Charles-Frédérick Ouellet

Work from the Highlands-Lowlands series


Silver print on baryta paper

Original work
61 x 165 cm

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139, rue Lindsay, Drummondville

Description of the work

This black and white photograph is from a series entitled Highlands-Lowlands that explores Scotland: a land shaped by nature’s raw power. The image was captured in the Glencoe region, in the mountainous Highlands. Charles-Frédérick Ouellet believes that film photography is the closest visual art form to an impression of reality, and this image exemplifies that. It marks the artist’s return to his photographic roots, as Ouellet let his eye be lured by nature’s manifestations and the signs of human presence. He qualifies the result as a free essay, a perspective of the geography of the territory. Imbued with mysticism, the image is one of contrasts: between the subtle central beam of light and the very marked horizon line formed by the darkening clouds, between the mound of rocks in the foreground and the majestic mountains in the background and between the territory built by humans and nature in its wild state.

Charles-Frédérick Ouellet

About the artist

A Chicoutimi native, Charles-Frédérick Ouellet lives and works in Québec City. He studied photography at Cégep de Matane in the early 2000s where he was especially interested in counter-culture and the world of skateboarding. While his subjects may have changed since then, his approach has not. “Skateboarding taught me to create and improvise in the urban landscape. I apply the same method to my photography. You just have to open your mind and learn to look differently,” he explained to Leica Camera in 2018.

Rooted in a documentary approach, his practice combines photography, videography, installation and editing. Since 2010, the artist has taken part in several artistic residencies and nearly twenty exhibitions in Québec, Scotland, Greece and France. Le naufrage, one of his best-known photo series, explores the representation of the St. Lawrence River and the symbolic figure of the fisherman. Through photography, he surveyed the migratory routes of the explorers across North America.

He works with black and white photography because he deems it more sensitive to shape, geometry, light and contrast than colour. The artist also wishes to create images with a timeless aesthetic—photographs that border on abstraction—capable of conveying the idea of a continuous moment in the image.

Charles-Frédérick Ouellet has published four photography books: Entre fleuve et rivière (in collaboration with French photographer Christophe Goussard), Le naufrage, La quiétude des atomes and Sillages. His work is recognized and supported by the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ) and the Canada Council for the Arts. His photographs are part of numerous public and private collections.

Artistic approach

Charles-Frédérick Ouellet’s photographs evolve both in media, as informational documents, and in the artistic world, as works of art. However, the photographer’s approach is not anchored in a single school of thought: his monochrome images constructed by the play of chiaroscuro and blur have an aesthetic all their own. They feasture an imagined, yet photographed, world. 

Halfway between reality and fantasy, the artist’s quest revolves around the drive to understand societies. Fascinated by historical documents, Ouellet is interested in places that seem to have been marked by history and the traditions that are silently disappearing. His handling of light and movement creates an imagery of dark atmospheres in which tradition and modernity collide.

Charles-Frédérick Ouellet stays away from major events and vast displays. It is the small things that attract his attention. He explores the details in the crowd and the everyday. He seeks the substance contained in the mundane, common gestures and familiar places. With sensitivity, he explores the issues that shape our society. Far from adopting a sensationalist approach, he is intimately involved in the photographic process, bringing forth personal images of a universal nature.

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