I Love These Roads

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Bridges, pay phones, yearned suburbia, tunnels, trains, adolescence & Lorde.

I have a strange relationship with the suburbs. Growing up on the outskirts of the big city has both its benefits and its drawbacks: the calm and safety of my quaint neighbourhood is nice, but pales in comparison to the rush and hustle of the city centre. Though my upbringing was definitely less exciting than that of the youth lucky enough to grow up next to a metro station, my moments of boredom were always occasions for me to soak in whatever music I happened to enjoy at the moment. I was a teen of many genres and phases, ranging from Half Moon Run to Taylor Swift to Björk, but one album has been consistently narrating my life since the very day it came out, when I was fourteen years old: Pure Heroine by Lorde.

For the past five years, I’ve listened to this album, at least in part, almost every day. To say the least, it is the soundtrack to my adolescence—each chorus, bridge, lyric and beat reminding me and pulling me back to a specific moment I had growing up. I’ve cried to “Ribs,” had the best drive of my life to “A World Alone,” danced to “Team” and have had seemingly endless nighttime bus rides to “Buzzcut Season.” I’ve wanted to tackle this album for what seems like forever, trying to find ways to do it justice, but I didn’t think it would be best to do so while still living the feelings and events described in this masterpiece.

As I approach my twenties, and my old distaste for suburbia turns into a bittersweet nostalgia, I find myself listening to this album more than I ever have before. It reminds me of scattered moments over the course of the past five years—friendships come and gone, adventure, disappointment and ecstasy—and compresses them into a super-cut highlighting the most memorable moments of my teenage years. Everyone I used in this project means something to me. Every location, every concept and every feeling is a tiny piece of what suburbia looks like through my eyes. There’s something about the feeling of walking around Lachine alone after the worst day of the summer, or watching the sun slip under the horizon from the Beaconsfield overpass on a cold evening, or seeing the field you used to sneak into turn into another block of featureless condos that no one will ever really understand the same way that I do. That’s the beauty of the suburbs: through miles of decaying neighbourhoods, cracked pavements and vaguely similar houses are countless young people who have made these towns their own. No two stories are the same, but the feeling of missing something that we didn’t appreciate in the first place is somewhat universal.

Despite differences, in many aspects, Lorde’s feelings toward her adolescence just outside of the city limits are a spitting image of mine. Each photo in this series is directly inspired by one of the songs on this album: ten songs, ten diptychs and ten different ways to describe what happens on these roads where the houses don’t change.Compass Rose

Matteo Gueli is a young photographer based in Montreal, Canada. His work focuses on growing up in the suburbs, loneliness and intimacy, and is heavily inspired by music. He studied photography at Dawson College in Montreal, from which he graduated in 2019. (All photos © Matteo Gueli)

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