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Photographer of the week—Guillaume St-Amand

While trying to sell me his Australian’s dream, convincing me to move to Manly as soon as possible, I met an interesting guy that is more than a simple photographer you discover on Instagram and forget about. I met a guy undecided with a lot of things – where to go next? What’s his favourite picture? What is he looking for? But through an hour long conversation that could have lasted forever, surprisingly, everything became more clear for him. If he’s doing this, surf photography, especially with that kind of skills, he need to fully go into it. No second thought, no worry. He simply needs to close his eyes and let the passion lives. 

Originally from Quebec, Canada, Guillaume decided to leave 7 months ago on an adventure he knew he needed. Exploring Asia for about 5 months, he is now living in Manly, Australia – a small city close to the beach and not too far from Sydney. You would think he left Quebec in chase of swells, like we all do, but it isn’t the case. He didn’t know what life was going to bring him, he just knew he had to leave. Now. 

While talking about the struggle of having a long composed french name and the complexity of life itself, Guillaume talked to me about how it all started and what are his motivations behind his art. I think he will inspire you to leave everything you have if you aren’t happy. I think he will motivate you to forget what you’ve been thinking and go live off your passion. I think he will push you to forget fear. And I think his story is worth reading. Aren’t you curious? 

I’ve met a photographer in Bali about 65 years old. He is covering events, selling his pictures to sponsors. I showed him my pictures and he told me “man, you really need to go into this industry”. He knows Chris Burkard and he told me that when Chris was younger, he had the same style as me. It touched me a lot, and from that particular moment, I started to think about photography as a career.

Where are you from and how did you get involved into photography? Are you originally from Montreal? 

Born in Repentigny, raised in Laval, but lived in Montreal. 

So, what about photography? When did you start?
I always did photography, but I fully committed to it now. It was hard to find time in Montreal to focus on it when you have your routine – it seems like you often lose yourself in it. I wasn’t happy anymore in that lifestyle. 

You used to be in the health field, which is totally different from photography. Why did you go into this? 

I’ve been lucky, honestly. At 20 years old, I did an internship in a furniture company within a health care division in Montreal and they were looking for a full-time sales representative to sell every kind of furniture that you can find in a hospital or clinic. They hired me after my internship. When you’re 20 years old and you don’t have to go to University, you take it! 

What were you doing before 20 years old though? You have a huge gap between high school and this internship. 

When I was younger, I had communication issues and trouble talking. It wasn’t easy, but my mom found out about neurotherapy and decided I should give it a try – so we did. As soon as we started, we saw the difference and I improved myself a lot. At the beginning, I was in a specific high school for people having issues similar to me, then straight to a private high school. I did a professional diploma in sales plus my internship. It’s funny to think that the guy that wasn’t talking at all became a sales representative!  

What made you realize that you needed to leave the routine you had in Montreal, condo/dog/girlfriend/work? 

When you are stuck in the routine, that you don’t really like your job cause it isn’t your passion and that every morning you wake up and want to shot yourself, the only option is to leave. I did a depression after three years, so I went to see a psychologist and she asked me what I wanted to do. It was clear to me that I wanted to live and take photos. Nothing else.

Sometimes the best thing is definitely to leave! Do you think the travels you did before influenced your photography style and your focus on surfing? 

I am snowboarding and skateboarding a lot, and the surf in Quebec isn’t that bad, but when I was younger, I was teaching at Maeva Surf. Everything that involves a board really interest me. When I went to Bali, I wanted to focus myself more on my surfing skills than photography, but I realized that I enjoy it, but I am not 100% into it. I rather take photos! [laughs]

Really? That’s kinda cool to admit it without having to pretend that you’re “so into” surfing. 

People like the fact that I am not into surfing, but enjoy taking photos instead. It is not everyday that you encounter a guy that say that he only want to take photos. 

Why surf photography, then? You could have easily done snowboarding or even skateboarding photography!

Surfing is one of the most beautiful sport in the world, it is so natural. There is nothing you can control in the water, so you only need a board and your head. The images captured shows the connexion between humans and nature, and this is what I am craving for.

You just bought your first housing, are you excited to go out and try it?
Yes! I can take great photos from the beaches, but It will be better out in the sea. In photography, you need to equip yourself and it cost lots of money. I can’t stay longer than six months with the same job, so it is good to buy what I need while I have the money.

You could do a road trip afterwards, no? 
Yes, the plan is that after 6 months I buy myself a van and leave with my camera to take photos.

Do you have any other places you would like to go? 

It depends on when I am leaving, but probably New-Zealand, there’s a lot of good surf spots there and nice hiking trails, so for landscape photography it is a really good spot. Do you know Chris Burkard? 

Yeah, I do, of course! Every photographer talks to me about him [laugh]. 

Well, he’s my idol. Morgan Maassen as well. Chris started super young in surfing, but now he’s also doing landscape and adventures. My goal would be to be the mix of both of these photographers, because I am really interested into surfing and adventure. 

So if we clear it all out, now you’re fully committed to surf photography and you’re jumping on the wild adventure of creativity?

Yes! I am telling myself that I am 25 years old, I don’t have anything to lose and I work… so why not? 

I’m building a website at the moment, I didn’t have one cause I had the idea that people most likely discover you through Instagram or Facebook. Before publishing everything, though, I want to get enough shots in the water and have all the equipment I need to offer a new style. I am aware that I’m still adjusting my personal style and I am still in the learning process, but it is normal.

We’ll end up with your favourite photo you’ve taken so far. Why did you pick this one? 

I like this picture because of the details, but also because of its simplicity. It reminds me how much humans are able to do anything they want. It can be surfing or go into space – it is because of our hands that we are able to create, work and achieve big things. Some may only see a hand with a surfboard, but for me, it is so much more. It is all a question of perspective. 


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