The Proust Questionnaire: Claire Beaugrand-Champagne

Scroll down to view works by Claire Beaugrand-Champagne housed in the National Gallery of Canada's permanent collection.

The Proust Questionnaire started as a Late Victorian parlour game, aimed at revealing key aspects of a person’s character. While still in his teens, author Marcel Proust answered a similar series of questions with such enthusiasm that, when the manuscript containing his original answers was discovered in 1924, his name became permanently associated with this type of informal interview.


Photo © Claire Beaugrand-Champagne

Since the 1970s, Claire Beaugrand-Champagne—Quebec’s first female press photographer—has photographed the people who surround and inspire her, deftly capturing the emotional impact of each encounter. Her work, which spans more than 40 years, consists primarily of portraits of individuals in their home and work environments. Her photo essays, which paint an eloquent portrait of Quebec society, find the extraordinary in the mundane and remind us that everyone is unique and that every life has a story to tell.

Claire Beaugrand-Champagne’s photographs have been displayed in numerous galleries at home and abroad and can be found both in private collections and in those of major Canadian museums. She has taught photography, and has been involved in a number of group initiatives to promote the medium. In 2004, her book Des gens de mon quartier [“People in My Neighbourhood”] was published by Éditions Libre Expression. The McCord Museum in Montreal displayed her series on the elderly in 1977, and on Vietnamese immigrants in 1984.

Claire Beaugrand-Champagne. Touching Reality. Photographs from 1970 to 2013 is on view at the McCord Museum until 13 April 2014. The exhibition, featuring close to 200 photographs, primarily in black-and-white, represents an important body of work in the history of documentary photography in Canada, and particularly in Quebec.


Your earliest memory of art:

In my earliest memories, my uncle is taking our yearly family photograph, which served as our Christmas card. What a great way to show the evolution of a family year after year!

When you knew this would become your vocation:

In the 1970s, when I became completely immersed in photography, I understood that this was the direction my life would take.

Your greatest influence:

My photographer friends.

Occupation you would have chosen (other than art):

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.

Favourite pastime (other than art):

Reading and . . . volleyball.

Favourite colour and bird:

My favourite colours are black and white, of course! And my favourite bird is the “birdie” I ask people to watch when I click the shutter.

Favourite smell and sound:

I really love the smell of coffee in the morning, and the singing of birds while I drink it.

Favourite environment or landscape:

I prefer places where there are crowds, rather than more deserted places; I sit in a corner and people-watch.

Favourite weather or season:

I like the spring, when Nature comes back to life, and I see my neighbours emerging from behind the snowbanks after several months!

Favourite expression, catchphrase, proverb or word:


Pet peeve: 

My pet peeve is when my camera doesn’t do what I want it to do.

Best quality:


Worst flaw:


Your definition of happiness:

When the people I love are happy, I’m happy.

Ideal place to live:

Right here, with my family and friends.

A recurring dream:

I don’t have recurring dreams, but I will always remember the night when I dreamed that I gave a driving course (in German) to a Spanish-speaking cow! 

One wish: 

I hope to continue taking photographs for a very long time.

Aspirations before you die:

To live life to the fullest.

To me art is: 

The beauty of human beings.


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