Photos

Does love overcome all obstacles? Glimpse into lives of couples 'embracing diversity'

Thirty interracial couples share their love stories in a photographic exhibition entitled Montreal in Love: Embracing Diversity, now on display at the Museum of Fine Arts .

Interracial, intercultural love on display at Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Ousmane and Patsy, one of the couples photographed for the exhibit Montreal in Love: Embracing Diversity at the Museum of Fine Arts. (Mikaël Theimer)

The couple is sitting on a scooter bundled up on a fall day on a street that could only be in Montreal, exchanging a look of such love. To see it prompts a smile.

The photograph of Carolyne Jannard and Zabi Enâyat-Zâda is one of three portraits of the pair hanging at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  

Zabi Enâyat-Zâda and Carolyne Jannard are among the 30 Montreal couples featured in the exhibit Montreal in Love: Embracing Diversity at the Museum of Fine Arts. (Anna Asimakopulos / CBC)

"It makes me proud that we can be together. It is very rare that Afghans get together with other people than Afghans," Carolyne said as she looked at the photos.

They are one of 30 interracial couples whose love is on display in the exhibition, entitled Montreal in Love: Embracing Diversity.

Marie-Christine Ladouceur-Girard came up with the concept, inspired by her own experience.

"My husband is Muslim and Arab, and I want to show to Montrealers the people who choose to live with different people every day."

Marie-Christine Ladouceur-Girard, curator of the exhibit Montreal in Love: Embracing Diversity at the Museum of Fine Arts. (Anna Asimakopulos / CBC)

She partnered with the museum and with the agency organizing Montreal's 375th anniversary celebrations. To carry out her vision, she turned to Le Devoir's well-known photojournalist Jacques Nadeau and to Mikaël Theimer,  an up-and-coming urban photographer.

The two went out and captured joyous moments with couples leaping through the snow, at home, on a Metro platform, over a bowl of soup — even a man and woman perched on a climbing wall, their child suspended between them.

"I wanted to show that love is love, no matter where you are from," said Theimer.

One of the photos from the exhibit Montreal in Love: Embracing Diversity at the Museum of Fine Arts. (Mikaël Theimer)

Winning over father-in-law

Bruno Demmerle had had his eye on Thi Be Nguyen for a while.

When she organized an event for employees at the bank they both worked at, he was the first to sign up. Their first date was an Expos game. When they fell in love, Nguyen's parents needed convincing.

"It was very hard for my parents to imagine the mix of different cultures," she said.

It took a full year before Demmerle finally met Nguyen's father and addressed him in much-rehearsed Vietnamese.  

"And I knew right away, for my dad, he was the future son-in-law," Nguyen said.

Bruno Demmerle and Thi Be Nguyen with their children Ludwig and Loan. (Anna Asimakopulos / CBC)

Taking a chance on love

Carolyne Jannard said she had been disillusioned and had given up on love. But then, she changed her work schedule and discovered Enâyat-Zâda living next door, "and I saw this guy and I went, 'Wow.'"

Soon after, on a dismal rainy day, she took a chance, rolled down her window and offered her neighbour a lift. The two got to know each other, and Jannard discovered that it was Enâyat-Zâda —  a man who had come to Montreal from a totally different world, a refugee from Afghanistan — who finally made her happy.

Audrey and Lani Audrey, photographed for the exhibit Montreal in Love: Embracing Diversity at the Museum of Fine Arts. (Mikaël Theimer)

Finding acceptance outside their relationship took longer. It was a while before Enâyat-Zâda introduced Jannard to his Afghan family. 

"Because of the difference between two cultures, sometimes it's not easy," he said.

Jannard, too, had to dispel a few stereotypes.

"At first people think of Afghans. and they think Taliban and burqas," she said.

François and Cathy, photographed for the exhibit Montreal in Love: Embracing Diversity at the Museum of Fine Arts. (Jacques Nadeau)

Almost eight years later, the pair holds hands as they walk through the exhibition, taking in a dizzying array of pairings: Haitian and French Canadian, Portuguese and Cambodian, Greek and Bangladeshi, Swiss and Vietnamese — all Montrealers, all in love.

André-Yanne and Warren, photographed for the exhibit Montreal in Love: Embracing Diversity at the Museum of Fine Arts. (Mikaël Theimer)

Montreal in Love: Embracing Diversity is on until Feb. 19 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, at 1380 Sherbrooke Street West.