"I was just blown away by the quiet. By the absence of anything in the photograph," said Peter McCabe. Armed with nothing but a camera and a desire just to "have fun again," McCabe set out to capture the eerie beauty of Montreal's empty streets during the lockdown. Shot throughout the end of March and April, his series Empty Montreal takes us on a journey through a Montreal unlike any we've seen before.
A veteran of the industry, McCabe has worked for the Montreal Gazette, the Canadian Press, the Globe & Mail — you name it. If you've read the news in the past decade, you've probably seen one of his photos.
"As soon as the pandemic happened, I realized that it was going to be hard to find steady work. So I took a break for about a week or so and I said, 'well, you know, now's the time to go out and enjoy taking pictures again,'" he explained.
McCabe said that he drew on no particular inspiration other than "to go out, enjoy myself, and have fun."
His Instagram page has gained a respectable following and his Empty Montreal photos are in high demand by local art galleries.
"I took the first photo of this series about an hour and a half before the official isolation order was to go into effect. I had to see what was happening downtown."
"Leonard Cohen looks down on an empty Crescent street. 9:30 pm. Tuesday April 7, 2020"
McCabe's photos have a uniquely dystopian feel, yet upon closer look, the architecture of the city itself becomes alive.
"I always loved Montreal and its architecture. But you can't really enjoy it with everything in the way, you know?" said McCabe.
"Rue St.Catherine as it passes in front of La Baie Hudson. 9 pm. Thursday, April 16, 2020"
"It took about two weeks to see, but I really started noticing that the air was clearer. The pictures were sharper, it's was striking. If you had binoculars, you could see clear into people's windows, it was amazing."
"What was so nice was to see how people were adapting to the situation. I was on St-Denis and spotted a group of neighbours, with their lawn chairs out, properly social distancing," said McCabe.
"Rue Bernard and Clark. 9pm. Sunday, April 26, 2020"
"Boulevard Cremazie est. near Rue Lajeunesse. 9pm. Wednesday, April 22, 2020"
"I find there's always a camaraderie with our neighbours in Montreal, but that's a lot more obvious now."
"Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel (1771) ion an empty rue St.Paul est. Monday, April 14, 2020"
"Looking south on Avenue du Parc. 7:30 pm. Thursday April 9, 2020"
"You know, life is going on, it's just...having a hiatus right now!"