Brazilian-born photographer Silmara Albi places some vinyl on the turntable.

Brazilian-born photographer Silmara Albi places some vinyl on the turntable.

Remembering the ‘reel’ days of movie houses

Photographer Silmara Albi captures images from old theatres, including Vernon’s Towne Cinema

Silmara Albi  likes to think of herself as a visual artist. Brazilian-born and raised, she now lives in Vancouver with her Canadian husband.

“I miss a lot of things about Brazil, of course, but I absolutely love this part of the world,” said Albi, who is coming to Vernon for an exhibition of her photography.

“I love how the seasons change, and I’m crazy about maple syrup and Leonard Cohen.”

Albi’s upcoming exhibition, Motion Picture Projection, certainly reflects these interests and approaches. The series explores the areas of movie exhibition traditionally off-limits to the average movie-goer, while preserving the all-but-totally vanished craft of Hollywood film projection.

In São Paulo, she worked as a graphic designer for more than 10 years before coming to Canada to immerse herself in photography, which was by far her biggest passion.

When asked what kind of photography she does, Silmara pauses thoughtfully, “I do the kind that tells a story or preserves a memory as I explore the world.

“Visually I like to work in series and I’m very drawn to details. I try to have a calm, warm approach to my subjects, which are mostly people and places.

“I’m also drawn to the vintage and analogue. It’s where my fine artwork comes from. One complements the other, just like the two sides of a vinyl record.”

Most movie theatres in Canada have traded in their traditional 35-millimetre film projectors for digital counterparts.

“Some of these old projectors were 50 years old, and still in perfect working order when they were retired or thrown away,” said Silmara. “I became intrigued by how quickly such an old, reliable form of technology was being replaced. And since the majority of cinema-goers won’t even notice the difference (on screen), I wondered if these old machines would eventually be forgotten.”

She has spent much of the last two years travelling the province, exploring movie theatres from Powell River to Hope, Vancouver to Vernon’s very own vintage movie house, the Towne Cinema. Each movie house was as unique as the people who own and staff them.

“My work isn’t about change, but rather the moment just before change,” said Silmara. “I’m interested in capturing places and situations that have survived for a long time, but are only now on the verge of vanishing.”

While purists might decry the coldness of digitally-screened movies compared to the warmth of occasionally scratchy film, advocates of digital projection point out the consistent sharpness of the image on screen and the absence of distracting jumps during reel changes. Albi’s series doesn’t take sides in the debate, however,   whether the replacement of the traditional with the new is regrettable or represents progress is left to the viewer to decide.

Motion Picture Projection opens at Gallery Vertigo (Suite #1, 3001-31st St., Vernon – above Krause Jewellers) on June 15, and runs until July 20.

Albi will be in attendance at the opening reception, Saturday, June 15 from 7 to 9 p.m. All are welcome to attend.