Interview Feature with Frédéric Chabot

Frédéric Chabot is a Montreal-based photographer and artist.

Where did you grow up?
North of Montréal, in a small village of merely two thousand inhabitants, with no neighbors for miles in almost every direction.

Do you have any interesting childhood stories that you could share with us?
I do, but those are not actual memories, it’s what I’ve been told. When I was like 5 or 6, they said I tried to tame a bull on several attempts, they said I escaped a ball of lightning that slowly travel from the dining room window to the drain in the kitchen. It may sound like mythology. I like to think it is, but it is also the truth, I’ve always trusted what my mom says.

When did you start taking photographs?
It’s when I found an article on old Russian and Chinese cameras that were full of flaws and imperfections and that some guys were trying to introduced similar cameras, with the likes of plastic cameras called: Holga and Diana. I remember being charm that they had girls names. But they caught me at –imperfections- anyway. It was ten years ago.

Are you self taught in photography?
I thought I was, until I recently discovered that my musical background is intimately related to how I work with a camera in my hands. It’s all a matter of learning something and then unlearning it. So if self taught is being your own teacher, well no I’m not, I’ve been taught to do that. I’ve been taught to undo everything I put so much effort in, to let it have his own life. His own melody and rhythm.

How often do you shoot? Do you have a favorite camera or film that you use?
I used to shoot at least one roll of film, every week. I don’t anymore, I’m too lazy. Now it depends on the people I’m with, the mood I’m in, the light I witness, the ideas I’m obsessing with.
I have an old 35mm Konica that i use since the beginning, it’s all clunky, the bulb stays stuck, the light meter is broken, there’s screws missing (it’s my own personal Tom Waits). Of course Holga taught me well. But this year I worked my ass off, and I got myself a Hasselblad, just for the sound it makes. And my wife made me fall in love with the PZ silver shade.

Do you engage in different kinds of art aside from photography? What else do you do? Did photography come before these other mediums?
I don’t play music that much anymore. Sometimes I do, but it feels like fiddling with the past. I do work on drawings and paintings that are, strongly bound to photography. Although photography is more visceral, to me, I could spend a lot of time organizing one single image in my mind, painting is something more spontaneous.

What do you do in your spare time?
I drink way too much coffee, and I stare at the emptiness. It almost sounds like a defect or a flaw, but I’m sure it’s not.

Do you prefer shooting black and white or color images?
It works the other way around. B&W is kind to me.

Do you have a favorite photographer or artist?
After Francesca.Woodman, there is Rose & Olive alongside Tina Kazakhishvili. Before Basquiat and Lino (a great illustrator from Québec) there was Betty Goodwin. And floating above all else the music genius of The Books and all the white noise that Do Make Say Think had produced so far.

Where have you always wanted to travel to, and why?
I’d never had the desire of travels. I didn’t need it, somehow. Until three years ago I married that Australian woman, in a subway in New York. I left everything and went to live with her. I would now gladly trade my home in Montréal with a nice little flat in Fitzroy, Melbourne. This is one sexy place… The sweet and sour dilemma of choosing your own path. This is why I love staying at home so much. I guess.

Are you currently working on any new projects?
I am actually working on a book project, on a five year collaboration with a woman I never met. About a story that never shares any words. I also apply for a biennial of drawing in a Fine Art museum. And always looking forward to work with different photographers.

You can view more of his work on his flickr.