street photography by Paul Ottaviano

Av du Mont-Royal, Montréal. iPhone snap shot. I loved the public value and display of local photography. These were shot in the mid-1970’s. All great photos.

Montréal is delightfully uncanny. The street life is kinetic. But not in a café culture sense. The energy comes at you in an in-transit way that screams, “We’re busy! We’ve got shit to do here!”

Most people seemed courteous. I got along with local people well enough. How friendly? Hard to know, because my French is poor and that is an obstacle. Not an impenetrable one in this French-first bilingual city, but nonetheless, an obstacle. One week is not enough to scale that fence. One month or year might not be enough.

Quebecois have built and maintained their culture with seemingly an invisible force field that morphs into incongruous directions throughout public, and I presume, private life. It’s a genius design that has dynamically and organically developed over centuries. It makes the city all the more interesting in comparison to the United States and English-Canada. It’s Canada, but it’s not.

Could I live there? If I had to, I suppose I could. Would I choose to? Very unlikely. Am I dying to go back? No. Will I someday? Perhaps. Probably. The city draws in that way. I enjoyed the visit and personally feel all the better for it.

I should also mention their food is great. Their wine and beer is good. The cheese excellent. Croissants in corner convenience stores are good, too. And do not be afraid of the Cronut. It’s delicious! But that’s easy stuff for a visitor.

What is challenging is touring culturally, in an allocentric and responsible way, and discovering the intuitive photographs. Or let them find me.

Then – while mixing in plenty of late night oil like any visitor enjoying the moment – gather the discipline and technique to shoot good photographs. Particularly with a film camera. But any camera will do.

It’s fun work and play, but mental exertion going about it like this. Combined with being on foot for at least five miles each day, and it’s tiring. But I’m not complaining.

The feeling there was great. As things go, life is pretty when I can walk the streets of Montréal for one week, and within sensible limits, more or less do what I want.

While visiting Montréal, I got to thinking that if we can just cut the bullshit and focus on the good stuff, then our world can be a very good place. That in itself makes for successful travel.

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