I am an unapologetic people-watcher. In the Before Time I would often find myself sitting on a bench in front of a cafe, watching street life. When Montreal went into lockdown in mid-March, I moved this pastime to my third-storey balcony. Over the course of several weeks, I began photographing people as they passed by, combining the pictures to create a chaotic, Where’s Waldo-esque street scene where social distancing rules were brazenly flaunted. For me, the activity was akin to doing a one-thousand-piece puzzle. It was mindless, at times obsessive, and offered some needed respite from the anxieties of adjusting to life in the pandemic.
During this period, the streets were wonderfully quiet. I enjoyed watching the cyclists ride by, the intermittent runners and the ambulating couples out on their daily constitutionals. When a neighbour dressed as a clown strolled by, blowing soap bubbles, I could barely contain my excitement. I cursed when I missed a man on a unicycle as he turned up a side street. I was touched to see social-distancing neighbours helping a blind man navigate his way to the corner store.
Despite my worries and fears, I am grateful for the time that I’ve been given to slow down and observe life more closely. Nevertheless, I look forward to the time when our days will eventually settle into a more normal rhythm, restrictions ease and I can stop and say “hi” to folks in my neighbourhood. Hang in there. Ça va bien aller.