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Man sitting in Sheraton Lobby
@inayali, Sheraton Saint-Hyacinthe Hotel
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Through the Lens: Saint Hyacinthe

Our Through the Lens interviews offer a never-before-seen view of our favorite communities. This time we Look Through the Lens with Ali Inay as he captures the rural beauty of Saint-Hyacinthe.

Photography isn’t just a way for Ali Inay to take in and reflect his vision of the world. The art form has become his way to travel, discover new places and connect with people from around the globe.

Inay grew up in Turkey and since both of his parents are veterinarians, he spent the first seven years of his life in rural areas. Although Inay often focuses on architecture in his photographic work, nostalgia for his childhood returns strong when the Montreal resident spends time in St. Hyacinthe.

“It’s an agricultural city,” he explains. “It brings back memories from that time when my parents used to bring me to little villages [to check on the farmers’ animals].” He also fell for the area’s extensive public gardens, including the themed gardens of the Garden Daniel A. Séguin.

We checked in with Inay to find out the role photography continues to play in his life, and to learn more about his most cherished spots in Saint-Hyacinthe and the Sheraton Saint-Hyacinthe Hotel.

Group walking on green rooftop
@inayali, Sheraton Saint-Hyacinthe Hotel

What is it about the Saint-Hyacinthe community that you love so much?

Even though Montreal is one of the most relaxing cities in North America, it’s always good to go outside to rural areas like Saint-Hyacinthe. Collecting ground cherries, for example, is a unique experience. It’s a very delicate product and it’s hard to tell what the fruit looks like from the look of the plant. It’s surprising to find a fruit that really tastes like it’s from a tropical climate right at the heart of Quebec. When I stop at the city center, I go to the farmer’s market. Even though we have a couple of those in Montreal, it is a privilege to chat with the local farmers and taste their produce on the spot.

Saint-Hyacinthe Local Market
@inayali, Sheraton Saint-Hyacinthe Hotel

What about that community makes it a joy to photograph?

I try to find whatever is simple, but also beautiful. The landscape there is that. On other trips, I usually look for architecture wherever I go, so when I stopped by some of Saint-Hyacinthe’s old houses from the late 1700s and 1800s, that was a really beautiful and unexpected surprise.

Local farm field and barn
@inayali, Sheraton Saint-Hyacinthe Hotel

What stood out to you about the design of the Sheraton property?

The Sheraton property had giant windows, so there was a lot of natural light in the hotel. That drew me in right away, and is a good experience for anybody. Sheraton also made a conscious choice to integrate as much greenery as possible, however, they didn’t just stop at the lobby. The property has a beautiful rooftop garden, and they use the ingredients from the garden in the hotel restaurant. I thought that was a meaningful touch. The rooftop was really calming—a little escape for the guests.

The woman responsible for the rooftop garden was very proud of her region and enthusiastic not just about agriculture, but also about making it easy for people to discover and learn about it. The fact that the product is not just for display, but for education and use was great.

Shoes on the green roof top
@inayali, Sheraton Saint-Hyacinthe Hotel

What about the hotel’s interior? What did you love to shoot?

What stood out to me was that nothing was overboard, but it still wasn’t typical hotel furniture. It’s a little bit ornate, but relaxing at the same time. The lobby was so open and the ceilings were super high. It felt so open and airy. There is space for everyone.

Man sitting in Lobby
@inayali, Sheraton Saint-Hyacinthe Hotel

Finally, how has being a photographer changed your relationship to what you look for as you move through the world?

It’s a tricky thing because now my travel generally revolves around photography. I try to pick a route that might generate some cool photo opportunities. With Instagram, now everybody wants to go to certain places. Travel becomes a checklist, but I try to get away from that and find something mundane, like a concrete building, that might be a cool photo. You just have to take time to find those things.

This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

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