Tenth edition of the McCord Museum’s outdoor exhibition on McGill College Avenue

Ever wonder where those photos on McGill College originate? Well, they’re from the McCord Museum; and this summer and fall marks the 10the anniversary of the museum sharing it’s massive collection of photos with Montrealers.

After exploring Montreal in the 1860s through the photographs of Alexander Henderson and the 1930s with Harry Sutcliffe, the McCord Museum is now highlighting the work of David Wallace Marvin (1930-1975), who captured the city from 1965 to 1975. It was a time of major transformation in Montreal in terms of society and urban planning. The tenth edition of the McCord Museum’s outdoor exhibition on McGill College Avenue, David W. Marvin: Street Chronicles 1965 – 1975, will be on display from June 12 to October 18, 2015. This BMO Financial Group presentation brings together 24 large format photographs. It is the first exhibition of this size devoted to the photographer, whose archives – 6,000 35 mm negatives and prints – were given to the McCord Museum in 1978.

“We are pleased to present this new outdoor exhibition in such a busy area. It’s a unique showcase for introducing David W. Marvin, a great unknown Montreal photographer, whose photos reflect his deep attachment to neighbourhoods that have disappeared and their inhabitants,” says Suzanne Sauvage, President and Chief Executive Officer of the McCord Museum.


Woman sunbathing by David W. Marvin
Courtesy of the McCord Museum

Born in Kentville, Nova Scotia, David W. Marvin came to Montreal as a teenager. An orphan raised by his sister, he lost his hearing after a childhood illness. David Marvin’s own hardships gave him a social conscience early in life and a genuine interest in cultural communities. He worked as a proof-reader for a Montreal newspaper, but his true passion was photography, which he practiced tirelessly in the streets of Montreal for more than 15 years. His body of work is a remarkable chronicle of the city in its most diverse aspects, both beautiful and ugly.

Marvin was particularly sensitive to abrupt changes that affected certain populations expelled from their neighbourhoods because of new construction and urban development from 1965 to 1975. He was also interested in people going about their daily lives, some of his images reflecting an unusual vision but always full of humanity. The artist took vivid, original, fascinating photos that captured the moment, played with shadow and light and showed undeniable talent.

People walking past snowbanks in 1967 by David W. Marvin, courtesy of The McCord Museum

People walking past snowbanks in 1967
by David W. Marvin, courtesy of The McCord Museum

David W. Marvin’s images of Griffintown, where he lived, with its taverns, old signs, graffiti and crowded streets, contrasted sharply with his photos of Place Ville Marie and Château Champlain. Both were under construction at the time. He immortalized the demolition of buildings near Square Viger before the construction of the Ville Marie Expressway. The photos are often touching or humorous. Through them, daily life in Montreal neighbourhoods – Saint-Laurent Boulevard, the Plateau Mont-Royal, Côte-des-Neiges, Downtown, Mile-End, Little Portugal or Chinatown – was reborn, evoking stories and memories. Elderly women taking in the autumn sunshine, customers in restaurant windows, neighbours chatting, people passing by snowbanks – for David W. Marvin, gifted with a sharp eye, they were an opportunity to capture moments of life on film and restore their anecdotal charm as well as sadness.

Related Posts