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Canadian Artist of the Week
LOOK AT THIS: Mika Goodfriend’s ‘Petit Québec’ In Southern Florida
August 14, 2014
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Benoit et Suzanne
1/14 OPEN GALLERY

LOOK AT THIS is a weekly series featuring the work of Canadian artists, designers and creators of all sorts.

Name: Mika Goodfriend

Born: Montreal, 1978

Lives and works: Montreal (currently on academic exchange in Tel Aviv as part of his MFA at Concordia University)

These photos: It was "genuine curiosity" that led Mika Goodfriend to travel to the Breezy Hill RV Resort in Pompano Beach, FL, to photograph the Québécois snowbirds who wintered there. "I had grown up with the Jewish side of the snowbird phenomenon, traveling to Florida to stay with my grandparents who had a condo by the sea, living there during the winter months," Goodfriend told Strombo.com. "However, we never ventured to see the Québécois, who also migrated there during wintertime. Snowbirds is a personal project for me to explore a culture that, although I grew up in Quebec, I never felt part of…. What I found at Breezy Hill was a community that had banded together within a four-block radius, importing their culture to create a ‘petit Québec’ surrounded by the dominant American culture."

On the RV lifestyle: Goodfriend told Strombo.com that he was surprised to find that many affluent familes, who could have easily afforded a condo by the sea, chose instead to winter in Breezy Hill. Why? "The nearly unanimous response was that they wanted an outdoor rural lifestyle that reminded them of their life back home in Quebec. Community and belonging for them is very important, country line dancing, bingo, petanque, all these activities were communal." The life the snowbirds created in Breezy Hill may not be around for long, however. "Many believed the project was important on a cultural level as their children and grandchildren were not interested in continuing the migration to Florida, so from their perspective they saw their lifestyle as something that will someday disappear."

On photographing the denizens of Breezy Hill: "I was overwhelmed by how I was accepted by the community," Goodfriend told Strombo.com "On Christmas Eve, I was photographing the main recreation hall as the snowbirds enjoyed their festive meal. Once I was done, standing against the wall and feeling somewhat alone and self-conscious, a man approached me inviting me to sit and eat with them. His name was Fernand, and through the month and a half I was there, he and I formed a nice friendship…. He told me I was his adopted Jewish son." You can see the "father and son" in the last image in the gallery above.

On his style: Mika cited the work of British photographer Martin Parr as being among his strongest photographic influences. "I fell in love with his dry wit, his sense of humour and his colour palette, all which were transmitted through his photographs," Goodfriend said. He also pointed to Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl, who sometimes spends months or even years living with his subjects. "Only once he has blended into the background and has become ‘invisible’ does he recreate the scenes he observed occur in reality." Indeed, Goodfriend is planning to return to Breezy Hill to spend an entire six-month season, "to live and breathe their way of life in order to understand them better."

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