Through The Lens

Richard Bernardin

March 30, 2010, by Chelsea Coyle

Whether it's strike a pose, or pose a question, I like to do both. Now each of my featured photographers will have questions tailored to their individuality to get an insight into what makes them "click."

To kick this off I had the opportunity to interview fashion photographer and director Richard Bernardin. You can see his work anywhere from Elle Canada to Brazilian Vogue to a video he directed featuring none other than the incredible Nelly Furtado. Richard's photographs exude sensuality but also have a feeling of risk which makes his images stand out all the more.

Montréal, for my family, and otherwise wherever my clients need me to be...


Richard Bernardin fan page

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Barila (Campaign) by Richard Bernardin
model: Lindsay Bélanger (Sutherland)

Who are some of your heroes?
Wow... my heroes. Well, there's a whole slew of them, such as John Coltrane, Mahatma Ghandi, Akira Kurosawa, Nelson Mandela and Stanley Kubrick, just to name a few. But I'm assuming that you want to know who are my heroes in photography? There are a lot of photographers, past and present, whose work I respect and enjoy but the ones who have truly influenced me and helped shape the photographer that I am today... I would have to say Avedon, Newton and Bourdin.

How would you describe your shooting style?
Intuitive. I am mostly self-taught and come from a "no-budget" background which meant that I had to make due with what I had. So, shoots that were over-planned and thoroughly scripted were not on my menu. I flew by the seat of my pants and learned from my mistakes the hard and fast way. Even to this day, when on big budget shoots with concepts and art directors and a whole lot of really talented stylists and beautiful models, it is still a very visceral process for me where I feed off the spontaneity of the moment and remain open to all the possibilities.

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"Hot Tin Roof" (Z!NK Canada), by Richard Bernardin
model: Jessiann Gravel (Montage)

Do you only shoot fashion and if so why?
No. Fashion is cool but I need other "outlets" in order to fully express myself.

What equipment do you use?
It doesn't really matter... The camera does not make the photographer. It's like writing... You can sign your name with a Bic or a Mont-Blanc but what makes it distinctive is the signature and not the tool employed to accomplish it.

How do you feel about digitally enhanced photography?
I'm not really attracted to that aspect of the photographic revolution. I am a purist and prefer to do the majority of my work in camera. My craft involves the process of creating still or moving pictures through the mastery of light and composition. I am a photographer and not a digital artist and/or retoucher. In these times, with the mass democratization of photography through digital techniques, it is important to make that distinction.

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"80's Glamour" (Elle Canada), by Richard Bernardin
model: Kate Bock (Folio)

What do you love most about this career?
Travelling and working with so many talented and different people.

How do you compare shooting in the studio to on location. Any preference?
I obviously prefer to shoot on location but, in reality, it doesn't really matter... I do what is required by those who are paying my invoice, right?

Do you have a funny photo story?
Did you ever hear the one about how an assistant broke my foot by (inadvertently) dropping while on a shoot in Mexico? Well, needless to say it hurt and I howled a lengthy stream of profanities. But this story has a happy ending because the assistant went on to work with me for 3 years and became one of my closest friends!

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"Hotel Daniel" (Paris) by Richard Bernardin
model: Lys Inger (Marilyn)

What would you be if you couldn't be a photographer?
Like I said before, I love photography but I also have other passions in my life such as film, architecture and martial arts, all of which I've explored profoundly: I just directed my first music video for Nelly Furtado, I'm in pre-production for a short film that I've written and I practice Gumdo, a Korean sword martial art, with my boys four times a week.

Do you have a client/model you would love to work with?
I try to live in the moment and make the most with what I have and like everyone else, I'd love to shoot Abby Lee Kershaw or Eniko Mihalik or Natasha Poly for the Tom Ford, Givenchy or Chloé campaigns... And I'm sure it'll happen one day, but until then I am just thankful to all the great clients, stylists and models that I've worked with.

What makes you laugh?
A lot of things but in particular, my sons... They are really funny! They make me laugh everyday and I love that about them.

I hear you love science fiction. What is your favourite science fiction movie of all time?
Blade Runner, hands down!

Miles Davis or Kid Rock?
Are you kidding me? Miles Davis!

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"Amour Courtois" (Film & Book), by Richard Bernardin
model: Anna Feller (Sutherland)

Where and when can we see some of your work?
In Canada, you can see my work published in Elle Canada, Dress to Kill and Z!NK and I've shot for clients such as Barila, FEMME by Sandra Angelozzi and Le Chateau. But the majority of my work is done abroad for international publications and clients such as Grazia, Montagut, Brazilian Vogue, Lilith and S Magazine, to name a few.

Any advice for young photographers or our readers?
The best advice I can give is to remember the following words: "Some people's photography is an art. Mine is not. If they happed to be exhibited in a gallery or a museum, that's fine. But that's not why I do them. I'm a gun for hire. When I was young and poor and starting as a photographer, I decided to accept any job that came along. I had made up my mind to earn my living taking photos, any photos and not to treat my craft as a precious art form. I was quite ready to prostitute this precious talent that God had given me to make my living." Helmut Newton, Newsweek, Feb 2, 2004. In other words, the clients paid him to shoot pictures. Remember this above all else and enjoy yourselves.

Thank you Richard, it has been truly an honour. And what can I say? I love your work!


Blogs We Follow

Cailin Hill (The Model Burnbook)

Models x Models (Models x Models)

Liis Windischmann's (14+ LouLou blog)

Laura Kell (A Model Life)

Madison Schill (Chic Greek Geek)

Kathleen Burbridge (Kathleen in Wonderland)

Ania Boniecka (A n i a . B)

Shawn Dezan (motivated//ambition)