I do not do committed photography…. Rather I feel that I am an individualist who is fascinated by his times. My pictures tend to show how certain social classes evolve.
– Pierre Gaudard, 1985
Pierre Gaudard was a distinguished documentary photographer whose impact on Canadian documentary photography was profound. He engaged in extended projects of social importance, producing large portfolios of work such as Les Ouvriers (Workers) (1969–1971) and Les Prisons (Prisons) (1975), the latter a project initiated by Time magazine. In 1980, a visit to France resulted in Retour en France, which depicts a sober view of his native country and its many transformations.
Gaudard first studied book making at the École Estienne in Paris. He immigrated to Canada in 1952, obtaining citizenship in 1959. He worked as a lab technician at the National Film Board of Canada, and as a contract photographer for its Still Photography Division. His photographs entered the division’s major Centennial projects, such as Call Them Canadians and Canada Year of the Land. The division also featured Gaudard’s work in Mexico and Guatemala (1956–1957) in a solo exhibition, Mexique, in 1963.
Gaudard’s approach to photography found accord with others working in Quebec at the time, such as Michel Campeau, Claire Beaugrand-Champagne and Gabor Szilasi. In 1965, he and ten others won the photography competition held by the Expo 67 Canadian pavilion. In 1971, he was awarded the NFB’s gold medal for excellence in photography, and in the same year, the Still Photography Division exhibited Les Ouvriers, later publishing the photographs as part of their photography series, Image 10. Photo du Mexique, Les Ouvriers, Les Prisons, and Retour en France are well represented in the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography collection at the National Gallery. Gaudard’s photographs can also be found in the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, the National Library of France in Paris and the Library and Archives Canada.