida Moser’s project comes as a logical choice for Manon Pouliot, exhibition project manager at the National Museum of Fine Arts. “The first time she came to Quebec, Moser let herself be charmed by the province,” said Pouliot. “[The exhibit] is very territorial and cultural.”

A boy and a nun take a bus in Montreal.

A boy and a nun take a bus in Montreal.

The destinations Moser visited serve as the structure of the exhibit itself. With a new place comes a new subject of inspiration for the artist, whose photographic approach evolves with every encounter.

Quebec City: Moser is first fascinated by the European architecture of the city, defining it with an objective look on its buildings and slices of daily life.                                                                           

CharlevoixGaspésie: The change of landscape, from urban to rural, is illustrated with the development of new techniques. Depicting child labour without bothering with artifice partly defines Moser’s definition of photojournalism.

The exhibit offers a linear perspective which guides you through a variety of faces. What could be more candid and faithful to reality than a child’s emotions?           

Bas Saint-LaurentCôte-du-Sud: Moser’s next stop further develops her art of laying a person’s humanity bare while adding a documentary aspect to it. In many of her photos, Moser becomes permeated with the New York Photo League’s social awareness, in which she participated until its dissolution in 1951. The cooperative included some of the most celebrated American photographers of the time.

“She went beyond photojournalism toward a more personal and humanist perspective through her travel with [politician] Paul Gouin, who helped her [get] closer to people,” said Denis Castonguay, curator of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec exhibits.

Île d’Orléans Montérégie: Devoid of judgment, Moser’s photographs include many personality portraits, setting Moser free from her observatory status quo. As an art critic for the New York Times, Moser is drawn toward many artists such as Jean Palardy and Françoise Rosay.

Moser’s adventure, which includes about 1,700 photographs, stands as one of the most important photographic reports ever made on the Quebec of the 1950s. In her own words, she “[aspired] to seize the invisible,” and grasped the social complexities of a contrasted post-war Quebec with a unique intensity.

1950: The Quebec of photojournalist Lida Moser will be shown at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec until April 3.

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