Fiore Photo Album

One of my early memories of living in Montreal was when I would rummage through a box in my great aunt's closet buried deep behind her collection of shoes that contained many old family photographs. At the time, I wasn’t aware of their value and perhaps even the influence these photographs later had on me. I grew up in an immigrant family home with my brother, mother, grandmother, great-aunt, and great-grandmother; we lived with them after my parents divorced, resulting in our moving back to Montreal from Italy. I was delighted to be reunited with my grandmother and her siblings.

 Life living with my relatives under one roof strangely felt normal, as though we were always together. However, I was reminded periodically how different we were when I visited my friends' homes and was exposed to their customs and rituals, which often consisted of a more North Americanized version of how things were, such as fast food, hockey and doing things independent from their family. Reminding me that the way we lived was culturally different. As an adult, I started to appreciate the tremendous courage it took for my ancestors to relocate from Italy to another country, a foreign world and society, to a land that expected so much and received little in return. The time spent looking at these photographs, I believe, also influenced my decision to pursue photography as a way of life.

The selection of photographs, range between 1915 to the 1950s, in Montreal, including photographs used as a correspondence between families still living in Italy, in the town of Casacalenda, located in the province of Campobasso.

Later, the role of the photograph changed from the studio portrait photograph, formal and unattached, to the portable, more democratic Kodak camera, which came into my family's possession around the 1930s and was now accessible even to people living on a modest wage. This invention of the portable camera, working under the slogan, “You take the picture, and we do the rest,” enabled my family to record their life on their terms, in their own micro-cultural vernacular, independent from the macro culture. However, my conversations with my relatives, who now passed away, described that even with all their efforts, despite the fact most of the siblings were born in Montreal and some served in the military during WWII, it remained challenging to integrate into the dominant society fully and as a result, continued to remain marginalized. My family built their home and lived on St-Urbain, close to Jarry park and later relocated to Park-X when their home was condemned for demolition to make way for a factory.

Little Note:

There were approximately two waves of mass Italian emigration to Canada, mainly resettling in New York, Montreal, and Toronto. My family landed in New York in around 1905, belonging to the first wave, and settled in Montreal, working mainly in constructing the railway systems that led into the city.

The studio portraits are simple, often containing little props and the relatives wearing their Sunday best. Most family members were workers, so they only had one or two good sets of clothes. Most of the family members have dispersed, and others passed away, leaving behind their legacy through these images. Containing traces of a life once lived. These are the images I would like to share with you today.

I don’t know most of the people, but there is a familiarity to them, and somehow are connected to my past.

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