Photographic memories

“Cheese!” I remember my mother shouting as she lifted her Pentax eager to take pictures of birthday parties, family gatherings, and vacations. From an early age, I, like so many of us, was taught to force a smile and to perform ‘joy’ when if front of a camera.
Now, as I look through the old photo albums, I wonder if the smiling images are an accurate depiction of my childhood. To me, the camera was an audience, waiting to be entertained.
However, Raymonde April’s photo exhibition, “Tout embrasser,” currently on display at Concordia’s Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, has little evidence of this standard performance so familiar to most of us. April’s collection is more like a documentary, where her camera is the observer, rather than the audience I once believed it to be.
“I’m a photographer, not an animator!” she laughs.
April has been teaching in the Photography department at Concordia since 1986.
“Tout embrasser” is a compilation of nearly 600 photographic images culled from her work over the last three decades.
The exhibition itself is simple and elegant with no fancy framing or distracting colours. The images however, are striking.
Along the South wall, 517 black and white 4x 6″ snapshots casually capture daily life-a parade, a dinner party, an empty street, a river, a messy bed room, as well as numerous landscapes and portraits. Individually, each image cultivates a memory, but together, April said, the images are a retrospective of the last 30years.
“The photographs are documents,” said the Montreal based artist. “They fix something in time that becomes history. En effet, it’s history to me. I can see how people have aged since I took the photographs. It’s this process of change, which fascinates me a lot.”
April’s visual archive, from which the exhibited photographs were selected, is also the source for her film, “Tout embrasser.”
The film, which is also available for viewing in the gallery, was completed in the spring of 2000. In the style of a documentary, the film portrays 500 photographic images as if it was a slide show.
Initially, April wanted to put together a book of her work. However, she said that as she was going through her old negatives, she noticed that, although the images themselves are fixed, there was a movement created by the passing of each print. “It wasn’t a work made for a book. It’s a based work,” she said.
“It’s interesting to look at images like that,” said April, “The movement is
steady. They [the viewers] respond to each image. It triggers memories, but then it disappears and there is a new one. It’s a process of change-appearing and disappearing.
After a while you get used to it.”
Unlike most documentary films, there is no voice over to explain the
photographs. April said this is because she wanted the “images to speak for themselves.”
Although she has exhibited extensively in Canada, France, Italy, and Spain, this is her first solo exhibit at Concordia.
“It’s a very important show for me. It’s a retrospective, a passage. Black and white photography has an ancient feel. It’s more abstract. I now only work in colour.”

Gallery Information:
September 11 – October 20, 2001
Monday – Friday 11 am – 7 p.m.
Saturday 1 p.m. – 5p.m.

Bilingual Guided Tours:
Tuesdays and Thursdays 12 -2 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2001@ 11 a.m.

Curator and Artist Talk:
Friday, September 21, 2001 @ 1 p.m. tel.
(514) 848-4750


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