Local photographer puts neighbourhood front and centre in his work
In one photo, a line of damp clothes runs through the leafy canopy of a green, back alley, crisscrossed by the dark shadows of electricity lines. In another, an elderly man collects cans and bottles in the bins that line the streets on his only day off.
These are some of the many everyday Park Ex scenes local photographer Martin Simon Greizis captures in black and white through his viewfinder. They are scenes of everyday life in this neighbourhood, a moment captured in time.
Native to Park Extension, Greiz has seen the area change immensely over the years. “It’s surprising how much it’s changed,” said Greizis, sitting across a cup of lemon tea at his kitchen table.
“I was here from 1970,” he said, “I saw the different flux of different people moving into the neighbourhood.” The ever-changing nature of this neighbourhood is one aspect of what Greizis tries to capture in his work
“I’ve always done photography, but it was only about 10 years ago that I really got back into it,” continued Greizis, who had previously worked as a sound mixer.
“When I started getting back into it, I was doing a lot of photography of shows,” he added, explaining that “when I would be mixing live shows, I would have my camera all the time, so I would take photographs.”
After moving back to Park Extension several years ago, he turned his lens toward the neighbourhood he grew up in.
“A lot of what I photograph is fluke and when I go out what I’m doing is following light,” he explained, adding that the people he encounters offer interesting stories and insights and add depth to his work.
Capturing a moment in time
Although not the main objective of his art, Greizis acknowledges that he is documenting a neighbourhood and community that may not exist in the near future, due in part to demographic changes and gentrification.
“I have been documenting the people that live in the neighbourhood, the so-called regulars,” he said, adding “there’s a group of old Greeks that hang out by the subway station and they’re there all the time and even in the last four years, there are faces I don’t see anymore”
“There is a desire to document who was here before,” added Greizis. “There’s going to be a whole community, a whole era that’s going to disappear, that people are no longer going to know existed.”
“So I guess maybe it’s me being me is a little bit of being nostalgic about my childhood,” quipped Greizis.
While demographics and the social makeup of Park Ex are changing, so is the built landscape of the neighbourhood. “What I’ve noticed is there’s a lot of changes happening in terms of architecture and also disappearing skylines,” explained Greizis.
This became especially apparent to him when he stopped seeing Mount Royal from many of the neighbourhood streets. “At one point, I saw this structure, I was like what the heck is this, I don’t see the mountain. And it was the university, the new campus,” recalled Greizis of seeing the Université de Montréal MIL campus for the first time
“It had such a big impact on me because every street that you would be on you’d be able to see the skyline, a little bit of the mountain. But now what’s happening is it’s completely blocked,” he continued.
Greizis understands that this will only continue happening and the physical makeup of the neighbourhood will vastly change in the coming years, as it already has to the south of the neighbourhood around Beaumont.
The local photographer will keep at his craft for the coming future, continuing to publish his work online. Photos are posted regularly on Parc-Ex Social Club, a Facebook group dedicated to neighbourhood initiatives.