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Montrealers rally behind photographer who lost studio in West Island fire

Click to play video: 'Community fundraiser aims to put Pierrefonds photographer back in action following fire'
Community fundraiser aims to put Pierrefonds photographer back in action following fire
WATCH: The investigation into the fire at Place Avalon strip mall overnight Wednesday has now been turned over to the SPVM's arson squad. The two-alarm fire gutted at least half a dozen mom and pop shops, including a young photographer's first studio. Now the community is rallying behind her, hoping to put her back in action, back in business. Global's Felicia Parrillo reports – Jan 26, 2023

It’s difficult for Taylor Halperin to make out where exactly her photography studio once stood.

Overnight Wednesday, it was ravaged by a two-alarm fire, making it completely unrecognizable.

The Montreal fire department was alerted to the blaze around 1:30 a.m. at Place Avalon, a busy commercial property in the city’s West Island.

An investigation into the fire has now been turned over to the SPVM’s arson squad.

Montreal police told Global News investigators have been on the scene looking for evidence the fire was deliberately set.

There were no injuries or evacuations reported, but the fire gutted half a dozen small businesses, including BEEhind the Lens Photography.

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Halperin opened the studio in October 2021 – a place where she snapped people’s precious memories – first birthdays, maternity photos, newborn shoots and more.

BEEhind the Lens Photography. Taylor Halperin

Now she finds herself in a position she never could have imagined. Her props, backdrops and cameras were all destroyed in the blaze.

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She says most of the items are replaceable, except for a few.

“I started my photography business after my grandfather passed away,” said Halperin. “He was a professional photographer. I was 10 at the time, but we were very close. And he left me his camera. Eventually, I picked it up, learned how to use it and started my business from there.”

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Halperin says that camera was in her studio at the time of the fire – along with an original 1950s photo of her grandfather – framed on the wall.

“I have this hope that I’m gonna go and it’s gonna be on the floor in the frame when I go and collect whatever’s left from the fire, but I know it’s gone,” she said.

To help Taylor cope with the tragedy, a few local business owners have stepped in.

Wednesday night, they created a Go Fund Me campaign, and as of Thursday afternoon, it had already garnered $3,000 in donations.

“Every little bit – $1, $5, even just a like on her page, a follow, a share – anything that you can do just to give her that little boost,” said Rachel Wood, owner of The Belangers Bake.

Wood hopes the support will help the young photographer get back on her feet sooner, rather than later.

“It’s not the end. I just started. It sucks, but you know, what’s next?”

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Click to play video: 'Business owners devastated after fire destroys Pierrefonds strip mall'
Business owners devastated after fire destroys Pierrefonds strip mall

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