Interview with Montreal- based photographer Renaud Lafrenière on his series Common Ground
Can you tell me a little more about you?
I was born in Montréal but was raised in the suburbs. Growing up, I was very focused in martial arts training (mostly karaté) and would spend my weekends at the family country house. That took up the core of my childhood life. My interest in photography started around 2010 and I am finishing this coming year my BFA in Photography at Concordia University.
How would you describe your overall work? Any recurring themes?
Most of my work evolves around the idea of the narrative. I use photography to build an archive of images from which my series are created. I would say I work a lot with the themes of social spaces, wander and romance. My work is somehow always related to my personal life.
What is Common Ground about?
Common Ground is a project that is built around running in the mountain at night. I don’t want to describe it too much because it’s not yet complete, but I can say my main focus through this work is to create images that echo or respond to the experience of that run.
Why was it important for you to explore those subjects though photography?
The run itself is something I have been doing with friends for several years. I wanted to do something with that for quite some time. That mountain has so much to do with who I am, it just feels right to give it that kind of interest.
What do you like so much about night activities and/or shooting at night?
I myself am always going to the mountain in the evening and at night for a number of reasons. The work had to reflect that, I wanted it to be linked my personal experience. So I guess it just made sense that I produced work at night, while I actually do the very action that motivates the project; the run.
You are still shooting for this series. How did the series Common Ground evolved since you started it?
It started nearly a year ago. As I kept producing images I never was fully satisfied with the images, which led me to keep shooting. I didn’t intend it to take that long initially but I guess that’s how things go. One interesting thing is to consider the different seasons; as I shoot this summer, things look quite different! It makes the work have very varied types of images and I quite like that in the end.
When did you start shooting and why?
In 2011, I was studying architecture. I liked the creativity of it but I couldn’t deal with all the numbers and calculations so I switched to visual arts. I bought my first camera around that same time, I and I never dropped it since. Thinking back I would say I always had an interest in taking pictures, in the past I often was that one kid out and about stealing dad’s camera and making photos.
How does your life affect your art?
I like to think that an artist’s art is only going to be as interesting as his/her life. In that sense, to keep me inspired and to create, I tend to deliberately put myself in situations where I know I’ll be creatively stimulated. My work is more “in-situ”, so I sort of need to move in order to create. Common Ground is very much about that as well.
What / who inspired you the most recently?
One of my all-time inspiration is the book Utatane by Rinko Kawauchi. She has such an unique way to see things and to put images together. Her images are always in the back of my head. Another main inspiration recently would be Thomas Albdorf. His work is much more constructed and sculptural and that’s what I like. He freely plays with the medium itself and just seems to have no limits whatsoever.
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