The Lounge Week 21: Guillaume Simoneau

by Heather on September 22, 2008

The Lounge is a virtual Art Gallery, updated weekly. This space will showcase emerging or underutilized photographers; or just people who I think we all need to have a look at. A bit of Eye Candy for Monday.

If there was ever any question about where Guillaume Simoneau hails from, these pictures give a pretty mighty cue:

Cigarettes and Quebec have one of the most romantic cultural associations I can think of. It is a romance that we don’t share in Ontario.

There are many things we don’t share with Quebec and photography, to a large degree, is one of them. This could absolutely be a function of the Toronto-as-Centre-of-the-Universe phenomenon but I’m sure, at some point, the perception of a language division comes into play.

Regardless, I was quite happy to be introduced to Guillaume and his work (thanks Raina). Let’s take a look.

These first shots are from a five-year long project in which he photographed high school graduates at their annual after prom party in the close-knit community of Levi, Quebec.

The arrangements are classical and consistent, and I am enjoying this work more and more. Guillaume has caught his subjects in a transitive moment which is charged with much anticipation and expectation. But I don’t see the transition, I see the arrival. His subjects have a confidence about them that is compelling and universal in the work. I think this is a function of very deliberate composition and composure which is necessarily a collaboration between photographer and subject. I’ve become convinced that these kids actually are ready for adulthood, and, what’s more, it’s going to be alright. It’s called After Prom: Somewhere Between a Blade of Grass and a Blade of Steel. Guillaume hopes this will be published in 2009. I hope so too.

Guillaume is also pursuing another interesting, long-standing portrait series with Sergeant Veteran Caroline Annandale:

(In case you were curious about this last image, a custom’s agent opened his box of exposed 4×5 sheet film! Yikes.)

I asked him about this project. He writes:

First, a wee bit of background information about Caroline Annandale in a nut shell. I met Caroline at Maine Photo Workshops in the summer of 2000. I headed there to work for the summer right after graduating and was a teacher assistant for the “Young Photographers” group. Caroline was one of the students, she was 17 at the time. Right away, when I started talking to Caroline, I was struck by her unique perspective on life and her unconventional thought pattern. Even though she was still young in age, she was, in my eyes, way more mature, interesting and educated then any other adults I knew at the time. It was intriguing- Caroline had been home schooled and had already been around the world by the age of 16. So I simply decided to keep a very loose record of it by producing visuals of her and her surroundings each time we would see each other.

Today, she lives in Kenessaw Georgia (suburbs of Atlanta). She is studying fine-art and slowly completing her obligations with the army. She will be released from the army on May 5th 2009. (To read a haunting story from Caroline’s experiences as a soldier in Iraq, click here.)
I am doing this project instinctively. That’s how it started and that’s how I want to keep it. I try to question it as little as possible. After having done a lot of research in the past few years about photography and the art world in general, I have recently realised something very important. The more you know about why and how things are done or should be done, the more you unconsciously direct the same kind of format towards your own work. You actually have to be pretty disciplined to be able to distance yourself from the temptation of doing things a certain way (or for a certain reason) just because that’s how (or why) everybody else do it. When I watched Back to the Future at the age of 7 I knew right away that McFly was the shit. Didn’t need to know anything about script, production, d.o.p., directors, intentions, cast, locations and all that jazz. What I felt was raw and instinctive. That’s how I try to approach this project.

I get very attached to long term projects. There is something extraordinarly powerful that develops after several years of working on the same subject. A certain sense of respect and commitment can be felt through the work and I dig that. This project particularly breathes that for me. There is no other way I could have made such intimate pictures of this subject than through respect and commitment.

Wow, I haven’t thought about McFly in ages.

I hope we see more from Guillaume. After combing his blog and site, it’s clear that he’s a deep thinker and I think his projects have legs. But, in case you think we’ve strayed too far, I’ll leave you with a commercial application that I really like for it’s simple but epic strength. And once again, I really appreciate the composition. This is the band St-Alvia and they were shot for Chart magazine.

To see more of Guillaume’s work (and you should) there are many places you can go: his site, his blog, his rep.

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