Fashion Photographer Maude Arsenault

I interviewed French Canadian-based fashion photographer, Maude in January 2010.  The conversation went lovely. Before the interview, Maude told me that she has two beautiful kids (Six year old Maxe and 6 month old Billie) whom she adores.  Besides being a dedicated wife and mother; Maude has a great passion, knowledge, as she would say ‘old school’ and love for photography.  Maude’s first job was shooting for her friend’s boyfriend clothing line, in Montreal (Rudsak) for their first campaign.

  “On the shoot they had the best fashion stylist and the best models.”  Maude felt a bit overwhelmed by the very experienced crew.  “The shots came out really well”, she says.  The hype around the shots received great responses.   Suddenly people started requesting her talent.  The same stylist from the (Rudsak campaign) photo-shoot loved and admired her work so much, she opened an opportunity for her; a job working with a fashion magazine.   Maude says that having the opportunity to work with a big campaign really opened doors and contacts in the fashion industry. 

Maude shares with me how her love for fashion photography began.

“It began really early, officially when I was 23, which is about 13 years ago.   That’s when I really decided to do it full-time and nothing else.  I was still a student before that but I was passionately involved in fashion photography since maybe I was 19.  I never did anything else.  I never had another real job (she laughs).  The only thing that I did when I was a student and while I was shooting before I committed myself to photography, was working in a bar and night clubs to make money at night to be able to shoot during the day.   I started shooting when I was about 17 and by 19 I figured out that I wanted to do it for a living.  So I started shooting model test and little jobs for friends and people I was meeting.  So by 23 I decided to be fully committed to photography for a living.” She continues; “It went really naturally for me; I kind of really did it for fun when I was a student.  It became so important in my life that everything I was doing was about photography; when I was at the University, I would involve photography in some type of way, magazines or interviews.  I was literally obsessed with fashion and photography.  I was kind of incorporating it in any aspect of my life, until strangely someone said to me you should be a photographer.  It never really occurred to me that I wanted to do that, I just was kind of doing it, so by the time I decided to do it, I had already done quite a lot of things.  For me it was just a fun thing to do.  I would go out to trendy places and ask models to take photos of them without knowing that I wanted to do that, but the day I decided to do it, it really went by very fast, and within six months I was shooting quite a lot and also shooting for magazines.”

Maude is inspired by locations, places she has traveled, reading, and natural light really inspires her.  She also is a huge fan of French movies from the 70’s. (Maude loves the late French Film Director Eric Rohmer).  “He did a lot of films in the 70’s that really inspired me.  I’m also a romantic, so anything romantic inspires me”, she giggles.

When working in the fashion industry you meet many creative individuals.  Some think that the fashion industry is a huge pot hole but, in reality, it’s the very same pot hole.  I interviewed Vogue Australia Vogue Contributor Romy Frydman a few months back.  Maude mentions to me in our interview that she worked with Romy last year.

“I have a very strong link to Australia.  I moved there when I was 26 in 2001.   I would love to move back there, she says, “But at the moment it’s not possible.   I still have an agent there; last time I was there, which was about a year and a half ago, I worked with Romy on a commercial job, I don’t know her very well, but we spent a couple of days on the set.”  Maude has worked with most of the established Australian Stylists, Makeup Artists and magazines.

Maude’s favorite camera at the moment is the Canon 5D Mark II.  Is there any particular reason why you use that camera?  I asked her.  “It’s just a good option at the moment, it’s a high resolution.  It’s easy to use and cheap to buy.  It has a really great video option, that’s something that I‘m interested in, is to do a little more motions, and it’s a very good quality.”

There are so many aspiring photographers out there.  I wanted to get Maude’s opinion on if she thinks being a ‘fashion photographer’ getting a little over-rated or crowed?

“Everyone is a photographer right now, it’s quite amazing to look at a lot of people have photos on myspace or flickr.  The reality that I find difficult at the moment, maybe because I’m a little old school, is that when I started as a photographer, you had to be technical on how you do your thing, plus be good.  What I mean, is that in those days there was no digital or computerize images at all, so if you were starting, you would have to buy film, you have to send them to a lab, you had to print images for your portfolio.  People couldn’t see your stuff online,  most of the young photographers didn’t have enough money to buy more film, so you really needed to be quite skilled and talented to get the work to present to the client.  I find now that you can get a digital camera for quite a small amount of money.  For 500 to 600 dollars, you can purchase a good quality camera.”   Maude says that it’s getting harder and harder to make a career out of it.  The fact that there are more and more people calling themselves a photographer and there is less and less people making a living out of it.

Maude’s advice to aspiring fashion photographers.

“I strongly believe that what really matters for me, is to become a good fashion photographer.  The only thing that it really needs is; a big passion for fashion and images and you have to be completely devoted and I think that the only way to get recognized out there in the fashion world is to be original.”

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