All Images Copyright Patrick St-Hilaire
Interview by Paula Gardner
As a portrait photographer, I am always inspired by other photographers that have the ability to capture a portrait that is so compelling and thought provoking. It is a rare gift to capture the essence of a person within a photograph, really touching the hearts of those that view the portrait.
I would like to introduce to you, a photographer that does this very thing, his images are so beautiful and raw. Harsh in presence, yet emotional while inviting you into a very personal space.
I have always loved his work, so it is my honor to share with you all, Patrick St-Hilaire.
Tell us about yourself and your life as a photographer. What inspired you to become a photographer?
I live in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada. I'm a blacksmith, married to my best friend for 20 years now. Father of four beautiful girls. Mainly I take pictures with my girls. We work a basic idea together and then go out into our fields or forest where we create it. Most of my photos are set up which gets my models impatient a lot of the time, hahaha. Sometimes I just grab my camera and wonder about watching my girls playing. I started photography when I was 19. I tried to make a living back then with fashion, dance and some other stuff. I wasn't to successful with it so after a few years (6) I decided to do something else. I met my wife and we started to travel then had kids blab la bla... then two years ago I bought an iPhone and discovered mobile photography through iPhone Art. I was very impressed, but wasn't satisfied with the result. I then got a camera and here we go, got my result. I'm from the dark room era so I work with black and white. I learn every thing back then in that dark room. Spend hours in it experimenting with negatives. I just try to transpose that black and white into my digital work, pretty basic. My approached is pretty artistic, I think the possibility to capture a moment and fix it to a beautiful paper was an amazing thing . So I gave it a try.
When I first saw your portraits I was taken back by their rawness. The harsh contrast monochrome tones, yet transparent in the story they tell. What would you say is your style of photography?
Ouff that's when it's hard for me to be an artist, try to describe my work... I guess I'm a portraitist. I try to have that fairytale rendering, the black and white is really useful for me to capture that atmosphere.
Is their a particular message you're trying to convey to those that view your work?
It is pretty hard to make people believe what you want or give a direction to those who observe your work. My pictures definitively tell a story, our story (my girls and me). The reactions of the viewers fascinate me. Taking pictures that involve kids make people uncomfortable yet curious. When I create a reaction I then think we did it good. Don't forget that most of the time the picture you see is created by my girls. They speak their language through that picture. I guess the secret side of childhood is something I try to achieve.
I love the way your portraits tell a story, especially those of your children. Their characters are so pronounce within your photographs. What is important to you when capturing portraits?
The secrets that nobody will never know. The eyes are the center of my pictures and the light. I'm pretty obsessed with the light, the natural light is for me the best one to work with. A cloudy day just before the rain or when the sun is just about to go to bed.
It's fascinating to know that your portraits of your daughters are composed by them. Stepping into the imagination of a child's mind is wonderful. What do they say when they see the final image, have you captured the true essence of their thoughts?
They're not impress most of the time, hahaha. They appreciate the light in it. They also like the dramatic aspect of the result, they love what I do with their eyes, the editing in general, there is always a girl with me when I edit my picture. They like when people ask questions about my image and most of all they love to hold a print in their hands.
You started using the iPhone, now you've returned back to using a conventional camera. What camera and lighting set up do you use to create that magical wonderland feel within your portraits?
I now use a mirror less camera, Fuji X-Pro1. I love working in natural light, a cloudy day if possible. We live on a mountain so the light is something special I guess. I also take pictures in the forest. When I do work indoors we have a lot of windows in our house so near a window is a nice spot. I also work with a flash sometimes. One flash is ok for me. Nothing to fancy so the model doesn't feel to shy.
To see the entire collection of photos and to read about the behind the scenes, visit the original piece on Grryo.