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UMANIUM

PROJECT

Our intangible cultural heritage, that which is transmitted by word and deeds, is without a doubt the one to which Pierre Fauteux is most attuned. It is perhaps his training as an anthropologist, or simply his humanistic vision, that drives his admiration for human imagination, accomplishment, and know-how.

Through a series of analogue photos, Pierre presents the fruit of his encounters with people, all of them wise in their ways, who have accumulated so much knowledge and who help keep our heritage alive.

 
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THE TAILOR

Nicolas is Greek and proud. He arrived in Quebec thirty years ago with a pair of scissors in his suitcase. They will fall silent the very same day when Nicolas will retire.

Poised at his sewing machine in full view through the window of the neighbourhood drycleaner’s, the man with steady hands makes alterations for customers who want to give their favourite garments a second lease on life.

I had introduced myself the day before and Nicolas was waiting for me. I noticed that for the occasion he was wearing his beautiful shirt monogrammed on the pocket with his initials NN.

 

THE CABINETMAKER

Marlène is French. She came to Quebec to follow her dreams. Adventurous? Yes, but shy too.

Surrounded by men, she plies her craft in a workshop that makes the sets for our plays. Although the young woman is well appreciated within the team, there is no favouritism here. She wouldn’t want there to be.

She arrived with an empty toolbox and no experience. It was Rémi, the workshop manager, who shared the gift of his knowledge, happy to pass it on.

Marlène returned to France two years ago with her pockets full of Quebec know-how. What has become of her now?

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THE UPHOLSTERER

That time I wished I could speak Spanish. He didn't speak French or English, so I relied on sign language to get his permission to snap some taps of his hammer with my camera.  That was in Girona.

It seemed to me that he had been doing this forever... since long ago. He worked alone in the back of his workshop, lit by the reflection of the Onyar River sparkling just behind. It is unlikely anyone will continue tapping his hammer when he is done. Only the thousands of tacks that he has meticulously aligned on the backs of chairs will remain.

It was a Sunday and the man seemed anxious to finish his work. I had scarcely left the room when I heard the hammer resume the same rhythm that had first caught my ear. I turned around and saw the opportunity to take a self-portrait with the artist, who had already forgotten me.

 

THE SCULPTORS

On the island of Bali, north of Ubud, wood is at the heart of life. The men carve in the local tradition.

 

Along the winding roads, each house is a small workshop. In the courtyard, a mountain of wood chips reminds the small team that life is work. Always seated on the ground, the sculptor repeats the same gestures every day. He is the expert on a single model to ensure uniformity of production. Often, the design is not his own.  

 

The meticulous work of all converges in the city, at a wholesaler like Mirah Bali. He poses with pride, the sculptor, with talent.

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THE LUTHIER

The workshop of master luthier Jules Saint-Michel is known to all Montreal violinists and his expertise knows no boundaries. For more than forty years, people have entrusted Jules with some of the most beautiful instruments in the world, confident that he will treat them with love. He loves them so much that, since 1999, he has welcomed us to his small museum on the second floor of his world of strings.

Jules was not there the day I visited, but three luthiers were working to do his handiwork. An impassioned apprentice, Jean came from France to learn from the master. He was engrossed with fitting a joyful violin with a new key and a shiny coat of varnish. A craft that suited him to a “T”, he assured me.

 

The place had an atmosphere of resin and work well done.

 

THE PHYSIONOMIST

Hossein Padar learned his trade from his father. In 1974, he opened his shop in the heart of Montreal, on Sainte-Catherine Street.

 

The artist and businessman no longer applies his trade but his establishment will survive him. I went there to have a suit adjusted that had never fit. The young Syrian tailor who takes care of me seems to have fifty years of experience, so adeptly does he alter the brushed cotton to the shape of my skin with his needle.

I am to return in two weeks for the fitting and I tell him that I will bring my Rolleiflex. As fastidious as can be, he will insist that day to adjust the size which does not yet rise to the standards of Hossein, who spies upon us from his vantage.

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