Michel Huneault La longue nuit de Mégantic

The CONTACT Gallery is pleased to present La longue nuit de Mégantic, an exhibition by Montreal-based photographer Michel Huneault.

La longue nuit de Mégantic is the culmination of the documentary photographer’s year-long project visiting Lac-Mégantic after Canada’s deadliest train disaster in almost 150 years. In the middle of the night on July 6, 2013 a train filled with crude oil derailed in the small Quebec town creating an explosion that destroyed much of the downtown area, instantly killing 47 people.

The disaster has since been in the forefront of current national debates regarding energy transportation, safety and the environment.  However, Huneault’s interest in this story is human and intimate, with a focus on the community and the aftershock. His experience in international development and academic research on disaster and trauma, both personal and collective, has given him an insightful perspective.

The series of large-format and small photographs, predominantly of the town’s landscape, brings to mind the viewpoint of a wanderer, or stunned observer. Upon Huneault’s arrival within hours of the explosion, and subsequent visits throughout the seasons, he was able to capture an eerie calm that seemed to resonate across the community. Often at night he would return to the same streets, houses or sites, retracing the geography of the scarred place, sometimes encountering locals on a similar journey. As a result, the images convey the passing of time and evoke the emotions of loss, absence and searching, as they evolve over one symbolic year.

An accompanying single-channel video piece consists of a series of portraits and short audio interviews with community members who experienced loss and trauma.  Their stories offer an intimate glimpse into their process of mourning, the need for answers and justice, and the desire to find reconciliation.

Before devoting himself full time to photography in 2008, Michel Huneault worked in the international development field, a profession that took him to over twenty countries, including one full year in Kandahar. He holds a MA in Latin American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a Rotary World Peace Fellow, researching on the role of collective memory in large scale traumatic recovery. At Berkeley, he was a student and teaching assistant of Magnum photographer Gilles Peress, and afterwards held an apprenticeship position with him in New York. Currently, his practice focuses on development related issues, on personal and collective traumas, and complex geographies.

Huneault is the recipient of the 2014 Portfolio Reviews Exhibition Award. Chosen by an international jury, this award recognizes outstanding work presented at CONTACT’s annual Reviews.

The award is supported by the Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Image Works, and Vistek. Huneault’s project has been generously funded by the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.

La longue nuit de Mégantic will travel to Lac-Mégantic after its run at the CONTACT Gallery.


Exposition: Lac-Mégantic ou la nuit de toutes les douleursAgence QMI

La longue nuit de Mégantic en exposition à Toronto… et bientôt ici, L’Echo de Frontenac

Lac Mégantic, un cliché à la fois, Radio Canada TV News Clip – 2 minutes – french

La longue nuit de Mégantic, Radio Canada Radio Clip – show Grands Lacs Café – 8 minutes – french

La longue nuit de Mégantic, Globe and Mail

La longue nuit de Mégantic à la galerie Contact de Toronto, Photosolution

Picturing Loss, BlackFlash

Toronto: La longue nuit de Mégantic by Michel Huneault, The Eye of Photography (English, Edited version)

(French, Full version)

CONTACT Gallery Presents an Exhibition on Lac-Mégantic, Photolife

A Photographic Response to an Oil Train Explosion, PDN

CONTACT gratefully acknowledges the Ontario Trillium Foundation for supporting the creation of the new CONTACT Gallery.

Curated by Tara Smith