A selection of portraits taken in the early 1900s depicting the first wave of Italian’s immigrating to Montreal. A city at the time known as a place for employment and new opportunities. The photographs come from my family’s archive, the Fiore family, consisting of relatives and friends in formal attire who arrived from Casacalenda, Italy. Although there are no actual scenes of Montreal from this period, the spirit of the city shows through the portraits themselves and the portrait photographers who took them with their names and studio address indicated on the bottom of the Carte de Visite.
The people are dressed in their Sunday best showing relatives living abroad that they are adapting and managing in this new environment with different customs and social values.
It’s only in the 1930’s when the city begins to surface in the photographs through its alleyways and entranceways used to serve as backdrops. Most of the exterior photographs consist of the siblings born in to an Italian demographic but now as first generation Canadians. The exterior photos were taken at a time when photography became more accessible to the masses and affordable to families still living on a modest labourers income.
There is no set order to the presentation, they appear as found. I mentioned “archived” intended with a casual flare, they were a large number of photos grouped together in a shoe box. Apart from the people in the photos, what is fascinating are the props and decor used to support the portraits, the clothing marking the times, how religion plays a role and in certain cases, the hands and shoes of the sitter inadvertently describing their profession.