Montreal’s shutters close to keep doors open

The Momenta Photography Group holds an exhibit to raise funds for Chez Doris, a women’s shelter in Montreal

We see people everyday—in the metro and on the streets—begging for money, sometimes gently and sometimes not. It is undeniable that many people, and sometimes entire families at a time, need help due to financial instability.

Although the government does provide financial support for Montrealers who fit the criteria, it can often be insufficient for the numerous people in need. In this regard, philanthropy appears to be necessary. If you feel uncomfortable donating to random people around the city, perhaps you should instead look into shelters or other non-profit organizations that are organized to stretch their funding and help the greatest amount of people with the funds they are given.

Different types of shelters exist in Montreal, but only one of them is open during the day—seven days a week—and offers a wide range of services and activities specifically for women. You might have heard about Chez Doris last year, as it was reported by the media that, due to a lack of funds, the daytime shelter was forced to close its doors on weekends, leaving women in need with no resources for those two days of the week. This is no longer the case.

In response to that, many donors and volunteers have come forward. Among them was a group of women who has come up with a very personal way to contribute. The Momenta Photography Group was created last fall and has since held two exhibits for which all proceeds went to Chez Doris. All of its members met at a photography class they took at the Montreal Visual Arts Centre in Westmount back in 2011.

After getting to know each other and sharing their skills in photography, the women eventually began thinking about working together on projects. Last year’s exhibition was a success and the amateur photographers were able to raise close to $4,000. This year, six of the members were back for a second annual exhibition—they are Laurie Bucci, Frances Cable, Cindy Canavan, Josée Houde, Florence Jean and Silvia Lebensztajn.

Each of these artists has their own style, which makes this exhibit a very diverse one, but even though the techniques vary, one cannot help but notice that there is a common theme to all of the photos: nature. We can see nature in black and white which can give us a feeling of nostalgia, we can see wild and dangerous nature and we can also see more soothing, dreamlike landscapes in which we can easily get lost.

The photographers have different approaches to the subject. For instance, Houde cleverly uses shadows and blur effects in order to show movement, while Bucci creates an almost 3D-like effect by emphasizing texture. Cable focuses on showing a mood by experimenting with colours, while Canavan also accentuates colours as well and tries out different ways to show perspective, thus giving movement to the pictures. Jean shows the beauty of wilderness, especially in her black and white photos, and Lebensztaj shows us idealistic, yet fragile landscapes she wishes to preserve, for they are soon to be destroyed by man.

It is quite obvious that the amount of time and energy put into working on the photos, and organizing and advertising the exhibition is significant. Some of them work, some studied or are currently studying at Concordia and others have families to take care of, so it is in their spare time that they work on this project. According to the artists, up to seven hours of work goes into shooting and editing each photo they present. In addition to that, the group has to thoroughly discuss which photographs they would show at the exhibit, how they would introduce them and also what the prices would be. It is indeed very important for the works to be priced to sell, since the purpose of the exhibit is to raise money for the daytime shelter.

Moreover, not only does the planning of the exhibition keep them busy, but it is also quite expensive for them—as the artists have to frame their works, rent a location for the exhibition, and so on. In spite of all the difficulties they have to face, the Momenta members all agree on the fact that they enjoy volunteering, almost quoting Mother Theresa’s, “it is not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”

Momenta is doing fairly well for a group that was created only a year ago; most of the photos displayed at their very first exhibition were sold. The reason that they were able to raise such an important amount of money is because they are doing what they are passionate about while getting involved in important matters. By doing this they also encourage other people to do the same.

Apart from framed photos, in this second exhibition, the artists were also selling cards with smaller versions of some of their work at very affordable prices of $5-10. The atmosphere at the event was pleasant and the artists, Chez Doris administrators and Chez Doris’ executive director Marina Boulos-Winton, were easily approachable.

In a talk with Houde, member and spokesperson for the group, it was made clear that Momenta had no intention of settling on their current achievements; they would keep working harder in order to reach their new goals. They are also considering doing two exhibits per year instead of just one and looking into other organizations that would be in need of financial support.

For more information on The Momenta Photography Group, visit

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