At 20, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. Today, I have no idea what I would do instead. À 20 ans, je n’avais aucune idée de ce que j’allais faire dans la vie. Aujourd’hui, je n’ai aucune idée de ce que j’aurais pu faire d’autre…
– Claire Beaugrand-Champagne
A major figure in Québécois documentary photography, and the first female press photographer in Québec, Claire Beaugrand-Champagne has created important bodies of work descriptive of the daily lives of individuals in Québec. Her sensitive and in-depth projects excel in revealing the emotional and psychological fabric of her subjects’ lives and circumstances.
The artist studied photography at the CEGEP de Vieux-Montréal, and at night school in London, England. She began her work in earnest in the early 70s. Informed by the ideals of GAP (Groupe d’action photographique), who wished to bring photography directly into the everyday lives of individuals. Alongside her peers Michel Campeau, Gabor Szilasi, Roger Charbonneau and Pierre Gaudard, she produced large documentary projects such as Disraëli, une experience humaine en photographie (1972–1974). In 1980, her concern about the number of Southeast Asian refugees in Montreal prompted travel to Thailand and Malaysia to visit refugee camps. This experience led to a long photographic project depicting the sometimes difficult process of immigration for two Vietnamese families in Montreal. Other projects focus on the elderly, the army, animals and children.
Works in the Canadian Museum of Photography collection in the National Gallery include projects related to Disraëli, the elderly, aspects of Québécois life and portraits of individuals. Beaugrand-Champagne’s photographs can also be found in other collections such as the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the Library and Archives Canada and the McCord Museum. As well, she has produced significant bodies of work as a photojournalist for Le Devoir, the independent newspaper Le Jour, the Association Québécoise des Parents d’Enfants Handicapés Visuels, CROC magazine and the journal for the Institut Canadien d'Education des Adultes.