09 March 2020

A Connection with Nature Through Intimate Motifs

09 March 2020 - Written by PhMuseum

Louis Perreault uses photography to record his and his family’s deep relationship with the forests, streams, rivers, and other elements that make up the remote Canadian landscapes.

In the depths of a Laurentian forest flows a small brook called Gobeil; a 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 several images of 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 take 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 wooden 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 a visual representation of this contact we all tries to get with the elements of the landscapes. Touch somehow becomes visual which, in turn, allow us back to the landscape we think we belong.

Words and Pictures by Louis Perreault.


Louis Perreault (b.1979) lives and works in Montreal. He studied photography at Concordia University. His work explores the notion of place by trying to communicate the different connections that bind the territory to those who inhabit it. His recent project, Les affluents, has been co-published by the artist-run center VU, in Quebec city, and his own publishing imprint Les Éditions du Renard, which he founded in 2012. Find him on PHmuseum and Instagram.


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.

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