A good photographic look at a turbulent year

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plappen's review of 1969: Once Upon a Time In Montreal


“A good photographic look at a turbulent year”

Written on: 10/10/2014 by plappen (120 reviews written)

1969: Once Upon a Time in Montreal, Richard Austin, 2014, ISBN 9780981361932

This is a personal look, through the lens of a camera, at 1969 Montreal.

As a young man, the author became almost obsessed with photographing people, places and events around the city. The largest student occupation in Canadian history, at what is now part of Concordia University, began when West Indian students accused a biology professor of discrimination because of unfair grading. Austin was there, with his camera. Some small fires were set, damaging campus buildings, but there was no actual "riot."

The author spent some time working at a local, independent record store (who remembers record stores full of 45's and LP's?), where he met lots of interesting people and was exposed to all sorts of music. There are photos, including of some of the female customers.

During that time, the drug scene was quite active; Austin did his part. He shipped some lysergic acid to a friend in Greece who developed a thriving business selling LSD to American soldiers who were in port. He was very careful with the acid-soaked blotters until he accidentally spilled garlic pickle juice on them, causing the trips to get weird.

The annual St. Patrick's Day parade had been going on since the early 19th century. The Irish had a strong community, and maintained their identity, something which did not always go over well with the city's French population.

This is not meant to be any sort of comprehensive look at Montreal, just one person's photographic journey through one year in one city. Some of the photos are blurry, or could have been better framed. That's OK; it just adds to the informality of the book. Yes, this book is very much worth reading.

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