Vladimir Antaki was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1980. He grew up in Paris and studied art history and film studies at La Sorbonne. In 2003, Antaki moved to Montreal, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in visual and media arts from UQÀM in 2007. Antaki specializes in intimate portraits and stories with an uncanny ability to get to his subjectsʼ core. 

For his series, The Guardians, Antaki traveled across Europe, the Middle East and America, photographing shopkeepers or “Guardians.” These Guardians are keepers of what Antaki terms “urban temples,” unique spaces which, in an age of cookie-cutter, corporate shops, hearken back to an earlier time and mode of urban life. Antaki creates visually arresting portraits of the Guardians in their urban temples that make the viewer connect to the beauty of these often forgotten spaces. Antaki believes that these temples are the heart and soul of every city; they are what give the urban centre its uniqueness in time and place. There is also a duty of memory associated with these spaces. As so many of them are closing, it falls to artists such as Antaki to preserve their memory.

The Guardians has been exhibited in public places in more than a hundred cities across France and North America. It won an Infopresse Lux prize in 2013, and was selected to represent Canada in The Other Hundred, a photo-book curated by the Global Institute For Tomorrow (a not-for-profit global photographic initiative based in Hong Kong). In the fall of 2016, Antaki participated in Toronto’s Nuit Blanche and told the story of eight Guardians in the heart of the Financial District.

Some of Antakiʼs recent series have involved telling the stories of people who live on the margins of the urban centre. Antaki came to know Wesson Dagnew, a man who can be found in downtown Torontoʼs central square every day. Always sharply dressed, Dagnew is known to most as “Tony,” and most passers-by assume he is a pimp. Unwilling to accept what is conveyed by Dagnewʼs outward appearance, Antaki sought to gain an understanding of the person behind the persona. Over the course of several weeks, Antaki convinced “Tony” to let him photograph him during his daily life and tell the story of Wesson Dagnew, the clean-living man who works in a home for mentally disabled people.

These two series are important to understand Antakiʼs upcoming project, Parenthesis.

Antaki intends to use his ability to connect to people to tell the stories of older generation people living in Beirut, Lebanon. Both the people and the cityscape of Beirut bear the scars of decades of civil war and instability. However, within this are stories of resilience and collective memory. Beirutʼs bullet-riddled ‘skeleton buildingsʼ show the physical scars of war, and like The Guardians series, Antaki believes that they carry the burden of memory. While Beirut has seen considerable infrastructure growth in the years since the civil war, these disappearing structures convey an indelible history that must not be forgotten. These wounded structures form a backdrop for Parenthesis, as, the inhabitants of the city too carry the memories and emotional scars of war. Antaki seeks to tell their stories, beginning with the story of his father, a widower. In a city like Beirut, there are connections between people of a certain generation. These connections can be

between people, places, events or experiences. Parenthesis will combine Antakiʼs passion for visual storytelling with his anthropological interest in place and collective memory. The project will draw out links between these elements as part of a multi-media exhibit to tell the story of these people.


Antaki currently resides in Beirut, Lebanon (updated July 2017).


2007    Certificate in Event Planning and Public Relations – UQÀM, Montreal, Canada

2004    Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual and Media Arts – UQÀM, Montreal, Canada

2003    Certificate in Commercial Photography – Collège Marsan, Montreal, Canada 

2001    Art History and Film Studies – La Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris, France

2000    Graduated from High School – Lycée Pascal, Paris, France


2016    “The Guardians”, Public installation, Paradigm Gallery + Studio, Philadelphia, USA

2014    “The Guardians”, Public installation on St-Laurent Boulevard,” SDBSL, Montreal, Canada

               “The Guardians”, Public installation across France, JCDecaux, France


2017    “An Honest Farewell: The first, last and only farewell to Honest Ed’s”, Toronto, Canada

2016    “The Guardians at Toronto Nuit Blanche: an annual city-wide celebration of contemporary art produced by the City of Toronto in collaboration with Toronto’s arts community. - Toronto, Canada


Panel Discussion about the future of Toronto, SoHo House, Toronto (February 2017)

Radio Interview, Y’a pas deux matins pareil, CBC Radio Canada (September 2016)

Daily VICE (Interview in French & English), VICE (August 2016)

Artist Talk with Umbereen Inayet, SoHo House, Toronto (August 2016)

Artist Talk with Conrad Benner, Paradigm Gallery + Studio, Philadelphia (March 2016)

Panel Discussion during the 68th Cannes Film Festival, Horyou Village, Cannes (May 2015)

Television Interview, Penelope McQuade, CBC Radio Canada, Montreal (May 2015)

“Vladimir Antaki et ses Gardiens d’une autre époque”, Tanya Lapointe, CBC Radio Canada, Montreal (October 2014)

“The Guardians”, Joanne Vrakas, BT Montreal, Montreal (August 2014)

“Art is long, life is short: Metro’s top picks for Nuit Blanche 2016”, Jason Logan, Metro News Toronto (September 2016)

The Guardians”, Transit Magazine Japan (May 2015, August 2015, November 2015)

“Guardianes, la exhibición que hace brillar a las pequeñas tiendas”, PubliNews Mexico (December 2014)

“Dans le sillage de Vladimir Antaki, les Gardiens du temple urbain”, Anne-Marie El Hage, L’Orient le Jour (November 2014)

“Les derniers Gardiens du temple”, Olivier Bousquet, VSD (September 2014)

“Counter culture: Shopkeepers from around the world – in images”, The Guardian, City Exposure, (September 2014)

“The last strongholds against big box stores are disappearing”, Jordan G. Teicher, Slate Magazine (August 2014)

“The mystique of the boutique”, Anthony Johnston, Metro World News (May 2014)

“Guardians: majestic photos showcase vendors enshrined in their wares”, Moze Halperin, Flavorwire (May 2014)

“Surprising photos of Urban Temples and the shopkeepers who guard them”, Priscilla Frank, The Huffington Post NYC (May 2014)

“New photo series documents shopkeepers in their “urban temples”, Klassy Goldberg, 500px (May 2014)

Using Format