Louis Perreault’s metaphors for human relationships

Louis Perreault Les Affluents 15

Louis Perreault (b.1979) lives and works in Montreal. He deploys his practice within his own personal photographic projects and in the publishing initiatives to which he collaborates. Founder and co-director of Les Éditions du Renard, he also teaches photography at Cégep André-Laurendeau. In 2007, he completed a BFA (major in photography) at Concordia University, where he also received in 2012 an interdisciplinary Master of Fine Arts (M.A. Fine Arts – SIP program). In 2012, he founded Les Éditions du Renard in order to create a publishing platform for Quebec’s photobooks.

Perreault explores the notion of place by trying to communicate the different connections that bind the territory to those who inhabit it. Through his observations, he looks for signs that reveal the intangible, which can translate the experience of place and that have a narrative and poetic potential. His work has been exhibited mainly in Quebec, most notably during the Rencontre Photographique du Kamouraska (2017, 2016), at VU photo (2017, 2013), at Raymond-Lasnier Exhibition Centre (2013) and on the web as part of the interactive documentaries created by the NFB (Otage de moi, 2010). His work has also received prizes from Infopresse in Montreal (2010, 2004, 2003) and the Magenta Foundation in Toronto (2014, 2012, 2009). His project ‘Les affluents’ became a book.

About ‘Les affluents’:

In the depths of a Laurentian forest flows a small brook called Gobeil, torrent in spring and calm water in summer. The sun heats the stones that cool from below. Further on, the stream flows into the Bulstrode River and these mixed waters join the Nicolet River bed as if they were expected. The latter will soon reach the shores of the St. Lawrence, on its way to the open sea.

‘Les affluents’ is a photographic project that deploys a succession of images touching on the themes of family, nature and the continuous cycles that animate them. From the microcosm of the forest to larger landscapes, we follow characters that we only partially see. The narration escapes a precise description of the places, the gestures and the identity of the people presented, to inscribe itself into evocative poetry, where the rhythm of the sequences, the size of the images and their positioning with respect to each other end up creating an impressionist and meditative visual poem.

The title ‘Les affluents’ («tributaries» in English) evokes the interdependence of all beings and the singular relationships that manifest, to paraphrase sociologist Bruno Latour, in the «occasional sparks produced by the sliding, shock and slight shift of other phenomena» of our world. The tributary of a watercourse also suggests several significant ideas with fascinating poetic potential: the points of confluence (meeting places of several hydrographic trajectories), the influence of one of the rivers on the flow on the other, the innumerable quantity of tributaries flowing into each other and, finally, the nature of their unique destination: the ocean. Each of these ideas, it seems to me, echoes the nature of our human connections: they are created in a complex network of influences, contacts and shared experiences.

As the sequence of images evolves, different characters appear: a girl with closed eyes and two boys that we rarely see entirely. Their alluded presence and their refusal to look into the camera make them participants in my experience of the places that are presented. Soon, the journey leaves the deep forests and the relatively discreet river throws itself into larger bodies of water. The series re-contextualizes different moments of this journey, associating freely the images that were created. Organized less as a journal than as a visual poem, the project is based on the metaphorical potential of the photographic material and on the assumption that beneath the surface of things lies some inexplicable phenomena that affect us.

‘Les affluents’ takes roots in my personal experiences of nature and place. Having grown up in the city, I have developed my relationship with nature through the many visits to a wooded lot that my parents owned in Quebec. Now that I am a father myself, and that I visit this same wooded lot, I see my kids developing their own relationship with the elements of these familiar landscapes. I wanted to evoke this through my photographs, using motifs and recurring signs as a mean for expressing our engaged relationship with place. Consequently, through the series, images of hands touching water and animals becomes visual representation of this contact we all try to get with the elements of the landscapes. Somehow, touch becomes visual which, in turn, allows us back to the landscape we think we belong.

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Time to read
6 min
Words by
Published on
1 July 2019
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