In 2011, Varial* Cédric Houin, author, photographer, director and visual artist, decided to embark with his friend Fabrice Nadjari, cultural entrepreneur, on a journey in the Wakhan corridor, a remote region of northeastern Afghanistan untouched by the war and preserved from the taliban regime. What they discovered during those weeks of walks is an « untouched » Afghanistan where the values of sharing, welcoming and brotherhood remains the one inspired by the books of Joseph Kessel and Nicolas Bouvier.
Written from an intimate angle, the project celebrates the beauty and simplicity of these ancient cultures, generally unknown to the world, without concealing the hardships faced by these men and women, or the issues that lay ahead for this changing country.
Presented as a hybrid experience, offering the viewer a different vision of a country they believe, perhaps incorrectly, they already know, Varial multi platform project Wakhan an Other Afghanistan combines several photography works, video installation, and a 78min film.
Varial is supported by Arsenal Contemporary Art, Nikon Canada, Quebec Delegation in New York, Duggal. One of his image, “Butterfly” won 1st prize at national geographic traveler photo contest.
“Wakhan”, the 78 min feature film, won in March 2014 the prize for best first or second documentary in Quebec.
Exhibition in Toronto, @ Arsenal Toronto April 17th – August 15th
Name: Cédric Houin
Birthday: 23-05-78, Paris.
College: Stanislas Paris + MBA Management & Communication
Favorite Color: Light Blue
Favorite Book: Ishmael, Daniel Quinn. Zarathustra, Nietzsche.
Favorite Movie: the Jungle Book, the Emerald Forest, Leviathan, Farewell to the King, the Act of Killing, the Age of Stupid, The Ambassador, Enjoy Poverty, Depardon in Africa, the Yes Men save the world I&II, Sea Shepard,
Favorite Food: Bananas, fruits, green juices !
Favorite Quote: “Go where you want, Die where you must “- Odette Saliou aka Moon my grandmother and spiritual protector.
For how long have been in photography? Since 2001
How did you start?
I come from drawing and illustration.I started to play with Photoshop in 1998 . Photography became rapidly a tool for me to create surrealistic images.Over the last 15 years I have been
playing with photography and images in all kind of ways. For the last 4 years, I live as a nomadic documentary artist and my production company is based in Montreal.
How would you define yourself as an artist?
These are the words of one of my spiritual father, Christian Vander.
I. Each artist as a creator, must express what is his own soul (part of the personality)
II. Each artist as a child of his time, must express what is proper to this time ( element of style in its inner value, consisting in the language of the time and the language of the people,
as long as there as a Nation, or a Tribe )
III. Each artist, as servant of the Art must express what is generally specific to the Art (part of pure and eternal art we found in all human beings, among all people and all times,
which appears in the work of all artists of all nations and all times and not obeyed, as an essential element of art, no law space or time).
Where do you find inspiration?
Photography is for me a way to pay tribute to people, culture and beauty, and to question our link to them. So the inspiration comes from being the most open and conscious.
And the beauty of this journey is its virtuous cycle aspect. Inspiration is nothing but just opening all of your senses I think…and it will come…like illumination.
Is Brainstorming not the only creative method use to create new concepts?
No. Although I love brainstorms. I feel that new concepts comes from observation, deep understanding of what is lacking, what needs to be changed or improved. I don’t believe that we create anything. But just interpretate life in all of its complexity, understanding… and of course…non understanding. In art specifically.
Please could you tell us about photography and digital technology?
Play, explore, have fun, discover, get better, don’t follow the trends, buy gear, break gear, invest invest invest, respect our subjects, love our subjects, find our own personal journey….you know people say “everybody is a photographer today”(digital technology, accessibility, phones etc) Yes, it s true… as much as everybody has a pen and a paper. but now how many Picasso ? How many Steve Mc Curry ? Photography can be seen as an activity, a passion, yes.To me not only it is a tool to invite people to open their mind, dream, care, smile, it is also a way of living. And it s a tough one, and I like it that way. Because comparing to everybody who is a photographer today…I am living on my art and the stories I share… and it’s a marathon…even more today.
What type of camera do you use most?
I am supported by Nikon canada.
D3x, D3, D800, D700
What is your favorite lens?
What has been your most memorable assignment and why?
The last one for the Smithsonian magazine, which will be published in May or June 2014, about the last nomadic Penan people of the Borneo rainforest. We live during weeks in the jungle with author Alex Shoumatoff. We testimony the battle for territory against wood and palm oil companies the last nomadic tribes are facing. I hope our work and this publication will get people aware and maybe change the curse of things. We don’t need palm oil in every product.
What are your favourite three images you have shot recently?
In Borneo for the Smithsonian , a portrait of a little Penan girl who had been hiding during 2 weeksfrom me and Alex, the two white man , and opened herself up the last day with me.
A shot of an Indian woman, in Rajasthan working as a solar engineer, which reminded me a lot of my “butterfly” picture.
How important is an awesome website for your business?
With 15 years in web myself as designer, art director, interactive director…extremely.
What’s the most important quality a photographer needs to have?
Did you work for lnterntonal brands? Which ones?
As an image maker i have been collaborating with advertising agencies to shoot for a lot of brands, the list is too long. As a young self financed documentary multi-plateform artist I have no choice but to create bridges in between the public and the private scenes. My work is supported and produced by art centers, and brands, yes…and I am always looking for more Corporate Social Responsibility, public or private.
Which of your projects has given you the most satisfaction?
All of them 🙂
List of your clients?
National Film Board of Canada, Smithsonian Magazine, Wider Magazine, Telefilm Canada, Ubisoft, TV5, Fonds Bell, 7 Fingers, MUTEK, Quebec Council for Media and Arts, the Society for Arts and Technology, Louis Vuitton, Rihanna, Mercedes, Spotify, Philippe Dubuc, Marie St-Pierre, Piknicelectronik, Mutek, Montreal en Lumières, Igloofest,Patrick Watson, GSI Musique, Sidlee, Publicis, BBDO, Bluesponge, Cossette, BBR, Ogilvy Paris, Taxi, Toxa….
Who are the photographer’s you admire the most?
What about architects and designers?
I am only surrounded by creative people wherever I am. So architects, designers, musicians, writers, dancers… those who dedicate their life to fulfill their need to create, and to express themselves, and to change the world. There are an everyday inspiration and a support.
What are your next projects?
Ecuador, Amazone forest, last tribes, the Waorani. Borneo, Rainforest, the last Nomadic Penan
All of my projects are multi plateform, combining photographic essays, writing, video installations, and feature long film. It s a 1-2 year production minimum per project before showing anything. My projects are collaborative, and invitations to care.