Photography Technique

Photographer Camille Maheux, born in 1943, died in Old Montreal fire

The National Gallery of Canada lists several of the photographer and filmmaker’s works as part of its collection.

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Camille Maheux, a Quebec photographer and filmmaker, has been identified as one of the people who died in a five-alarm fire that destroyed a historic building in Old Montreal last week.

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Maheux, 76, was also known as a cinematographer and videographer. She once described herself as an “image technician,” and said that “visual expression interests me most. I always sought to spill beyond the border of the singular image to combine different elements in the creation of a kind of narrative that resembles writing or cinematic storytelling.”

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Her work spanned decades, and the National Gallery of Canada lists several of her works as part of its collection.

Montreal police said Wednesday that Maheux was confirmed dead in the fire that ravaged an Old Montreal apartment complex last week.

Maheux’s body was recovered Sunday and another body, which has not yet been identified, was pulled from the rubble on Tuesday. Two more bodies were recovered Wednesday night and three other people remain missing. Nine more were injured in the blaze, two of whom remain hospitalized.

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A neighbour named Ginette said Maheux was one of three long-term renters still living in the 15-unit building, which was otherwise used for short-term rentals via Airbnb.

Catherine Joyal, a former resident of the burned building, said on Facebook that Maheux was retired. The two became friends while fighting to keep their apartments, between 2009 and 2012, according to Joyal, who said that the building’s landlord Émile Benamor put them “through hell” and tried to push them to leave so he could raise their rents. Joyal said she testified at the Tribunal administratif du logement on Maheux’s behalf to allow her to keep her apartment, and vice-versa.

Ginette also said the building’s owners were pressuring Maheux to move.

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Maheux had lived in her apartment for approximately 30 years.

Maheux liked to take pictures of people living in the streets, according to Ginette.

“She enjoyed living in Old Montreal for its ambience, but the building didn’t seem to be well maintained,” Ginette said.

Born and raised in St-Georges, in Quebec’s Beauce region, Maheux received a BA in arts from Université Laval, as well as degree in French studies and a masters in education technology from Université de Montréal, before travelling to study for two years at the École de cinéma de Bruxelles. Back in Quebec, she taught cinema and audio-visual techniques at the CEGEP level.

Maheux specialized in documentary film and photography.

“From her beginnings in the 1970s, she mainly photographed the women’s movement, LGBT communities and marginalized people,” said friend Petunia Alves, director of the Groupe Intervention Vidéo, which distributes and produces creations by women.

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“She was an excellent portraitist and a pioneer of the intimate documentary.”

Maheux worked mainly in Montreal but also in Brazil, according to Alves, who noted that Maheux covered the first festival of women in the arts in Sao Paulo, in 1982.

Maheux participated in photo exhibitions across Canada, in Brazil, France and Italy. She was a member of Plessisgraphe, a collective of documentary photographers, from 1975 to 1985.

Among Maheux’s works listed on are On a firmé à l’Île aux Grues, a 19-minute short from 1971, co-directed with Michel Durand, described as a visit of the island and its inhabitants. Deux, an 11-minute film made with Ewa Turska in 1984, is said to be a reflection on women, art and coupledom.

The latter is listed in the National Gallery’s collection. Among the National Gallery’s other photographs by Maheux are Couple With Child On a Veranda (undated, purchased by the National Gallery in 1975); Street Scene, Montreal, Quebec (undated, purchased in 1975); Grape Harvest, Saint-Jean de la Blaquière, France (1973); and Teenagers (undated, purchased in 1975).

During her career, Maheux also worked as a set photographer on film and video shoots.

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On Facebook, retired journalist Cécile Rodrigue recalled taking photos and making films with Maheux while the two were studying in St-Georges de Beauce.

“We listened to lots of music in her parents’ attic,” Rodrigue wrote. “She brought me a lot in life and initiated me to art. I’m in shock.”

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