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Photographer Réjean Meloche's archives show slice of Montreal history

Photographer Réjean Meloche's archives show slice of Montreal historyéjean Meloche has watched Montreal grow up through the lens of his camera.

The photographer has been snapping shots of Montreal since he was a teenager growing up in St-Henri in the 1960s, and his work has recently been discovered thanks to his online archive,les Archives du futur.

He's captured everything from street scenes to some of Quebec's most famous politicians of the era, including René Lévesque, Jean Drapeau, Robert Bourassa and Pierre Trudeau.

Réjean Meloche is a Montreal photographer who recently uploaded a portion of his archives to Google's Picasa. (Réjean Meloche)


"When you live it, it's nothing extraordinary," Meloche says.

But looking back at his black-and-white photographs of kids playing hockey in the street, of people moving fridges up Montreal's signature spiral staircases, of flooded avenues and street parades has been like unearthing a time capsule for him.

History in the making

Meloche grew up in a Montreal marked by back-to-back historical events: Expo '67, the Quiet Revolution, the October Crisis, the 1976 Olympics, the passage of Bill 101 and the first referendum on Quebec sovereignty.

During those years, he subscribed to the old saying in photography: get close, then get closer.

He snapped one of his more treasured photos, of a church in St-Henri being demolished, on his 17th birthday in July of 1969.

He ran up to the sixth floor of the local high school and hit the shutter button at the moment the wrecking ball took out the church's bell tower, sending it crashing to the ground.

The photo, which was published in St-Henri's Voix Pop newspaper, was featured in Meloche's first solo photo exhibition.


An action shot of the demolition of a St-Henri church. (Réjean Meloche/Les Archives du futur)



Meloche went on to work as a freelancer for the community newspaper for years, as well as forMontréal Matin, a now-defunct paper closed down in 1978.

In those days, he spent many of his waking hours listening to his five police scanners. And during the night, he would often get calls from the police alerting him to various crime and accident scenes.

There were no public relations departments back then, he says, and certainly no cordoned-off crime scenes.

"Often I would arrive before the police," he says.

Meloche decided to publish a partial collection of his archives from 1969 to 1990 as a way to help him pay for his eventual retirement. As a freelancer, he had a number of clients but never a full-time gig with benefits or a group pension plan.


He will also display a few of his photographs at a group exhibition at the Sid Lee building in Old Montreal beginning Thursday.

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