For photographer Myriam Ménard, architecture is a realm of characters not too different from our own. Some of the most striking personas of the urban environment can be found embedded within intersecting plateaus, lines and angles — each offering a new statement and emotion. Inspired by her attraction to geometry and design, Ménard calls her photographic exploration of architecture a “natural path”, communicating these protagonists through her expressive use of light.
Though Myriam Ménard currently finds her home in the mountain-brushed capital of Chile — Santiago — she considers herself a pure Québécoise. Born in Granby, an hour from Montréal, Ménard moved to Montréal 12 years ago to pursue her studies of visual arts. Her adventurous transition to the South American country was influenced in part by a fateful meeting, and also by the less competitive atmosphere with photography in comparison to Montréal. “I’m doing a lot of commercial photography,” she explains, “I have my network to built here! I hope to have time soon to take some architectural shots, just for myself.”
“I try to inspire myself with everything that is refreshing for me. I had been living in the Chilean countryside during my first four months here. Then I experimented with both worlds, and it just give me a lot of energy and curiosity to explore my new home!”
All images © Myriam Ménard.
“I think that I always tend to give a personality to those buildings that I meet, to humanize them […] I want to sublimate them with the pictures that I took…”
WBM: How did you first become involved in photography?
MYRIAM: At college, I was studying visual arts. It’s the first time that I tried photography during the period of change between argentic and numeric photography. It was fabulous; I have been doing a lot of experimentation and I felt in love with the medium. During this period, around 18 years old, I was focusing on painting, drawing and photography. I always had an attraction for two dimensional mediums.
WBM: What have been some of your greatest influences to discovering your personal photographic style?
MYRIAM: Well, I guess painting made me discovering how to express myself better by photography. I mean, I always have been very geometric when I was painting. I have a natural attraction for lines, forms and composition. It was during my trip in Berlin in 2006 — I finished my Bachelor’s degree with an architecture history class there in Berlin — that I discovered that I was about to be very influenced by architecture in my artistic expression. There’s nothing for me more inspiring, architecturally speaking, than Germany!
WBM: How do you communicate the essence of buildings and structures?
MYRIAM: I search for details, I try to show the experiences and human uses that they can wear or reveal. I turn around the structure, I observe it as if it was a precious piece of diamond; I want to sublimate them with the pictures that I took from them, to show what I’m seeing through my own eyes.
WBM: What qualities attract you to photograph certain architecture? Why might you choose one building, or angle, over another?
MYRIAM: I go with the flow for this. It is, again, a natural selection. I don’t think before. I’m curious, then I’m just attracted or not. Probably because of my visual sense that I developed through all of my life, I know how to notice the original details or the contrasts that are uncommon.
WBM: In what ways does photographing architecture affect your experience of urban space? Do you feel like more of an outsider, or more integrated into the city?
MYRIAM: Depending on the periods, sometimes I feel integrated, sometimes an outsider. I’m coming from a little town– I will always be attracted by countryside. Even though I’m living in big cities since 12 years, I’m feeling well in the countryside as well as in cities. I’m versatile I guess. Of course, the high concentration of information in cities stimulates me, but the emptiness concerning architecture and design of the countryside gives me some air. It makes me discover other aspects of the geometry, for example in the landscapes, and I enjoy this too!
WBM: Are there any memorable stories for you of people you have photographed?
MYRIAM: The first person who comes in my mind is an old lady in a subway station of Budapest. She was selling things and was very shy that I asked her to take a picture of her, but she let me do it and she had such an honest smile that it paralyzed me. I was charmed by her pure expression, like a child who looks into your eyes. It was like no-one ever took a picture of her.
WBM: You also travel and your work often reflects the places you have been. How does travel influence or inspire your photography?
MYRIAM: To travel is definitely my biggest inspiration; I need to be shocked culturally! I think I get bored fast of all the images that surround me; I constantly need to be shaken out, surprised or shocked by life in general.
WBM: What is it about certain landscapes that you think makes them especially powerful?
MYRIAM: Definitely I love to discover landscapes which express melancholy or a certain discomfort. I just find it surprising because we are surrounded by pictures of landscapes which express too often the same subject: a place that you want to be or visit. I love to show how the darkness sometimes can be attractive — that inside of them it’s also possible to discover elements of beauty.
WBM: In your eyes, what qualities make photography memorable? What allows images to convey a message?
MYRIAM: Of course when you’re shocked, when it makes you think… going out of your comfort zone. I also consider that a good picture is showing a sensible control of the light, the composition and the colors. I’m irritated when I see one of these characteristics but not the other, like a very controversial picture but just technically bad done, or a perfectly aesthetic picture but without a soul — something to say…
WBM: So we’ve had a good look at your photography and some insight into your thoughts… Let’s focus for a minute on your multimedia work, which includes experimental photography and illustration. Tell us a bit about your other projects.
MYRIAM: Those projects for me are my brainstorm moments. Sometimes I just like to do without thinking, for the pure pleasure of playing with images or pencils. I need this kind of “child escape” to have a structure in my general work. So they don’t represent the majority of my work, but they are complementary.
WBM: How do you hope to challenge yourself next and what specifically do you want to improve upon in your work, your tactics, or your mindset?
MYRIAM: I’m planning to create a blog to test my techniques of architectural photography. I would like to infiltrate the interior design and architectural world. By taking shots of buildings and interiors, and retouching them before I put them on my blog, I’ll try to independently develop my abilities to take perfect pictures to help designers or architects to win prizes, or simply promote themselves.
WBM: And just for fun, what tunes are at the top of your playlist right now?
MYRIAM: (Laughs) I love this question! I listen a DJ duo from Buenos Aires, Frikstailers; my favorite tune is “Guacha”, very hype and motivating. Also, I always keep some good electronic music from Germany in my playlist: Paul Kalkbrenner or Pantha du Prince are some examples. And a lot of cumbia when I’m going to do my jogging — South American vibe, I guess!
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON MYRIAM MÉNARD: