Damien Simon, collector

Damien Simon is guided by his curiosity. Driven by adventure, he crossed the Atlantic to join our Montreal team in 2020. But this long-time collector always keeps his camera close by. In this interview, we will discover a pragmatic and perfectionist researcher, as well as some of his most beautiful pictures.

For Damien Simon, collecting is not a newfound passion. Ever since his childhood in Montreuil, France, his collections have shared two characteristics: they are all objects full of history, and their mechanical precision is fascinating. Whether it’s old watches, vintage cars, or cameras, it’s the construction and structure of these objects of yesteryear that are, in his eyes, admirable. For this latest article of our Humans Above All, we met our ever-curious expert Damien Simon. Our inquisitive artist reflects on his passion for collecting objects with fascinating mechanisms, from which stems his practice of photography.

Damien Simon’s adventure on the far side of the Atlantic

Within XRM Vision, Damien Simon is a Power Platform Technical Analyst since January 2020. Back in Paris, he was already evolving in the Dynamics ecosystem at Javista with his colleagues Clélia Berguig and Julien Miquel. After 30 years in France, he started a new chapter here. This chapter is punctuated by bi-monthly road trips in the Greater Montreal area. And the pictures he takes and edits are a way to keep track of these jaunts.
Damien Simon on a snowboard at Bromont
Our expert getting ready to ride down a Bromont hill on a snowboard. Since he arrived, he has been practicing this winter sport, which is quite popular with newcomers to the city.

The origins

How did you get into collecting?

Damien Simon – I’ve loved cars since I was a kid. Back then, it was like a liberation. I’ve always been fascinated by unique models. Later on, I owned cars and a motorcycle at the same time (that’s kind of silly!). I collected those and I also collected old watches.

Where does your passion for mechanical watches come from?

D. S.– The mechanical side of it fascinated me. That’s my perfectionist side. I marvel at the precision, the almost perfect construction, how this object manages to keep time every day. For example, I have a watch that dates from 1961. Even after 60 years, it still works remarkably well. Its state of preservation is pretty incredible. I also have a rotary tool to restore the look of a timepiece.

Watch dating from 1961 from Damien Simon’s collection.

From objects to pictures

This photo is just as interesting as the watch. How did your passion for photography begin?

D. S.– My father had bought an Apple digital camera when it launched in 1994. It was ridiculously expensive! Today, it’s completely outdated...  But at the time, it was the first modern digital camera. My father had paid a pretty penny for it, but the quality was not quite up to expectations. Yet I thought it was great. Unlike traditional photography, where you can only take a few pictures, you now could take many.Of course, this camera wasn’t the best tool artistically... But then I switched to a better camera: a digital reflex camera, with different lenses. I have a little bit of everything, you always have a standard lens. But I do like lenses that have a large aperture: it allows for deeper background blur.

What do you like most about photography?

D. S.– I would say it’s trying to capture something and make it look good. It’s the creative side that I like. You try to put everything you want in the frame, show a scene from a new angle, reveal something you wouldn’t necessarily see... And then there’s the whole aspect of editing, which allows you to explore some more.

And what are some of your favourite spots to photograph in Montreal?

D. S.– There’s Mount Royal, of course, and the Farine Five Roses sign, the Old Port, the fun architecture around Dorchester Square... Lots of places that are perfect for playing around with a camera.

Montreal and its surroundings: 12 shots taken by Damien Simon

We asked our expert to tell us the story behind some of his photographs. Let's dive into the metropolis and its surroundings through the eye of his camera!

1. Montreal’s iconic Farine Five Roses sign in motion

Farine Five Roses sign in motion

D. S. – As you can see, this photo was taken near the Farine Five Roses sign. What I like about this photo is the sense of movement in a static image. By manipulating the different parameters of the photo, you can translate movement in a photo.This photo dates back to the end of 2021. I had gotten the idea of this picture beforehand. I had scouted the location, where two lanes of the highway towards Montreal met. The grassy island was perfect for long-exposure shots. That night I set my camera on its tripod. Each time I take a picture, a little red light turns on. I was standing between the onramps, dressed all in black.... Drivers must have thought I was a traffic officer working the radar!

2. Summer vibe in Downtown Montreal

D. S. – In the summer of 2021, I was walking downtown. The sun was just starting to go down, making the ambient light warm, almost hazy. The perspective of the shot, the cyclists, the light, it all spoke to me. I feel it’s an accurate representation of summer in the city because there are a lot of bikes in Montreal. The scene was really evocative.

3. Capturing the charm and buzz of Toronto’s Chinatown

D. S. – This photo was taken in Toronto’s Chinatown. I like Toronto. I love the Anglo side of this city. This Canadian metropolis is more rooted in the American way of life than Montreal. Here, we were walking in the Chinese district. There’s a lot of things happening, it’s very busy. I tried to take a picture that represented the place, and it was crowded. There’s a huge concentration of things in one place. So, it was a place that was both disorienting and surprising. The lack of free space is what appealed to me; I thought it was a fun scene.

4 – Greenery in the cityscape: Victoria Square

D. S. – When I first arrived in Montreal, I lived near Victoria Square. There is a good mix of greenery among the buildings in this small square. Here, we see the Queen Victoria statue. I also like this place for the "Metropolitan" subway sign (not shown here). It reminds me of the subway entrances in Paris!

5. Leonard Cohen’s mark on the city

D. S. – When you want to escape the city, you head to Mount Royal. Here, I wanted to capture the Leonard Cohen tribute portrait from the top of the "mountain". There is a cool contrast created by the setting sun, between light and shadow.

6. A Christmas movie in Montreal’s Old Port

D. S. – This picture is from the 2020 Holiday season, taken in Old Montreal’s Bonsecours Market. It was my first Christmas in Quebec. I love that it captures the typical Christmas mood. It looks like a Christmas movie set (well, except for the car and the parking sign...)!

7. Montreal is lit: light reflections on the water and Place Ville Marie’s beacon

D. S. – Here’s a nighttime picture of Downtown. All the city lights are reflected in the St. Lawrence. Which is visually stunning.

8. Of bisons and cars

D. S. – I took this picture in the winter of 2021 while visiting Parc Omega. This park is basically a reserve, between Montreal and Ottawa. The animals have a ton of space. This scene with the bison in the middle of the road made me laugh. He just stopped there and wouldn’t budge! I had to pass behind it and not in front to keep going. All the cars were trying to go around it: it was causing a traffic jam... But it kept its cool.

9. A deer at the window

D. S. – This picture was also taken at Parc Omega, the same day as the bison traffic jam. It was very impressive: the deer had come up to our car window. It’s a very impressive animal when it’s standing right outside your window. Sometimes if you feed them, the animals literally get their heads in the car. Well, maybe not the stags, because of their antlers... But the does do!

10. Land of the bisons

D. S. – This was taken just before December 25, 2020. It’s a farm in Rawdon, called La Terre des bisons (Land of the bisons). We were in the area on our way to a cottage. When we drove by, it was thick with fog. I thought it would be a nice picture. Only the bison silhouette in the foreground stands out in the haze.

11. An otter in an open-air zoo

D. S. – In Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, on the western tip of Montreal, sits the Ecomuseum Zoo. It’s a wildlife rehabilitation centre that takes in different species of animals in bad shape, which wouldn’t survive in their natural habitat. This outdoors zoo was made accessible to visitors, and I love going there to take pictures. Here, we see an otter posing!

12. Sunset on the Lachine lighthouse

D. S. – Here’s a picture taken at the Lachine lighthouse in Montreal. It’s another one of my favourite spots, especially in summer. It’s a change of scenery; there are houses of all different colours. The park is very beautiful—you can take a walk there. You feel like you’re in a different part of the world. The St. Lawrence River is vast there. I used to go there by bike, now by electric skateboard. We often have ice cream here, one of the best, at the Quai des glaces. So, this is a sunset, snapped in the fall of 2021. I like sunsets, the orange and blue gradients at that time of day.

In summary...

These few pictures are only a part of Damien Simon’s photography collection. But even in this sample, his mastery of photography brings out the uniqueness of a moment, a landscape, an hour of the day, a chance encounter. And also, they give us an glimpse of the adventures of this newcomer in The City of a Hundred Steeples. From watches to cars, cameras and lenses, Damien Simon’s collections reflect a fascination with history, precision and time. Watches keep time, photos immortalize it. Long live these collections! Thank you, Damien Simon, for sharing your passions with us.

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