had my first passport photo taken in 1981 at Regent Photo Studio on
Parc Ave in Montreal. It was a beautiful photo - textured black &
white, my skin suspiciously perfect and my lips had just a hint of
the smile we were allowed back then. It was my first venture to the
neighborhood and I ended up living there, walking by the Regent Photo
hundreds of times over the years. But I forgot about my experience
there, because back then, it didn’t really stand out. The
neighborhood was full of quirky merchants. Then I saw Small Wonders,
a movie about local merchants in a big-box world, featuring the photo
studio. It was perfect timing - I needed a new passport photo. Two
weeks later, I’m in their office, astonished by the number of
framed portraits covering the walls. Eighty year-old Norman, and a
much younger Johnny, greet me formally, a little surprised to have a
customer. Norman’s suit pants, complete with suspenders, are almost
up to his chest and Johnny speaks in halting nasal fragments, perched
on the edge of his chair, always deferring to Norman who looks tiny
behind the big cluttered desk. They’re like an old married couple;
Johnny has been Norman’s faithful assistant for
they-don’t-know-how-long. Because they don’t trust restaurants,
Johnny cooks them lunch, often fish, everyday in the little kitchen
between the office and the studio. I was escorted through a maze of
furniture, clothes and photo equipment to their studio set-up - two
lights, white backdrop, a stool and a small digital Polaroid camera
on a tripod. They didn’t like what I was wearing so they offered me
a bright red blazer with shoulder pads. I like red, but I
diplomatically refuse. The lights are switched on. Norman fusses with
my hair, Johnny tweaks the lighting, and Norman, now behind the
camera, asks me to “look just a little bit happy” and clicks the
Norman combs his hair before he sits down to write me an invoice for $13.55. As we wait for the photos, I mention that I was here thirty years ago, and that I’ve seen the movie. They are so pleased. They haven’t seen the film, but they’ve been offered a role, as a duo, in a Hollywood movie - $150,000 total, plus food and lodging for two months. “When?” I ask. They don’t know. “Will you go?” I persist. They’re not sure, that’s a long time to be away. “How do you feel about it?” I ask Johnny directly this time because Norman has dominated. “It’s exciting,” he says evenly, 'I hope it happens”.
The photos are ready. “Beautiful, beautiful” Norman says over and over again.
A month later, the Passport office rejects the photos because the lighting is uneven. I debate telling them. When I finally drop by, the Studio is gone - and in no time at all, it becomes headquarters for the POP Montreal festival. Norman and Johnny must be in Hollywood.
by Wayne Chan | May 3rd 11:55 am
My daily commute is like a small gear of mechanical time, of epicycles upon epicycles, where days turn to months and to years, and the seasons cycle through. The rhythms of time are constant, but the changes they bring are not.
by george ilsley | May 3rd 1:44 pm
The neighborhood of Broma in Vancouver (around Broadway and Main) used to have salmon streams and a temperate rainforest. Now it has hipsters.
by Brendan Harrison | Apr 12th 12:54 pm
When white supremacists moved into my neighbourhood, I was forced to reconsider what community meant to me.
by Monica Meneghetti | May 2nd 11:45 pm
Queer Banffites come in every stripe but, like other wildlife, most of us are well-camouflaged.
by Christin Geall | May 3rd 10:16 pm
In my neighborhood, houses float out to sea. They’re jacked up from their foundations, lifted onto trucks, and barged away.