From War to Beauty

After 18 years of serving his country in the Canadian Armed Forces, Charles Desilets recently changed targets through his lens, moving from the violence of war to the beauty of the humans he photographs.
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Desilets’ work is known around the world for its aesthetic, elegance and the special use of light and emotional expression. His slogan “Because everyone is photogenic” explains his strength in his ability to make the client comfortable from the first minutes of a meeting. Years in the military taught him to see beauty, in places where there was none at first glance. This also allowed him to acquire the ability to detect, and learn to tame, the emotion in the eye of those who did not want to show it. His mastery of photography comes from his adolescence, where he began to capture landscapes and people using a good ol’ Canon 35mm. Over the years he developed a penchant of portraits and the creation of visuals with incredible decorations! I couldn’t wait to have a conversation with this gifted photographer.

NOCIVA: IT IS AN HONOR TO DISCUSS YOUR WORK FOR THIS ISSUE OF NOVICA, CHARLES! PLEASE TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF, AND HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START IN PHOTOGRAPHY? DO YOU HAVE ANY FORMAL TRAINING?
Charles Desilets: First, let me start by saying thank you very much to everyone evolved in the making of this magazine! It is an honor to be featured in these pages. I do have training in photography. Early on in my professional career, I took a collegial diploma at College La Cité in Ottawa, Canada. Under the direction of Éric Samson, I learned most of the advanced skills I needed to perform in my field of study.

N: IN YOUR EARLY DAYS WITH A CAMERA, WHAT GENRES OF PHOTOGRAPHY DID YOU EXPLORE AND EXPERIMENT WITH PRIOR TO YOUR SPECIALIZATION IN PORTRAITURE?
CD: I was lucky enough to be surrounded by talented photographers early in my life. In my teenage years, I was mentored by Claude Perreault who taught me old school black and white street photography with such a passion, that I was hooked to it. I also love photographing landscapes but mainly as a hobby or in my spare time.

N: HOW DID THE TRANSITION OCCUR FROM YOUR LIFE IN THE MILITARY TO YOUR LIFE BEHIND THE LENS?
CD: I won’t lie to you, it was a very difficult process. When I got back from my fourth tour (3x Afghanistan, 1 x Iraq), I was suffering from emotional and mental distress. The excellent team of healthcare practitioners at the Montford Military hospital in Ottawa, suggested that I find a hobby that would force me to go out and do something to clear my mind off. That’s when I got back to photography.

N: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?
CD: In order to proceed with a shoot, I need to see it in my headfirst. It might sound crazy but, I know what the final image will look like before I start shooting it. I will then, in collaboration with the creative team, create a moodboard that will detail and provide the overall look and direction I want the shoot to take. We then coordinate tasks and make it happen! I would say that overall, I am structured in my creative process.

N: I SEE A PLETHORA OF STUNNING PORTRAITS ON YOUR WEBSITE. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO FOCUS ON PORTRAITURE?
CD: It came naturally. At first, I was a little bit intimidated by directing an individual. Then I realized that fashion photography is more than that. This is where I feel I can develop my talent and creativity. Mastering the light and poses is what got me hooked to portraiture.

N: FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, WHAT MAKES A “GOOD PHOTOGRAPHER”? IS IT THE VISION, IS IT THE SHARPNESS OF THE IMAGE, OR IS ALL LUCK OF THE DRAW?
CD: Oh boy, that’s a tough question. I would say that it’s persistence and determination. Of course, technically speaking, your photography needs to be on point at all time. The sharpness of the image, composition and editing must hit the mark. The thing that truly distinguished the amateurs from the pros is their inevitable desire to produce the vision they have in their head no matter how much time and/or money it takes.

N: EXHIBITIONS, PUBLISHED BOOKS, SPECIAL PROJECTS… WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR YOU?
CD: I am currently working on a small exhibition that will involve artistic nude high-key photographs. Hopefully, this expo will get published as well. Other than that, it’s the normal “shooting on the move” routine. Pardon my military slang.

N: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG PHOTOGRAPHERS TRYING TO MAKE THEIR WAY IN THE PHOTOGRAPHY FIELD?
CD: Start tomorrow by capturing 5 pictures of something that inspires you. Work with the angles, play with the lighting. Search for classes in your area, and don’t look back. It’s the best profession in the world, and trust me, I’ve seen the world.

N: THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME AND AVAILABILITY FOR THIS INTERVIEW! DO YOU HAVE ANY FINAL THOUGHTS OR WORDS OF WISDOM TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS?
CD: Be bold! Go out there and create.

KEEP IT UP WITH CHARLES!
WEBSITE: CHARLESDESILETS.COM
INSTAGRAM: @CHARLES.DESILETS
FACEBOOK: @CHARLESDESILETSPHOTOGRAPHE
EMAIL : INFO@CHARLESDESILETS.COM

Check out Charles’ NOCIVA issue here!

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