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Michelle Landriault works in photography and creative writing; and occasionally draws in charcoal. A graduate of Museum Studies from Algonquin College, she also studied cultural anthropology and Canadian literature of war at Carleton University, respectively at the undergrad and master’s levels; and photography at Concordia University.
Landriault has exhibited since 1982 and is a founding member of the original May Show group in Vankleek Hill. She has participated in group and solo shows in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec – Ottawa, Vankleek Hill, Hawkesbury, Lachute, Val David, Gatineau. Her photography has been selected for book covers by Canadian publishers.
She states that her approach to photographic composition was influenced at the outset by her studies of the b&w master works of Cartier-Bresson, Steiglitz, Strand, Lange and Hine. Whether in colour or in b&w, she strives to provide a distinct point of visual interest for the viewer to consider. From a rusted-out car, see the serene industrial geometrics of a window crank. But don’t be fooled, humour has a way of dropping into the scene from time to time.
As a child, my family relocated every few years. We were a construction family, and we followed the large post-WWII infrastructure projects of dams, bridges, tunnels, and highways in Eastern Canada.
At each relocation, announcements are made, plans unfold, boxes packed, the moving truck arrives, and we are gone. For a child, each abrupt farewell brought the challenge of a new arrival and a new round of immediate impressions to make – new neighbourhood, new school, new friends.
At age 9, I received a Kodak Brownie. It was exciting! The town parade took place, and I was there with my Brownie to capture it. I have held onto every blurred image. It was my first of many lessons in the limitations of both photography and the photographer, that can only be overcome by practice and learning. A life lesson.
Years later, as an emerging adult, I spent months exploring the Montreal neighbourhoods of St-Henri and Griffintown with another camera. Down the back laneways, where overhead stacked rows of family laundry slapped away in the industrial air. Then there were the disowned Mohawk women with their mixed-race babies, the Brewery Mission with its perpetual lines of homeless men, and little Patricia House for the women and children who lived outside the social margins. These were high impact images for a young woman from secure surroundings.
I recall, years before I knew of Griffintown, a family road trip on a winding backroad in Québec, with my brother and me in the back seat. It was a time when children spent their time looking out the car windows. We passed wood frame houses that appeared worn and bedraggled. I said words to the effect that ‘we are better than that.’ My father’s response is my childhood rubicon. “You don’t know what is inside those houses. They could be filled with Persian carpets.” At the next such house, I looked hard to see through to the magic of Persian carpets.
Since then, I have done my best, as a person and with my camera, to look beyond the public veneer of whom, or of what I encounter; beyond the rust. I am not always successful. And with maturity comes the recognition that some first impressions are all you get. With my camera, I look for the eloquence of an image whether it is bright and shiny, deep and luscious, or just dark. I am still sitting in that backseat looking out the window as we travel.
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Support in creating this artist's page from the Government of Ontario through the Programs and Services Branch of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture is acknowledged.