Interview: Photographer Alex Vielfaure
Without giving anything away and spoiling the truly inspiring and incredible story of Alex Vielfaure, we lead in with only our own marveling speechlessness and praise.
How did you get interested in photography? Why did you decide to pursue it?
Since a very young age, I’ve been consumed by the idea of traveling and living simply and nomadically. I believe this started from conversations around the dinner table with my grandparents, who in their youth had travelled far and wide across North America.
Specifically, they would tell me stories of their time in the Maritimes. They had travelled to Prince Edward Island and told stories of the red sand beaches and their slow, simple way of life. They travelled to Newfoundland and told stories of its vastness and wildness mimicking places such as the fjords of Norway and Iceland. They travelled to New Brunswick and told stories of a coincidence where they shared lobster with a man who had the same name as my grandfather. They travelled to Nova Scotia and described the Cabot’s Trail as almost a prehistoric place. These stories ignited this strong urge within to be nomadic, see new places, meet new people and have new experiences.
As a result, after high school, every summer I would take off in my Jeep and drive to these places to explore. When I returned, full of life and tales of the road, I would try to describe to my friends, who had never left my small little hometown, the experiences and feelings that I experienced. Frustration ensued after so many of them stared at me with blank stares and uninterested nods saying things like “that’s cool” or “I’m glad you had fun”. I was so taken aback by their disinterest and my lack of ability to make them feel what I had felt. After all, I felt like everyone deserved to feel the things that I had felt but I didn’t know how to evoke those feelings.
This is where photography came in. I was never satisfied with the iPhone pictures I was taking on my travels and I was tired of explaining that the photos “don’t do it justice”. One summer, my brother had purchased a dslr but quickly lost interest and so it sat on his desk gathering dust. Before leaving on another roadtrip, I proposed to him that I would pay him $100 for the dslr and that after a year he could decide whether he wanted to take the dslr back. He agreed and I knew full well that he was not going to take it back: he is a good brother after all. This is where photography started for me.
I spent an entire summer exploring and shooting, never pleased with what I was producing but still satisfied by the process. I persevered and kept shooting until I felt like I was able to convey in my images the feelings and places I was experiencing.
How would you describe your vision and style?
My vision and style is inherently, simply to make people feel. I try to encompass in my images a mix of people, experiences, and places and everything that connects them. Everybody deserves to feel fiery passion ignite within them. I want to provide that spark.
What is an essential aspect of your work?
Primarily, it has to mean something. Whether it makes me feel or whether the person viewing interprets it in a way that makes them feel, that is a key part of my work. Secondly, it has to feel natural. I’m not against posing or doing things to reflect a certain aesthetic but I believe that if there isn’t a connection between the environment and the people I’m shooting with, then it shows in the image. I will intentionally set up a shoot very casually as “hang out and shoot”. I intend to connect with the individuals in my images and/or the environment. The connection is reflected in the image. Whether it is portraits, lifestyle or landscapes it has to feel real.
How do you keep yourself going?
That is an interesting question for me as it is something I constantly deal with and think about. Recently, I’ve found that it’s the individuals I get to spend time with through photography that keep me moving forward. I recently spent some time travelling with some important people to me. We explored a bit of California. It was easy going, and we weren’t rushing or trying to get “the shot”.
We indulged and we appreciated each other and the places we explored, all the while capturing our experience. I returned home feeling reinvigorated, inspired and extremely motivated.
So, in reflection I think it is important for me to remember why I started. It wasn’t about going places and doings thing simply to shoot something pretty. Rather, it was about focusing on living and loving my life and slowing things down to be mindful enough to capture it.
What makes your photography especially your own?
I feel like my answer to this question ties in to my answers to the other questions so to avoid being redundant, I will recap. My photography is especially my own simply because it is a sort of journal of my experiences and my life. My photography is for myself just as much as it is for others. I love to inspire and evoke emotion in other people but it also evokes those feelings within myself and the experiences represented in my imagery are inherently my own. Just as I write in a journal everyday, my photography documents my life experiences.
How have you evolved with your work?
To put it simply, I am a completely different individual since I started photography. When I think of this question, it makes me smile because it makes me reflect on how far I’ve come. Before I began photography, I was in the worst low of my life. I had spent 3+ of the most important years of my life pursuing something I didn’t love. To give a little background, I did very well in high school and I was fortunate enough to have loving parents who were willing to lend me finances for any schooling of my choice. Because of this privilege, one that not everyone has, I felt obligated to use it and therefore I chose the hardest thing I could think of: Engineering Science. I did well in the beginning but slowly started to struggle as the years went on. I failed courses three semesters in a row and went through many personal struggles before my parents forced me to surrender to the idea that I might have some debilitating medical issues preventing me from succeeding.
I spent this past summer in limbo, not knowing where my life was headed. I was eventually diagnosed with Narcolepsy, a sleep condition that kept me constantly fatigued on a daily basis among many other debilitating symptoms. I was also diagnosed with ADD and Major Depressive Disorder, the latter being fueled by the Narcolepsy. I had developed severe negative thinking patterns throughout my battle with depression and as a result I spent the entire summer trying to rehabilitate. I was prescribed medication and the sleep doctor advised I that I shouldn’t go back to school until I got my life back on track. It turns out that being told that nobody expected me to go back to school or that I needed to be successful in a way that conformed to societal norms is all I needed to hear.
In September, I hit the road all by myself, with no plans, but with the intention of improving my photography and myself. This was the best decision I have ever made. I left behind any perspective I had on life and during this trip, I let anything and everything reshape how I viewed myself and how I thought about my life. I got extremely lucky and I somehow managed to meet and spend meaningful time with all of my biggest inspirations. I developed lasting relationships with them and with their support I was sort of integrated into the instagram photography community.
If you had asked me in the summer whether I would be ok with going and meeting someone to shoot with and spending a weekend camping with them, I would have laughed in your face because I would have been overwhelmed with anxiety. At that point in time, I couldn’t even get out of my bed to go and meet my closest friends. Today, I love myself more then I ever have. I meet someone new or experience something new on a daily basis and I truly feel like I have become the person I used to dream of being. This is not to say that there isn’t still so much to improve but rather it is to say, I am happy.
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