A Focus on Life
After chatting for a few hours over coffee with Coaticook’s Bertrand Thibeault, an awardwinning photographery who has photographed the likes of Queen Elizabeth, Lady Diana, Mikhail Gorbachev and many Canadian Heads-of-State, my photographic skills, which have
been a little inconsistent, are bound to improve.
Mr. Thibeault earned several degrees in various types of photography from institutions such as the National Defence Photography Academy, Toronto’s Humber College, Grant Mac Ewan College, in Edmonton, and Chicago’s Winona School of Photography, practicing his profession in several countries while a member of the Canadian Armed Forces. His talent behind the lens led him to the post of official photographer of Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn.
“I worked with Governor General Hnatyshyn for five years. In that time, I took 32,000 registered photographs which are in the Ottawa Archives, and many more than that,” said Mr. Thibeault. “As the Governor General’s photographer, I was beside him all the time, not during his meetings, but always before them to take the official, historic photograph; I had access to many privileged moments.”
Although he seemed to prefer talking about photography and what’s going on now in his life, Mr. Thibeault did talk a little about his brushes with the ‘rich and famous’. “I really liked Lady Diana; she was much taller and prettier than I had expected. And Mikhail Gorbachev was very impressive. So was Brian Mulroney, not as a politician but as a man. As soon as he walks into a room, he takes control, a master of public relations. Mila Mulroney was a lesson in perfection,” he commented.
“But what I was really impressed by were the people who received the Governor General’s Medal of Bravery. They could be someone very young or an old veteran in a wheelchair. Those occasions were very moving.”
Another very famous person who Mr. Thibeault crossed paths with during his time in Ottawa was world- renowned portrait photographer, Yousef Karsh. “I had the opportunity to assist him, taking photos of Mr. Karsh and Mr. Gorbachev together. I learnt the story about how Mr. Karsh took that famous photo of Winston Churchill, by taking away his cigar for the photo,” said Mr. Thibeault who enjoys the art of portrait photography himself.
“My philosophy for portrait photography is that you must know the person, what their objectives are in life. The photos must reflect who they are and what they do,” said this artist who has a portrait photographic exhibit coming up on June 27th, which will run until September 30th. The exhibit, entitled “Visages de chez nous”, will take place at the Marché de la allee de oaticook, in collabo-
ration with the town of Coaticook’s 150th anniversary celebration.
Since Mr. Thibeault retired from the Armed Forces and moved to Coaticook, his wife’s hometown, about ten years ago, his agenda has remained full. Besides being the president of
the roubadours de la ie, the Vice-president of the entre Funeraire ooperatif de oaticook, and a member of the Royal Canadian Legion and the Lions Club, he cofounded the artist’s group Coatic’Art, in 2007, and has been its president ever since, re-elected just a few weeks ago. He spoke about the group’s Histoir’Art project: planned activities that bring together art, local history and the public. “We now have sixtytwo paintings of famous buildings and people, all painted ‘pop art’ style at special events with people of all ages. They hang all around town, with explanations with them in both English and French.”
Artists from Coatic’Art will hold some outdoor activities at next Sunday’s Open House at the Beaulne Museum, including a fun one with Mr. Thibeault. “I’ll bring lots of costumes and take photos of children in whatever costume they want. As long as they have an email address, I can send them the photo after for free,” he mentioned. Other public events organized by Coatic’Art can be found on their website or on the website of Coaticook’s 150th Celebration.
Mr. Thibeault, also a three-time “Photographer of the Year” winner who later served as head judge of the annual National Defence photographic contest, had some great advice for amateur photographers such as setting digital cameras to the manual mode. “It’s important to know how the ISO works and use it; you can capture mood with the right lighting so you don’t want the camera to decide that for you,” said Mr. Thibeault who himself likes to experiment with lighting, taking ‘long’ pictures, ones that can take up to thirty minutes to shoot.
“You should go to the level of the person or animal that you want to photograph, especially a baby or a child, a cat or a dog. Angles are also important.”
“What’s most important is to think before pressing. Ask yourself, what is it that you want to show? You should waste less time behind the camera and just look with your eyes, and then decide what message you want to keep in your file. You’ll spend less time managing and maintaining photographs later that aren’t good.”
“I’m happy to give away all my secrets. I love photography and I want others who love photography to get the most out of it!”
Maison familiale: ing.
Bertrand Thibeault oversees several seniors working on a Histoir’Art paint-
Young and old
alike help to paint the town’s
150th logo during a Coatic’Art
Bertrand Thibeault, armed with the small digital camera on his belt that everyone mistakes for a cellphone, poses in the middle of traffic in downtown Coaticook because he’s a ‘gars de sa ville’!