‘Feels surreal’: Montreal photographer celebrates one year of new studio after fire

"Feels surreal," said Taylor Halperin, Montrealer who lost her photography studio in a Pierrefonds-Roxboro strip mall fire back in Jan. 2023. With the help of her community, it's now been a year since she re-opened her doors. Pamela Pagano reports.

No floor, walls, or roof.

Debris and wood was all that seemed to be left of Taylor Halperin’s studio back in Jan. 2023 after a fire in Pierrefonds-Roxboro, on Montreal’s West island, heavily damaged some of the small businesses of a strip mall.

Months later, the 24-year-old reopened her doors — today she’s celebrating one year of the new location for “BEEhind the Lens Photography.”

Taylor Halperin snapping photos at her BEEhind The Lens Photography studio in Pierrefonds-Roxboro on May 17, 2024. (Credit: Pamela Pagano)

“The whole thing still feels surreal,” said Halperin. “The fire, the new studio, everything is just crazy to me.”

Also surreal –- the beauty of her work.

From capturing family portraits to heartwarming maternity and newborn photos, Halperin launched her business over six years ago.

And in a flash, it was gone.

Calls came in to 911 in the early hours of Jan. 25 2023, about the blaze that quickly spread to most of Place Avalon, resulting in the roof collapsing.

“The fire was kind of the cherry on top of a crazy year,” explained Halperin. “The night before the fire I had a surgery and I was in the hospital.”

“The next morning,” she added. “I got messages saying ‘are you okay?’ So I thought people were just checking in on my health.”

“Then I found out that there was a fire and I didn’t really even have time to process it because I was healing from my surgery.”

Taylor Halperin at her BEEhind The Lens Photography studio in Pierrefonds-Roxboro on May 17, 2024. (Credit: Pamela Pagano)

Thanks to the support of her community, a few months later she was able to focus on gathering new equipment and bring her talent to a new studio in the area –- but something precious was lost: her late grandfather’s camera.

“One of the hardest parts of the fire was losing something so irreplaceable,” said Halperin. “It was actually probably the last thing I had left of him.”

“Growing up,” she added. “We were always very close and as I got older he started to teach me about photography.”

“When he passed away and left me his camera, I just felt compelled to do something with it.”

And now she’s made something out of her new studio: a place where every subject – no matter the age – can smile and BEE themselves.

Photos of Taylor Halperin’s grandfather on display in her studio on May 17, 2024. (Credit: Pamela Pagano/CityNews)

“I’m so proud that she was able to pull up her bootstraps and just do it all over again,” said Keikanne Sithole, client of BEEhind The Lens Photography. “And it’s even bigger and better than before.”

“The results prove it.”

Baby Weslie turns one! A photoshoot at BEEhind The Lens Photography on May 17, 2024 to mark the occasion. (Credit: Pamela Pagano/CityNews)

“I’ve had clients come back and tell me this might be the last photoshoot they had with a family member,” said Halperin. “Or the first photoshoot they had with a family member.”

“It’s something special,” she added. “That they will hold on to forever.”

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