The Unconventional Beauty of Montreal

Brendan Birkett’s postcards of Montreal will make you rethink your ideas of beauty

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3 photos
Photo cred – Brendan Birkett

A postcard: a small photograph we send to loved ones, which has a perfect snapshot of where we are, what we’re looking at, and the beauty of our surroundings. Typically you will find a cityscape, a mountain range, or a figure of iconic beauty like the Eiffel Tower. Rarely are the photos on the cards demonstrative of what the purchaser is actually looking at in that moment.

When you think of Montreal, what do you picture: Mount Royal, the skyline, the Old Port? Local photographer Brendan Birkett likes to depict something more raw and real. He wants to capture “a sort of alternate, behind-the-scenes angle on the city” through postcards.

When I originally came to Montreal, I felt like I was in another world. I was out of my element. I would walk the streets and alleys, simply sightseeing, because everything seemed so interesting and so lovely. Things such as the graffiti on a brick wall began to appear far more poetic to me than it may have been in any other city. Montreal is not just a pretty picture. It’s in the core of the city, living one’s daily life, that most of the beauty presents itself.

In these edgy and aesthetically pleasing photographs, Birkett highlights images that are unconventionally beautiful, and in some cases, rather unorthodox.  He doesn’t do this to point out Montreal’s shortcomings, but rather “to get more of a ‘we're-all-in-this-together’ feeling from it.” Things like the atrocious and never-ending winter seasons or litter on the streets are portrayed in a different, more positive light; we’re able to take one degree of separation and simply observe. In his series, you will find images of snow banks, unfinished buildings, pot holes, and of course, Montreal’s construction sites.

These postcards are made to generate some laughs, “while stirring up some deep-seated, pained groans in equal measure.” Birkett has spent many years “compulsively taking photos of [his] surroundings as a personal hobby and out of internal necessity.” It resulted in a transformation of sorts: from eyesores to art, from something you might not notice to something you can’t stop looking at. These postcards are powerful and humorous, as well as something every Montrealer can identify with.

A postcard of the city, capturing the mundane rather than the monumental, from Montreal for Montreal.

These postcards can be found at Drawn & Quarterly, the Concordia Co-Op Bookstore, Monastiraki, Librairie Formats, Ex-Voto, and Annex Vintage!

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