Q&A with Vancouver Based Photographer Pier-Alexandre Gagné
When did you start taking pictures ?
I touched a camera for the first time about eight years ago.
What brought you to it ?
There was a teacher in high school that I liked a lot. He had a kind of fascination for photographers and often talked about the fact that people do not appreciate enough what surrounds them. He was saying ‘If a photographer were to come in this class, he could make you see and understand a lot of things that you would otherwise never see’. I then decided to buy a camera to see what I could offer as a perspective.
You are from Montreal ? Why did you decide to move to Vancouver ?
Actually I am originally from Lévis, a city located near Quebec city, on the other side of the river. I moved to Montreal in 2012 because I wanted to study photography in Dawson college. Unfortunately I never went … but I had the intention ! I decided to keep my original approach and go into photography through trial and error.
In Montreal I met my girlfriend Laura Baldwinson who’s also a photographer. She’s from the West Coast and given that I always have had the intention of going out of Quebec, Vancouver seemed a beautiful place to explore.
How is it to work as a photographer there ?
When I arrived in Vancouver, I worked a lot in beauty. There was very few possibilities to shoot anything related to fashion, so I turned to make up. I went too far and I lost myself a little bit ! With hindsight, I understood that I’m a photographer who loves to meet people. I then initiated a series called ‘Acquaintance’ with the intention to demonstrate that I am not only a photographer of the ‘weird’. I make most of my contracts here through portraits photography because it is harder here, being a less commercial photographer, to work in fashion.
“While talking of real things, you receive real content. I do not fully know each of my subjects, but I believe a connexion is created.”
You make a lot of portraits. In general, do you know the people you are photographing ?
I worked on a shoot a couple of months ago and the assistant-stylist came and asked me if there was a particular reason why I was asking as much questions to the model. I have to admit I do not really understand people who have absolutely no connexions with their models. I also went through this, but after working on my series ‘Acquaintance’, I understood something very simple. While talking of real things, you receive real content. I do not fully know each of my subjects, but I believe a connexion is created.
What inspires you when you shoot ? Do you have rituals ?
I really like to finish a photo session and to feel like me and the models worked together to get to a final product that represents both of us. It might seem very simple said like that, but it is really exciting to work and develop a complexity with a subject you know only a little and grasp a piece of their personality leaving a trace on the images.
What are you trying to translate in your pictures ?
I see my pictures as being simple but effective. I rarely ask my subjects to move in a non-natural way or to pose in a specific way. I believe everything has to be organic. The gaze is really important in my aesthetic. I like to transmit subtleties through a different perspective. Drive the beauty of the subject.
“I like to transmit subtleties through a different perspective. Drive the beauty of the subject.”
There’s a beautiful diversity in your pictures, you notably photographed the collective Fecal Matter. Do you believe that, being a photographer in 2018, it is part of your job ?
I unfortunately think I am not doing enough diversity for now, but I always keep an eye open ! Shooting Fecal Matter was very interesting for me. I worked with Hannah and Steven even before they started their collective so it seemed logical for me to shoot with Hannah as a model. I have a tendency to work with visuals that are dark and melancholic so working with them always ended up as being inspiring and revealing.
What are your future projects ?
My big future project is to take the plunge in Europe. I want to work with as many people as possible, meet different cultures, refine my comprehension of people and push my photography further. I also have the project to travel and explore again the feeling of newness. There is nothing such as having a fresh point of view.
All photos courtesy of Pier-Alexandre Gagné