Friday, August 7, 2009

Pas nécessairement un touriste

I've always been a generally mild-mannered sort. It may be that the experiences of elementary school and early high school taught me this, as the more I stood out the more likely I was to be the target of even more taunting, teasing, and worse from the local bullies. I've got a talent, it seems, for slipping beneath notice, and the only problem is that I have difficulty turning it off when I don't want to be noticed - say, at Worldcon parties and the like.

Nevertheless, sometimes it's useful. I don't like being the center of attention because in my experience, that means someone is probably laughing at me.

Right now I'm in Montreal, attending the 67th World Science Fiction Convention, but there's no way I'd travel all the way here only to spend all my time in the Palais des congrès. This is a city I've effectively spent no time in, a city full of photographs waiting to be taken.

It was a heartening realization that today, carrying around a camera and taking pictures of things does not necessarily label oneself a tourist. Twenty years ago, due to the expense of film and film development, the pool of recreational photographers was considerably smaller than it is today, and anyone snapping photos was more likely and not someone gathering up memories for their vacation album. Now, it seems as if every other person has their own Flickr page. Even I do, though I never use it.

What it means, though, is that in my mind, at least, I can go around taking pictures and - so long as I'm not thrust into a situation that calls for more than my extremely basic command of French - pass for some wandering Montrealer taking photos of the city, and not some Anglo Torontonian tourist. It was even more heartening when a pair of tourists asked me for directions to Lionel-Groulx metro station in French.

Photography is an enlightening hobby. For much of the time leading up to my trip here, I was looking forward to the opportunity to explore and photograph Montreal - particularly its subway network - every bit as much as the opportunity to attend Worldcon, if not more so. Edvardian over at Etherwing Studios said that it reflects a documentary spirit, which is pretty accurate. There are all these moments in time and space that deserve to be preserved, and I'm just doing my part. I'm not a tourist - I do the same thing here that I've always done in Toronto. I'm just an observer.

So long as I don't advertise myself, even with a camera I blend in. It's a comforting thought.

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