Interview with Danielle Giguère from Canada

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Danielle Giguère

Danielle Giguère, a photographer hailing from Donnacona, a small town near Québec, Canada, identifies as a full-time artist. The allure of photography captured her at a tender age, and it wasn't until her early twenties that she received her first camera.

Interview With The 2023 MUSE Photography Awards Winner - Danielle Giguère

1Can you introduce yourself and talk about how you got into photography?

I'm Danielle Giguère, a photographer from Donnacona, a small city near Québec, Canada. I consider myself a full artist since I work on visual arts projects on a regular basis but I primarily earn a living as a portrait photographer. I was attracted to the art of photography at a young age and received my first camera only in my early twenties.

My parents gave me their previous 35 mm film camera, which they had replaced with a newer model after it took an inadvertent plunge into a lake during a canoe outing. Since they no longer had confidence in its functionality, they asked if I could find a purpose for it. I’ve had many cameras since then, but that little Nikon FG20 was absolutely my favorite film camera of all. I just loved its size and weight! It never even failed on me. I got lucky!

2Where did you study photography?

I was introduced to photography in college when I was studying fine art in my early twenties but I'm mostly a self-taught photographer. My entire studies in college and university have been in visual arts except for some brief studies in anthropology at Concordia University. I obtained a grant for the excellence of my path during my bachelor's degree and moved on to do a master’s degree.

My final project had nothing to do with traditional fine art. Instead, it was a sound installation with an anthropology theme, focusing on the evolution of oral traditions among new generations. After completing my master’s degree in new media at Université Laval, I returned to photography to make a living and pay off my student loans. Surprisingly, I rediscovered my passion for portrait art!

3Do you remember your first shot? What was it?
I remember my first portrait session using black and white film in my small student apartment. It was with a beautiful man that I felt a strong affection for. He generously accepted to pose for me in his big wool socks and briefs. It was a very intimate moment with loads of trust and vulnerability. I was so inspired that it made realized that human connection is everything.
4What equipment do you use?
I exclusively use a 35-mm digital camera now, but I worked with film for about ten years before returning to university. I have half a dozen strobes, loads of different modifiers like soft boxes, beauty dishes, honeycombs, some vintage flood lamps and stage follow spots. I shoot with natural light very often and sometimes I may add speed lights and reflectors as well to fill harsh shadows. I make a lot of my own canvas backdrops and props and sometimes use paper rolls.
5What compliment inspired/touched you the most?

Of course, like many perfectionist and passionate artists, I love seeing my work evolving and becoming stronger technically and artistically. I aim to reach new levels and am constantly inspired by other great photographers to improve my work. My motivation mostly comes from comments that are not necessarily that technically specific, and in many cases, a little vague.

The words sound often like, “I can't tell you exactly what it is, but the expression in this portrait really gets my attention” or “there's something a little extra about your portraits, and there's something so deep about the expression in their eyes”.

I also love it when people say that they never thought they could look like what we produced together. No money can motivate me as much as that!

6What inspires your unique storytelling?

I’ve always been attracted to various types of artwork that represent eras from my grandparents and older times, such as cinema, images and storybooks. It’s as though I wish I were born in another period. Although, I know it wouldn’t have been an easy life - I’m way too independent and ‘liberated’ of a woman.

Perhaps I’m more attracted to the way things are represented aesthetically in that genre than the actual reality described in the scenarios. I’m always more interested in the mood and poetic vocabulary used to say something than the actual content. I noticed that with music too.

For a long time, I felt that this way of thinking may be shallow but now I know it’s not. I listen to the sounds and textures first, then make my own story as I experience the piece, instead of trying to understand exactly what the storyteller is trying to say. I like to connect to what’s happening in my own life and find my personal meaning as I experience a piece of music or any art piece.

When I compose an image, I usually have a tendency to keep it very minimalistic as far as props and environment go. I prefer suggesting things through the expression of the face or body language of the people I photograph.

7What THREE (3) words describe your photography style?
Vulnerability, depth and connection.
8Congratulations! As the winner of the MUSE Photography Awards, what does it mean for you and your team to receive this distinction?
I am beaming with pride to receive this recognition by a board of dedicated jurors and find myself amongst other incredibly talented photographers! I have only recently had the confidence to submit my work in contests. Receiving ANY feedback is all new and a bit overwhelming actually. It feels great to be endorsed with such a positive response!
9Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 MUSE Photography Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

The series Privat Recall won a Platinum Medal! This project is about exploring the extra feminine vibe featuring with two beautiful vintage gowns. They were actually wedding dresses that I modified and dyed with coffee and tea bags. I was inspired by the specific mood created in the Old Dutch masters paintings. It also reminded me of my childhood picture books, birthday and Valentine's Day cards.

Stécie April, the makeup and hair artist is the one who found the lovely model Sabrina Duquet. She has a very interesting and lovely face that inspired the both of us! I usually guide my subject by giving her a fictive character and help personifying it as if it were for a movie. She was absolutely committed to the project and loved the results as well. The project and the other portraits (Douceur and Wish) that won a gold prize are the ones that I feel represent my vision of fine art portraiture best.

10How has winning an award developed your career?
Having a strong portfolio is always what's most important to attract clients attention. When the work is supported by official international contests, I noticed that clients appreciate the value of the craft even more. It's also something that drives and motivates me to surpass my latest work and study other inspiring artists. I look forward to having more opportunities come my way!
11Name 1-3 photographers who have inspired you.

Peter Lindberg, for his beautiful black and white fashion photography.

Ewa Cwikla, for her bewitching color grading.

Sue Bryce, for her poetic natural lighting, color grading and her determination as a businesswoman.

12What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out, by a mentor or your role model?

Don’t be intimidated by what equipment other’s own. Some of the most beautiful work is actually very low tech or even shot in natural light. Find your own way to get the shot you want and shoot away!

One should always know their value. Stop apologizing for asking to be paid according to the quality of what one delivers. They called YOU, so they already like what you do. Just be confident.

13What advice would you give someone who would like to become a photographer today?
Follow your gut. Take photos of everything that feeds your imagination and inspiration. Don't worry about the meaning right away. Don’t ask yourself if others will understand or appreciate the images as much as you do. Just shoot! You can always figure out what you want to keep or use later. Some people know quickly what they want to do or say. It took me a very long time to figure that out for myself.
14What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
Competition is healthy as long as it doesn't provoke fear. Use the inspiration from photographers you love. Remember that all photographers look up to better photographers than themselves in order to grow. Celebrate the beautiful work you come across and don't let envy or anxiety play against you. Share the work you're most proud of even if it may not always please the largest crowd. Make it yours and commit to your path!
15How do you stay in that space of being receptive to new information and knowledge?
I try to share ideas and get feedback about my work. I network and develop relationships with other artists that I have respect for. I also follow some photographers on social media to get the extra motivation and be informed about contemporary approaches (both technically and artistically).

Winning Entries

Danielle Giguère

Danielle Giguère, a photographer hailing from Donnacona, a small town near Québec, Canada, identifies as a complete artist. The allure of photography captured her at a tender age, and it wasn't until her early twenties that she received her first camera.

Read more about this interview with Mariko Okubo from Japan, the Gold Winner of the 2023 MUSE Photography Awards.