Capturing erotica's humour in photographs
Westmounter Xavier Nuez focuses in on Montreal's alternative club scene
This week's Westmounter
By CAROLINE KUTSCHKE - The Examiner
Over the previous 10 days, Xavier Nuez had barely slept. On Monday the Westmount photographer was still framing his pictures for his vernissage "Monda Squeeeze" the next day at Club Metropolis. The 20 photographs of drag queens and transvestites may be shocking to some, but Nuez, 29, is used to that. "My father wanted me to do something practical, you know, but when I told him. I wanted to do photography, he freaked," Nuez recalls with a smile. Originally obliging his father's wish, Nuez graduated with a DEC in commerce from Dawson College in 1985. But by then, he knew that photography was more his metier. From 1986 to '88, he was a member of the Concordia University Art Workshop and by 1989, held a Bachelor in Communication Studies from Concordia. His father, a mechanical engineer, now thinks his work is just fine, Nuez says. "He's being really cool about it now." What of his latest exhibit, a year's culmination of capturing Montreal's sexually alternative night-club scene? "It's definitely a different kind of erotica. I'm at a loss for words." Pointing to one man, he says: "He's actually one of the shyest guys I've ever met." Nuez says he'd like to see the mainstream public view his work, which includes a focus on the "notorious" Saturday night phenomenon at Club Metropolis called Squeeze. The event appeals to clubsters of any persuasion, including those who want to have fun in a place where everything goes except intolerance, Nuez says. "I think there's a lot of humour in the photographs," he says. "I think it shows how light and un-intimidating it all is. It's a pretty relaxed scene." Nuez first photographed the scene 10 years ago in another Montreal bar, where a cousin worked as a male stripper. "It's relaxing to be there," he says. "There's a different dynamic, it's something different . . . it's refreshing to see. There's no racism, there's no violence . . . there really is a sort of harmony among them."
Nuez said he never expected to photograph transvestites and drag queens in Montreal. "It's something you expect to find only in a seedy underground club in New York and you don't expect to see it in Montreal, but it exists here in a big way." After he got the opportunity to photograph for another small project in the club several months ago, he just kept going back every week, he says. "It's amazing, be-cause I'm used to it now." There's definitely a lot of public misperception about drag queens and transvestites, he adds. Nuez, who teaches English part-time at a private school in Laval, said when he told his students about the exhibit, "a couple of students were really shocked. They were sure I was a transvestite. They looked at me really strangely for about half the class." While he never intends to put his camera down, with photography, "you never know what's going to happen," Nuez says. Thus the multidisciplinary work, including commercial photography and teaching Spanish as well as English as a second language.
His last project was Alleys and Fire Escapes in Montreal, including photographs of Westmount alleys. "It was a bit scary — but another thing about Westmount is that I'm not afraid to walk in the alleys. In some of the others in Montreal, I had to bring friends as bodyguards." Nuez has also had his work displayed in Galerie des Foufounes and in Complexe Guy Favreau in 150 Years of Photography. As a freelance photographer from 1990-1992, his work was published in Windsor Publications, Editions HRW and Publiphoto. From 1989 to 1990, he was a cinematographer and gaffer for Circus Maximus Films and assistant cameraman for Ale Films. Born in Montreal, Nuez grew up in Sorel, but returned when he was 17. For the past two years he's made Westmount his home.
"I've lived everywhere in Montreal, but I love it here," he said in an interview this week in his Sherbrooke Street home and studio. "It's peaceful --- and there's no shortage of security.” Nuez says the current project gave him experience in doing fashion photography, but his next exhibit in the works is something drastically different. "Close-ups of decomposing bugs," he said about the plan that was born when he accidentally photographed a dead bug while testing his equipment. "It will be a bit of a morbid show," he says. "I'm still working on what exactly I'm trying to do."
Mondo Squeeeze continues through Oct. 8 at Club Metropolis, 59 St. Catherine Street East.
The Westmount Examiner, Thursday, August 1th, 1994