Monday, December 18, 2017

How my Leonard Cohen photo went a little viral...

"Leonard Snowin'" by Ezra Soiferman 
Though my films and photos are regularly shown online and on TV, it's rare for a project of mine to take off as quickly and widely as has happened with my shot "Leonard Snowin'" over the past few days. 

So, I thought I'd share a behind-the-scenes peek at this little adventure with you...

I'd known throughout the Fall, that it would be fun to photograph the evocative and much-talked-about Leonard Cohen mural overlooking Crescent St. during a snowfall. 

So, this past Wednesday, during Montreal's first storm of the season, I zipped through the Musée des beaux arts (located a block and a half away from the mural), hustling from floor to floor and window to window, snapping various vantages of the new mural painted by artists EL_MAC and Gene Pendon and produced by MU, the city's foremost mural collective. The 18-storey-tall work is based on a touching photo taken by Leonard's daughter Lorca. 

When I was done shooting, I turned around to leave and my place at the atrium window was quickly taken by a couple of wide-eyed twenty-somethings who stared out at the mural and revelled in it. 

I told them what I was doing and asked if I could take a photo of them in silhouette with the mural and snowstorm as a backdrop. They kindly obliged and in a quick moment, I had captured the shot above. I knew right away it was a bit of a keeper. When I showed it to them on the screen of my camera, they agreed. 

The rest of this tale is a bit of a blur, but I'll try to recount it here...

I excitedly trotted down the infamous deep-depth steps of the museum, noticing how the nearby guard was far better at his trot than I was at mine. He had his down to a science, making him appear to descend in a way somewhere halfway between a pro hockey player and ballerina. I estimated that those kooky staircase were either his favourite part of the job or a complete nightmare that he had opted to master rather than succumb to. 

Either way, he hopped off the staircase at the café floor and I continued bumbling down the steps carefully clutching my camera thinking to myself, "please don't let me wipe out and accidentally hurl my camera down the atrium onto the installation that looks like a giant hand grenade. I'll never get that Leonard shot again."  

On my way out of the building intact, I showed the photo to the woman taking tickets at the front door and simultaneously tested my idea for the "Leonard Snowin'" title on her. Her eyes lit up and she gave me an enthusiastic "Wow!" I took that as a good sign. Always trust the gatekeeper's intuition, they say, so I did, further confident in the shot, and left the museum, braving my way back out into the sideways-blowing snow.   

I found my car, hopped inside, cranked the heat and emailed the photo to the twenty-somethings featured in it. I then hit the gas, skidded out of the snowbank and crossed town past stranded accordion-buses wrapped around telephone poles, back to my neck of the wintry woods. 

Early the next morning, with the snow still falling, I uploaded the shot to my Facebook page and Instagram page and watched as interest in it mounted unusually quickly. Within an hour, I was contacted by the Musée and asked by them for permission to feature the shot on their Instagram page. Total honour and another good sign.

I then watched as the photo got even more attention, now from complete strangers and not just my own loyal Facebook friends who were still generously piling on the likes. Later in the afternoon, a popular Leonard Cohen fan page had reposted the image and its members were excitedly chattering about it and how much they missed the grand bard. I further shared with them the story of when I happened to meet Mr. Cohen under strange circumstances

By now, my iPhone was gingerly buzzing with Facebook and Instagram alerts and comments. This was kinda cool to see, though a bit unnerving due to the volume of dings and buzzes. 

The next morning was when the nutsola-ness really kicked into overdrive. 

I awoke to learn that Sony Music Canada had just reposted my original Facebook post, referring to the photo as 'stunning.' They had placed it right smack dab on their official Leonard Cohen Facebook page. This is when my iPhone lit up like a proverbial Christmas tree and began buzzing and flashing non-stop. For hours and hours. And hours. 2 full days of craziness. 

As I write this a few days later, the snowstorm and Facebook-storm have fairly subsided and the tally is in: The photo now has more than 10,000 likes and 1500 shares on Facebook. I'm also pleased to say that it has also become the Musée des beaux arts' Instagram post with the most likes in the 5-year history of their Instagram page. 

I'm INCREDIBLY grateful for all the interest in "Leonard Snowin'" and I'd like to thank everyone who liked, commented on and shared the image. Facebookers around the world are still sharing it as I write this. Thank you! The feedback and support means so much, and the way this all happened was a total thrill. 

Big thanks to the folks who appear in the shot too. You guys rock. I'd especially like to thank the Musée des beaux arts, Sony Music Canada, MU, the supremely talented mural artists, and especially Leonard who's looking down from on high with that awesome smile. You are the true star of this whole escapade. We miss you. 

As a 'mural-themed' bonus, here's "The Walls of Montreal", a short video I made for my Tweed residency, about the murals of my hometown:

Click image to play "The Walls of Montreal

Best to all from Montreal!


Ezra Soiferman
Filmmaker & photographer

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