M: Tell us a bit more about yourself (background, childhood)
S: My name is Schaël Marcéus, I am a Montreal based photographer and filmmaker. I was born of two Haitian parents, but grew up and spent all my life in Canada.
M: Are you in touch with your haitian cultural heritage? When was the last time you travel there? (How was your experience? Did you take some pictures there? Do you plan to go back?)
S: The presence of the Haitian diaspora in Montreal goes pretty strong. So thankfully I was still able to be in touch with some of the culture, despite not travelling to Haiti for the first 22 years of my life, aside from a trip I did when was only two years old. I’d say that now I definitely see my heritage as more precious than before. The ten days I spent there were very cathartic; we traced back the childhood of both my parents and it allowed me to understand so much more about myself and my family. I shot some photos there and definitively plan to go back for more.
M: How did you get started at photography/cinematography?
S: I picked up filmmaking through my love for acting. As a kid, my siblings and I would recreate our versions of hip-hop music videos and shoot our own content. It wasn’t the highest production value, of course, but enough to give me an idea of what cinematography had to offer from the other side of the lens! From there began my love for cinematography, and photography instinctively grew on me..In the relation of photography vs cinematography; I was able to use the same basic concepts/techniques, but achieving a finished product in photography was much quicker than in filmmaking.
M: Who / what has inspired you? Who are your biggest influences?
S: So many names come up, but I’ll try to keep it short: Maggie Steber, an American documentary photographer, Devonté Hynes a.k.a Blood Orange, Joekenneth Museau, a Brooklyn-bred interdisciplinary artist and Bradford Young, a black American cinematographer known for his work on the movie Selma. There’s also Marlon Riggs and Jean-Michel Basquiat to name a few in the past!
M: How would you describe your photographic style? What is the most important to you when you take a picture?
S: My images are very personal, most often featuring a single subject. I usually don’t go for complicated setups, but try to convey emotions through the eyes of the subject instead. Some people told me they found my work very soothing to look at, I’m glad to hear it has this capacity as well.
M: How do you make people comfortable in front of your camera?
S: It varies from person to person but above all the most important thing to me is to have a connection with them before even picking up the camera. People are opening up to me just by stepping in front of the lens, the least is that they get to know a little bit about me as well.
M: What does your work aim to say?
S: I like to think that I’m making the work I would have loved to see as a teenager in the early 2000’s. More and more I’m trying to push the representation of black bodies, masculinity in its various forms and the stories that accompany them. I think it’s important to bring these experiences to the forefront and realize that we are not alone.
M: What material do you use?
S: I use a mix of a 35mm SLR, a medium format camera for most of my personal work, but I will often pair it up with a few digital shoots here and there.
M: What would be your dream collaboration?
S: i-D magazine stands pretty high on top of my list!
M: The birth of digital in the 1970's left analogue in the grainy dust, but some professional photographers still shoot in film. Why did you make that choice?
S: I think the medium still has a lot to say. I like to showcase the beauty in the imperfections, so the instantaneity of analog and its unpredictable aspect are what draw me to mostly shoot film. I also believe it forces me to take a moment and really think of what it is that I am photographing and the message I want to convey before pressing the shutter button. I believe that digital has its place in some of my projects as well, for this reason I navigate both!
M: What do you plan to do next? Do you have any other photo series/project/travel in mind?
S: Well for now , I have some of my photos exposed at the MBAM (Musee des Beaux Arts de Montreal) as part of a commissioned photo project for The Woman Power titled "When I get older, I am going to be..." I’m also working on a solo show right now, which will hopefully lead me to travel next year. I also have a short film project lined up!
M: What advices would you give to younger photographers that are just starting?
S: If something scares you, do just that. Whether you succeed or not, it always ends up teaching you a lot.
M: Can’t live without?
S: Coffee, honestly.
M: What do you think of the Montreal creative/artistic/photographic scene? (Stay honest)
S: There’s a lot of things going on in Montreal right now, just like any big city. I think it’s important to find those who you vibe with and enjoy the work and build from there. We’re witnessing more and more creatives building and creating their own spaces outside of the mainstream to showcase their work, which actually makes Montreal low-key very vibrant!
M: How do you navigate being a black gay/queer/trans/or hetero male photographer in white spaces?
S: It can be hard at times. My personal work happens to focus on identity, but it’s not the case for every single black photographer and I think that often, because of our racialized status, people automatically assume that it is the only subject we have to address. At the end of the day, it also pushes me to keep working hard so that future generations don’t have to prove themselves as much as we do right now for the same opportunities. Our stories are making their place in the mainstream more and more, that’s also good.
M: How do you define (black) masculinity?
S: I don’t, I think that wanting to define black masculinity as one single thing is exactly why I’m interested in it. For some, it could be synonymy of something toxic; but to me masculinity is such a beautiful, diverse and multi-dimensional concept that to try to give it a singular definition seems impossible!
M: How do you take care of yourself (mentally, physically, spiritually) ?
S: I put importance in taking some time for myself and try to enjoy the most out of simple activities such as cooking. I like to read before bed to make sure I’m well relaxed. I have a lot of plants around the house, caring for them is very soothing. I recently joined a crossfit gym, we’ll see how that goes lol.
M: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
S: You remind me that a friend of mine suggested I do a 5 year plan.
M: How do you see the future of the photography industry in Montreal/Canada?
S: It’s a big question. I think that photography is still an extremely relevant art form in Montreal mostly because of its versatility to merge art and advertisement. We’re in a wave of change right now as people start to be more interested in seeing different bodies and narratives in the work created both in front and behind the lens. Hopefully this doesn’t fade away as just a trend.
M: You’ve recently started to be work for adolescent content, how did you get the job and how does your experience look like so far?
S: It was very organic. I submitted my work to become a contributor on their adolescent.net platform, they liked what they saw and offered me representation. I just happened to fly to LA a few days later so I ended up visiting their HQ and it was a match. Things have been going great so far, I’m finishing my first project with them as we speak and should be able to share it very soon.