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Québec City and its Photographers, 1850-1908: The Yves Beauregard Collection
Louis-Prudent Vallée, Customs House, Québec, June 9, 1874, albumen. 2006.1411.

QUEBEC CITY.- As part of Québec City’s 400th anniversary celebrations, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec is presenting Québec City and Its Photographers, 1850-1908. The Yves Beauregard Collection. The exhibition features more than 400 photographs selected from this imposing collection to form a striking panorama of the Old Capital and its residents in bygone days.

Visitors will discover Little Champlain Street and the Breakneck Steps as they were around 1870, views of St. Louis Gate in the 1880s, scenes from the 1908 Tricentennial celebrations, the Citadel seen from the harbour around 1890, the city jail and the Wolfe monument in 1867, and numerous other aspects of life in and around Québec City in the late 19th century. Many of these magical moments were
captured by artist-photographers from the renowned Livernois, Vallée, Ellisson, Jones and Montminy studios. Offering unforgettable glimpses of history, enduring memories of a collective past, they reveal the picturesque features of a city and its inhabitants in intimate and public settings. With abundantly hung walls, fascinating displays and an educational exhibit, the show recounts the highpoints of photography in Québec City between 1850 and 1908.

In 2006, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec received a remarkable donation, one of the largest acquisitions in its history: the photographic collection of Québec City historian Yves Beauregard. Covering all processes and all genres, the more than 3,500 items trace the history and the technical and thematic evolution of photography over a century or so. And with a core focus on Québec City, they comprehensively document the work of the photographers who practiced their art in the capital. The exhibition Québec City and Its Photographers highlights the main aspects of the collection while illustrating the many represented studios and various themes.

Sights of Québec City
Numerous photographers roamed the streets of the Old Capital in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the city was undergoing profound changes and the area was becoming a holiday and tourist destination. Seizing the opportunity, artist-photographers turned out countless views for sale to both visitors and local residents. The Notman, Ellisson, Vallée and Livernois studios quickly took the lead in compiling an exhaustive portrait of Québec City and its environs. Today, their photos constitute an outstanding record of how the capital’s urban and industrial landscape evolved, and of the particular architecture of its buildings and monuments.

Life in Québec City
Most of the work done by professional studios in the 19th century was portraiture, of all types and kinds. Photography democratized the portrait genre, making it accessible to people of nearly all walks of life. The Yves Beauregard Collection includes a wide range of portraits representing diverse social classes at different periods. Photography did more than simply immortalize individuals and groups: it captured and preserved the image of an entire society for posterity.

One after another, these photos depict the various stages of life, from birth to death. From baptisms to birthdays to funerals, they portray the rites of passage and special events of family and social groups gathered around grandparents, couples marrying, babies, children and adolescents, communicants and students, all fittingly attired for the occasion.

The collection also illustrates economic and social life in Québec City, with pictures of maritime activities in the harbour and the Sillery shipyards, lively public markets, crowded streets and squares, tourists in horse-drawn carriages and residents strolling the terraces. Some of the photos document local events, such as the grand Tricentennial celebrations in 1908. And the city’s reputation as a winter capital is confirmed by shots of snowbank-lined streets after storms, the ice bridge on the river, the “ice cone” at Montmorency Falls, and the famous 1894 Carnival.

The Golden Age of Studios
The exhibition spotlights the three major Québec City studios – those of Léon Antoine Lemire, the Livernois family and Louis-Prudent Vallée – but also includes the work of other famed professional photographers, such as George William Ellison, John Lewis Jones and Marc-Alfred Montminy, and a host of lesser-known local names.

Processes, Supports and Formats
The Yves Beauregard Collection inventory reveals a wide variety of photographic objects, processes, formats and supports. The exhibition illustrates and explains each of the processes: daguerreotype, ambrotype, ferrotype, gelatin dry plate (glass slide), albumin or gelatin-silver. Various supports and formats including cartes-de-visite, cabinet cards, family albums and stereographs are also on display.

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