The immersive experience

** SPOILER ALERT. If you intend to see this play, please dont read. **

Last night, Maxyme, Camille, Sébastien and I attended the Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable at the National Theater of London. It would be hard to describe the experience other than it’s something I had never experienced before. Imagine going in a dark room, only to follow a path of red lights leading you to an elevator. Everyone wearing the same mask. The idea is to get lost and live a unique experience, guided only by the choices you make. The play takes place over 4 different level. Doors are either open or closed forming some sort of ever changing maze. The actors evolve within the maze and you decide which one you want to follow. Some rooms are open, others closed. The lights change opening up new paths, closing others. You can roam around empty spaces sometimes only to be surprised as an actor walks in with a bunch of following spectators, ending up in the middle of the action. There are secret paths. Max even found a bottle of real Scotch and was able to drink on the house! What’s incredible is that you decide your point of view. You can leave a scene, walk in as a scene is in action.

The story takes place in a movie studio. The characters are all involved in the movie industry. They are sometimes movie actors and producers and other times in character. There is a plot, but it’s almost impossible to follow. In the end, you decide what you wanna see.

The performance is incredible. Sometimes fun, other times dramatic. Dance performances changing from cabaret to contemporary. You can be in the action or stand outside and look over from a window. I once ran up the stairs following a character and ended up walking in sand. The whole stage was in sand. Some other time, the lights close and when they reopen, it’s awfully dark and you have to follow a light leading you to a forest as a character is running away in panic. Very emotional. You never know what to expect. The art direction was impeccable. And all along, there are people around you living their own adventure, making their own choices. But somehow, they also become involved and are part of the choreography. No one will live exactly the same experience and go to the same places and through the same scenes.

It culminates in a grand finale on the bigger stage with all the characters gathering for the final scene… the wrap party. Then it becomes a party and we are lead to a room where people can have a drink and finally take off their mask to discuss their experience while a band plays songs from the era.

All and all a unique experience I am so glad I could share with Max, Camille and Sébastien during our short stay in London. I wish I could live it again, I wonder what choices I would make. Man, it so hard to put it into words. A grand illusion.

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Dalston Market and « proper food »

Took a stroll down the Dalston market today. For a moment, I didn’t feel like I was actually in England! I can’t remember the last time I saw this amount of raw meat out in the open like this. Everything in London is expensive, but here the food was incredibly varied and affordable. One pound for fresh strawberries, less than two dollars. Five pounds for 5 mackerels. And everything fresh.

One thing I really like about the English culture is the concept of « proper food ». Over here, people take pride in buying and selling local food. But also food that has been bred freely. There are even different categories to help you understand what kind of food you are buying. It makes you take responsibility for your choices and makes you aware of the situation rather than hiding it from you. Here, it’s possible to drink milk coming from a single herd. Wish it would be as easy at home.

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London day 4

Today we decided to rent a car and roam about the country side. We decided to go to Whistable and enjoy the waterfront.

But before we could hit the road, we had to go through the city, not an easy task during rush hour…

When we finally arrived to Whistable, we went straight for the water. It was so foggy that we almost couldn’t see the horizon line. The sky was blue and grey. It was so beautiful to juxtapose the sky to the sandy rocks all across the beach.

It was a quiet time out of the city. We all took some time off to walk around and wander.

We then went on the lookout for rocks to throw in the water..

Selfie on the beach.

Rock throwing session featuring our champion.

The dock.

Pile of giant oysters piling up next to a restaurant.

Leading path to the beach.

Whistable houses and road.

Camille at the restaurant.

Pathway leading to the water.

Sellfie no.2

Seb by the beach.

House and pots.

We headed towards the Canterbury Norman Castle. Pretty impressive to see this structure still in place after all these years. Pretty weird to see such a castle right next to modern housing neighborhood.

The trees in London are amazing. They feel so old. You can feel the weight of history and tradition everywhere, starting with the trees and the architecture.

To reach to top of the tower that was chained, we climbed through the gates to see an overview of the city of Whistable. It gave us a clear view and an amazing vantage point to see the whole castle from above.

We then walked through a park, to get to the church. The amount of detail was pretty amazing and we felt like in Game of Thrones! We had a quick snack and headed back to the car to hit the road back to the city where we stopped for a nice Korean grill! That’s how day 4 ended…

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London day 3

So far, we’ve been doing a hell of a lot of walking. It’s pretty amazing to travel by foot, feeling the subtle changes from one neighborhood to the other. Love to see the architecture and how old and new interact with one another.

But the main reason for this trip was to connect back with people. It’s a time off from the life in Montreal to get a feel of the London vibe. It’s been great to meet fellow artists who decided to make the jump to come to live in London and hear about their personal experiences of the city.

During this trip, we’ve been using public transport to get around. Weather using the double decker buses or the tube, London’s public transport system has been pretty efficient. And it’s great to have knowlegeable people who can show us around.

For lunch we headed to Clapton Hart restaurant for a nice roast. It was noon, so of course we had to have a pint! I’ve been drinking cider most of my stay. Kinda rediscovered it. Don’t want to abuse beer since I don’t drink so much anymore… The terrace was simply incredible and by the time we got our meal the place was full. The sun was shining once again, it’s definitely spring over here.

We then took the train to go the City of London. I was hoping to see the business side of town at an empty state. But by the time we showed up there, there was fairly enough people to get the type of images I was looking for.

Good looking man with flowers.

We then headed to the London bridge and walked by the Tate museum. Again great view. Unfortunately, the Monmouth coffee shop we were heading to was closed. So we went back home for an awesome home cooked meal. We decided to stay to have a drink home and relax as we are planning a trip tomorrow. Where to we don’t know…

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London day 2

The sky was deep blue, the sun was warm, it was the perfect day to walk the streets of London.

We started up walking by the canal along an incredible series of boat houses. We then headed to the outdoor markets. We stopped at an incredible book store. I must say the stores in London are pretty awesome. Both in their decor and craftsmanship. There are a lot of micro stores that specialize in very specific products. At the food market, the various scents were overwhelming.

After walking through Brick lane in East London, stopping by a couple of designer clothing stores along the way, We made a stop at chocolate shop where I had the best hot chocolate ever. Seb made one of many stops to answer a bunch of emails. This time around he had an internet buddy to keep him company.

We finally walked in to a sports bar to watch the Arsenal vs Manchester City football game. Had a couple of apple ciders then headed out to eat.

Then we walked some more and headed to the chinese neighborhood and stopped at a Korean restaurants to eat with a bunch of friends. Good times. It’s only been two days, but already it feels like we’ve seen and done so much. Really looking forward to tomorrow. Our schedule is pretty booked over the next few days. We already booked tickets for a play and are planning to rent a car to see the countryside. But for tomorrow, we should be heading to London city, visiting the business district that should be pretty empty for the week-end. I hope I get to take a few shots for myself for an potential project. We’ll see…

It’s great to be out here, cut off from our regular lives, getting back in touch with Max and Camille, talking business and life. A bit of time off from the usual, focusing on the essential. In this city, everything seems possible. Your dreams are there for the taking. I’m surrounded here by Montrealers who decided to come to London to try a different life and live new experiences. Through their story it feels like I too get to learn from their experiences. It’s funny sometimes how getting out of your bubble can provide you with a different perspective. God bless the Queen.

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London day 1

So we started our trip to London by going through the tube. We showed up early this morning at Max’s flat and chilled a bit before we headed out for a walk in the park. After a good walk, Max and I walked in to a barbershop slash Korean restaurant. I got a clean haircut and had a great meal, then we headed back to the appartement to relax.

In the afternoon, we headed to the Sensing Spaces architectural exhibit.

The environments we’re pretty intricate. Verry neat to see how the architects integrated their work into creating these installation.

This environment was by far my favorite. The light would change and modify its relation to the environment. We sat for several minutes, going through the light cycle, seeing how it interacted with its immediate environment.

After we headed to a wine bar. Setup underground, our heads almost touched the ceiling. It felt being in a donjon! We had wine and incredible cheese! Camille came to join us so the nigh could continue!

We ended up walking back home, going through the park.

All and all a beautiful day. It was great to get back in touch with Max and Camille, enjoy ourselves in a unique venue. We ended up in a pub to grab a bite. A few more days to come. Looking very forward to it!

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Behind the Red Square

Carré Rouge aka Red Square, is a series I produced in a hurry. It was the end of the crisis and I wanted to pull a stunt. So I sent off a casting call through facebook and wrote a bunch a people I knew were involved in the movement. I wanted to illustrate the different types of protesters embodying the crisis, creating iconic images and wanted to print out huge posters that I would have scattered around the city during the daily protests.

The shoot was done a bit too fast and a bunch of portraits were a little bit too much staged to my liking. The crisis came to an halt and I was stuck with half a series. I look back and realize I should never shoot just for opportunity. Since that shoot, I completely changed my approach to personal work.

The images stayed on a hard drive for more than a year. Then I decided to check’em out again. There were some strong portraits throughout the lot so I decided to have the series retouched after all. Time had gone by and it seemed like a look back was relevant. I always loved my original concept of throwing burnt out newspaper and smoke to illustrate the riots and the role of the media in the conflict. I was also the opportunity to work with retoucher Pénélope St-Cyr Robitaille who I’ve wanted to work with for a while.

In the end, I learned a lot from this experience.
Some images can sit a while before gaining meaning and reaching maturity.
Never shoot for opportunity. Rushing things is never a good idea.
Always finish what you started!

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A good week, a better month.

This week was pretty hectic. I got to shoot both a print campaign and a tv spot for a great cause with agency creatives I really admire. The tv spot allowed me to collaborate with a director who’s work I respect and connect back with an old friend who’s also in the industry!

During the same week, I won over an account, a great photo gig that should keep me busy during March. Also had two awesome meetings.

I got in touch with an artist I truly admire and with whom I will be collaborating on a personal project. Very excited about that!

I am also planning a trip to the UK to catch up with my friend and partner Maxyme G. Delisle. I will do my best to come back with yet another personal project, shooting with Camille Boyer who is also currently based in the UK. Hopefully the weather is on my side!

The first trimester isn’t even over and 2014 already feels great!

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Here’s what happens when you have a 20′ long cloud backdrop and too much time on your hands! You shoot Drake cover albums for the whole crew and use sketchy photoshop filters!

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The Wixx Adventure

During the last year, I had the opportunity to work on several campaigns where I could act both as photographer and director of photography. Wixx was one of them. During the first run, I teamed up with DOP Jean-Philippe Bernier. The concept involved shooting with the Milo motion control system. The whole lighting setup had to be done over a few sets and all the lighting was hung from the ceiling so the camera could run freely through the sets. We used a total of 105 000 Watts of lighting to bring the set to life, blowing up a fuse in the process!

We spent two days lighting and framing and adjusting focus for each scenes, respecting the timing from our storyboards. During the shoot, we could only watch the frame, no adjustments could be done without compromising the compositing stages, so pre-light had to be perfect from the get go.

For the second spot, I handled the direction of photography alone. The set was rigged with strings, each one controlling an element of the decor. Everyone had to pitch in and pull at the right time. Luckily, it only took 2 or 3 attempts to pull it off!

Wixx – The Setup from Simon Duhamel on Vimeo.

For the following scene, we had to fake a bullet time effect in continuity with the previous sequence. All the yellow bricks from the previous sequence we’re hung with strings, we installed circular pipes for the dolly so we could pivot around the main character.

Wixx- Camera Work from Simon Duhamel on Vimeo.

The actor was hanging with a harness so we had to move fast in order for him not to tire up. We had to repeat the sequence often to find the proper rhythm and make sure the effect was credible. To me it was to most impressive shot of the spot as each brick really looked like 3D as we turn around the lighting.

This type of work is so much fun. There’s the animatic and then there’s reality and you have to find a way to match one with the other. There is a great part of trial and error but when the technique is tight, it simplifies everything.

For me the adventure is now over. It was a great learning experience and I was glad I could bring my experience to the table creating a visual look for the campaign in both print and motion. Always fun to work with director Greg Barth who always comes up with crazy ideas.

Here are the two final spots.

Wixx 60″ TVC ss13 from Greg Barth on Vimeo.

WIXX adore l’hiver (AN) from WIXX on Vimeo.

Thanks to Thomas Salaun for the behind the scene images.

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