Looking at the world through Mario’s lens

By Laurent Soumis, L’Itinéraire

L’Itinéraire’s vendors are not all itinérants – that is, homeless people. Far from it. Yes, it’s true that some of them still live on the streets. Yes, it’s also true that several of them don’t have their own accommodation. In reality, the majority of the magazine’s vendors have a roof over their heads today; however, their financial situation is still precarious, and the street is never far away.

Readers of L’Itinéraire know Mario Alberto Reyes Zamora better than they think they do. It is Mario, under the pseudonym ZRAM, who takes a large number of amateur photos that are featured in each issue of our street paper. Mario was born in Mexico and immigrated to Quebec when he was one and a half years old. “That’s why I speak French without a latino accent,” he laughs. “But I do have a little Quebec twang when I speak Spanish!”

Credit: Milton Fernandes

Mario started working for L’Itinéraire nearly five years ago. He worked in household maintenance and in kitchens until he discovered his interest – and abilities – in photography. Mario is fascinated by everything to do with light. “And as I have difficulties with my memory, photography helps me to remember things,” he says, laughing.

This year, Mario was awarded the Prize for Best Photo by the Association des médias écrits communautaires du Québec. He works as a photographer thanks to the Assistance and Social Support Programme (PAAS) of the Ministère de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité Sociale. This, combined with the quality of his portfolio, meant that Mario was given the chance to move into subsidised accommodation in October of last year.

Credit: Milton Fernandes

The building, which is comprised of 14 studio flats, has just been built. The flats are managed by the Academy Network. “The building is new, and so is my flat,” says Mario. “It’s very big for me. I have a shower and a bath all to myself, a double bed, air conditioning and television. I have bike storage space, and access to a washing machine and tumble dryer in the basement. The friends who helped me to move in all say that it’s nicer and more spacious than my previous flat.”

Mario is happy to be living in the city centre, where he grew up and where he works. “I’m happy to be living near my parents,” he says. “I’ll be able to see them more often.” In addition, living there saves Mario one hour’s travel time per day. “At the end of one year, that will be enough time to take one week’s holiday,” he explains. Living near to the Parc Lafontaine also has its advantages. “I can’t wait to go and play saxophone in the park,” Mario admits. He also has things he intends to do this year: he wants to buy a bike and a basketball so that he can start training. Everyone who knows Mario is delighted with his new flat. And those who have had the opportunity to work with him will all tell you that he very much deserved it.

Translated from French by Dominique Mason