The bilingual globetrotter

by Maeve Haldane

TV host and photographer Heidi Hollinger

Four years ago, a TV producer appeared at Heidi Hollinger’s photography studio in Montreal with an intriguing offer. How about hosting a TV series about port cities, produced in two languages? And so Ports d’attache for TV5 and Waterfront Cities of the World for Discovery World prepared for takeoff. “I couldn’t say no, it was an incredible opportunity,” says Hollinger, BA’90.

Each year, she and her crew travel to 13 cities, spending a week in each. They shoot English and French episodes at the same time.

So far, the shows have provided Hollinger with the opportunity to experience, among other things, Melbourne’s footy craze, Copenhagen cycle tracks teeming with bike riders, Helsinki's ubiquitous and rejuvenating saunas and the orderly chaos of crossing Tokyo’s Shibuya intersection with thousands of other pedestrians.

But Reykjavik holds a special place in Hollinger’s heart, with its otherworldly landscape of green moss and lava fields. “It’s like walking on the moon.”

Hollinger has travelled from a young age, flying solo to Florida since she was six to visit her grandmother, and spending summers on a family farm in Finland (her mother’s native country).

The former McGill Daily photo editor once lived in Moscow for 10 years. Her daring shots of politicos juggling apples, sporting roller blades, and, in the case of controversial nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, stripped down to his skivvies, catapulted her photography career. Since returning to Montreal, she has photographed Gilles Duceppe, Pauline Marois and Jean Charest (the Quebec politicians tend to be much more conservatively attired). Hollinger makes a point of photographing people during her Ports d’Attache interviews and the images are incorporated into a montage at each episode's conclusion.

After four seasons and 39 cities, Hollinger says she is ready to deplane and spend more time with her family. Her next project involves opening eyes to Cuban cuisine. “I would seriously consider living in Havana,” she says, “but my true port of call will always be Montreal."

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