At just 22, Jeremy Le Chatelier is a self-taught photographer who makes the Montreal surf scene his muse. Originally from Costa Rica, Jeremy moved to Montreal when he was three and has grown to become one with the landscape of the city, and the people who call it home. Working around days on the water that were too beautiful to pass up, we talked to Jeremy about his stunning yet eerie work, and his journey as a photographer so far.
When did you truly become a photographer?
Is there ever a time we truly become a photographer? The year I turned 19 I bought two things that changed my daily routine: a high-quality camera (which was a total overkill at the time, considering my skill level), and a plane ticket to Australia.
While I was travelling, I took countless pictures. Of people, landscapes, and anything that would catch my attention and inspire me. Slowly but surely I got to understand the camera better. That was probably the beginning of it all. Nothing so special I guess.
Why surf photography?
I started surf photography mainly because all of my friends are surfers. It’s as simple as that. It also connects me to nature which is something that I enjoy. Who doesn’t? If my friends played basketball I don’t think I’d wake up that early to take pictures of them.
What makes the Montreal scene so unique?
I couldn’t talk about the surf scene in Montreal without talking about Montreal itself because there’s such a special vibe around this city. I don’t know exactly what makes Montreal so special, but to me it must be its people. Generally speaking, people here are open-minded, friendly, and warm-hearted. They make this big city feel small – in a good way. It feels like everyone knows everyone but you keep meeting new and interesting people.
I’ve met people who come from all kinds of different backgrounds and are willing to help you anytime with anything. Respect, passion, and absence of judgment play a huge part in our surf scene here.
What about the spots?
Even though Montreal is surrounded by water, we don’t have access to the ocean so easily. So people ask: but where do you guys surf? As surprising as it may seem, we surf on the St. Lawrence River. Obviously the waves on a river are pretty different from the ocean, but they are still super fun. Static waves are very special – 24 hours a day they don’t stop. Habitat 67 is our little hidden gem, our get-together place, our pride. My friends and I spend our summers there and it just never loses its special something. It’s part of the place I call home and somehow I always find myself coming back to it.
What inspires your photography?
I have always been inspired by humans as well as all kinds of different environments. Over the years I inevitably got interested in the relationship from one to the other. If you just stop for a little while and look around, you can see how beautifully people are interacting with their environment. Without even realizing it, they are perfectly completing the scenery. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that humans, cities, and landscapes on their own are beautiful and interesting, but it’s when you take these elements and put them together that the magic happens. They complete each other without even trying.
What gear are you shooting?
I currently shoot with my Sony a7R. I like to use my 55mm f1.8 from Zeiss as my main lens but I often switch from wide to telephoto depending on the situation. When I’m in the water I shoot with my Nikonos IV.
What are the biggest challenges when it comes to shooting surf photos?
It’s only a question of being in the right place at the right time, and how far you want to push your photos. Nowadays everyone can take a decent “instagrammable” picture with their new smartphone. So I feel like our biggest challenge right now is to focus on the rarity of a picture; how original it is.
I like to compare it to minerals – some are super rare but dull, others are very common but beautiful. If you get out of your comfort zone and expand everything, you might stumble upon something different – a rare AND beautiful diamond. So why aim for a plain mineral if you could aim for a diamond instead?
The idea is to get creative and original, while keeping a beautiful visual touch to it. This is what motivates me most right now – this idea of pushing photography further away from what everyone else is doing.
One of the biggest ways you push away from the norm right now is by creating effects without Photoshop right?
Yeah a lot of my pictures look Photoshopped but in fact they are not. I play with mirrors, lenses, and reflections to be able to create these dark moody pictures. Every effect is created before the picture is taken. It creates a feeling of anxiety and I love it.
For more of Jeremy’s work, check out his website jeremylechatelier.com