Gabor Szilasi - Compagnon des arts et des lettres du Québec
The eldest son of a Jewish family decimated by the war, Gabor Szilasi had to interrupt his studies in medicine and become a labourer after spending five months in prison for having tried to flee the nightmares of Nazism and then communism. It was only in 1952 upon getting his first camera that he would see the world through a new lens.
A self-taught artist, guided by unflagging humanitarianism, Gabor Szilasi photographed the Hungarian popular uprising before emigrating to Québec in time for the Quiet Revolution. He captured weddings and art openings, Expo 67 under construction, and the early days of Leonard Cohen’s career.
When he began his photographic studies of rural areas, his portfolio became a social document about the people and their environment, as he captures the nuance and the misunderstood, contradictory, and incongruous aspects of the world. Panoramas of Montréal followed, with the eclectic urban architecture becoming the setting for a range of human dramas.
A master of film photography, which he loves for its depth, he has stayed faithful to black and white and to his goal of capturing the ephemeral aspects of daily life, carefully preserving an eloquent record of it. Every image shows his humanitarianism, empathy, and respect for the subject he passionately observes.
Recipient of the Prix Paul-Émile Borduas and the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts, his corpus of over 100,000 photos is an invitation to meditate on our humanity and a building block for collective memory.
About the Ordre des arts et des lettres du Québec
The Ordre des arts et des lettres du Québec is a distinction bestowed by CALQ honouring those individuals who have played a prominent role in Québec's artistic development.
The CALQ would like to thanks its partners, the Caisse de la Culture and the newspaper Le Devoir.