Let’s meet up with… Jean-François Bouchard

It’s hard to catch Jean- François Bouchard, the winner of the 2nd prize in Gender category for 2015, in just a few words. He is CEO & co-founder of Sid Lee, a global creative team of 600 with offices in Montreal, Amsterdam, Paris, Toronto, Los Angeles and New York. He is Vice President Creation and Development at Cirque du Soleil, a visual extravaganza that performs all over the globe. He is also an accomplished photographer, who travels the world in search of the extraordinary in societies.
His latest series ‘Transpose’ depicts individuals who are part of the growing transgender community. Here, Bouchard presents us with images of transgender men from different backgrounds with different expressions of pride. We asked him a few questions about his work as a photographer.

When was your passion for photography born? What stirred your interest in photography?
My mother gave me a book by Henri Cartier Bresson when I was about 16. It really made an impression on me and I started doing street photography. I also volunteered as a photographer for student newspapers.
How did you come up with the idea for the “Transpose” series?
I am attracted to subjects that are often the target of prejudice. I am always amazed to see people judge others and magnify differences when in fact we are all 99% the same: we all want love, happiness, freedom, respect and health.
The Transpose series shows many faces of pride; an emotion conveyed in different ways by different people in your portraits. Could you tell me a bit about how you evoked this in your subjects? Do you plan your photo shoots carefully or do you play it by ear?

I play it by ear but I try to mix a documentary approach with some creative licence as well. Some of my subjects probably barely recognize themselves because of the emotional expressions that I selected. That’s perfectly ok since I am making art, not journalism.
You said once that you were interested in bringing seemingly opposite, contradictory (ideas) together and breaking down the boundaries between them. It has led you to some interesting places, photography-wise. What would you say this has taught you? Have there been any revelations?
The main revelation for me is that even people who veer far from what society considers ‘normal’ have profoundly human stories that explain their journeys. That’s why I like to do what most artists avoid in contemporary art by adding documentary and explicit stories to my images. Some viewers were probably more moved by the stories than by the images but that’s fine.

Interview: Ivana Babic

Pride Photo Award is an annual international contest for photos about sexual and gender diversity.


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