Michel Campeau

In the darkroom

16 06 ... 16 09 2012


At a time when digital has definitively replaced film in photography, Michel Campeau (b. 1948) went off to look for the last darkrooms that exist in the world.
From 2005 to 2009, he inventoried and photographed these soon to disappear places like an anthropologist. He thus documented the end of a technology, of an era that built a part of photographic history. He revealed the rooms, showing significant fragments, using flashes and playing with colour to highlight the aesthetic value of these objects worn with use.

Photography was invented in the name of progress and has never stopped evolving, perfecting itself. Today, digital technology has taken over from film photography. Printers, ink cartridges, computers and software for retouching photographs have little by little replaced the development laboratory, its inactinic lighting, its chemistry… The developer-craftsman has been replaced by the computer pixel specialist.

Like anything that is destined to disappear, darkrooms give off a perfume of nostalgia. The darkrooms that Michel Campeau found all over the world are the quasi-archaeological vestiges of an era that built photography. The artist reveals both the beauty and the triviality; he shows the mechanical aspect as well as the DIY aspect. He explores what appears to be a jumble, but that makes sense only to the initiated. Armed with a digital camera, thumbing his nose at the conservative defenders of traditional film photography, he captures the obsolescence of these places, the sheen on the objects that makes their aesthetic. He frames, gets closer, flashes and in so doing, highlights unexpected shapes and colours, at times close to the abstract.
A photographic object, the series documents the history of photography.


Michel Campeau / Biography:

Michel Campeau’s work extends over the past four decades of contemporary photography. Expressing a concern for interiorization at odds with the medium and breaking with the formal conventions of the documentary, it explores photography’s subjective, narrative and ontological dimensions.

In 1994, Michel Campeau won Japan’s Higashikawa Overseas Photographer Award. Two years later, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography organized a retrospective of his work entitled Eloquent Images: Photographs, 1971–1996. In 2004, Plein sud, Longueuil, Québec’s contemporary art exhibition centre, presented the works of his series Arborescences. Beauté et paradoxes. Published in 2007, the monograph Darkroom was the first in a collection edited by Martin Parr for Nazraeli Press; this project was the subject of a feature article in the New York magazine Aperture, and the photograph that graced that issue’s cover is available through the Aperture Foundation’s Limited Edition Photographs program. Martin Parr also selected his works on the obsolescence of the darkroom for inclusion in the May 2008 exhibition New Typologies, presented at the New York Photo Festival in Brooklyn. These same works will be on view in July 2010 as part of the Rencontres d’Arles official exhibition program.

The recipient of numerous research and artistic creation grants, Michel Campeau was awarded the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec’s Jean-Paul-Riopelle Career Grant for 2009–2010. In 2010, he received the Duke and Duchess of York Prize in Photography given by the Canada Council for the Arts. His work has been the topic of many monographs and articles, and is included in major museum and institutional collections. He is represented by Montréal’s Galerie Simon Blais.

Michel Campeau was born in 1948. He lives and works in Montréal, Québec, Canada.