Fiore Photo Album
One of my early memories of living in Montreal was when I would rummage through a box of old family photographs in my great aunt's closet buried deep behind her shoes. At the time, I wasn’t aware of their historical value. 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, so we moved back to Montreal from Italy. I was delighted to be reunited with my grandmother and her siblings.
Living with my relatives under one roof felt normal. 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 the family. Quickly realized how we lived was different.
The selection of photographs, from 1915 to the 1950s, in Montreal, including photographs used as a correspondence between families still living in Italy, in 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.
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.