“I’ve tried to stay close to photography as an instinctive, jazzy experience. It’s the improvisational side that attracted me to the art of photography.”
For over three decades, Michel Campeau has explored photography’s dual function as document and means of individual expression. Throughout much of his career, Campeau has produced images that take a self-reflective approach to his medium. In some works, references to image-making are directly incorporated as subject matter. In others, photography is investigated for its ability to construct ideas of place, heritage and culture.
In his Darkroom series, Campeau focuses on the mortality of the photographic medium through intimate views of darkrooms, some of which appear abandoned or hopelessly antiquated in light of digital technologies and processes. For this series, Campeau visited darkrooms across Canada, as well as in Havana, Cuba and Niamey, Niger. In the photograph, Sans-titre 8277 (2005–2010), three sand-encrusted Rolleis sit on a shelf, their twin lenses staring blankly out at the viewer. The scene suggests that analogue photography is a crude and ancient form of image making, although less than 20 years ago it was celebrated as a highly sophisticated and contemporary medium.
Campeau has received several prestigious awards, including the 1994 Higashikawa Overseas Photographer Prize, in Hokkaido, Japan; the Jean Paul Riopelle Career Grant in 2009 and the Duke and Duchess of York Prize in Photography for 2010, awarded by the Canada Council for the Arts.