Montreal, July 8th. Nicolas Bourque agreed to meet me at the studio, following the social distancing currently in place. My newborn baby in my arms, in the scorching heat of this summer afternoon, I start my recorder and immediately our discussion begins on various subjects that both of us are passionate about. From the academic world, his logical engineering spirit is mixed with his artistic gaze as a photographer. I ask him to share with us his experience and his reflections.
AoU: can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Nicolas Bourque: I have a bachelor's degree in geology with a concentration in geochemistry. After my studies, I found a job in the environmental field, in a small environmental engineering company that does hydrogeology and deals with the decontamination of land and groundwater. This means that if a firm used gas or harmful products that had polluted the groundwater, our company is responsible for decontaminating the water in the ground, but also wells in the neighbourhood that could have been affected.
We worked mostly outside and we were often called to go to remote sites in nature. Being a geologist had a big influence on my love of landscape and nature photography.
In 2017 I decided to start my own business because I wanted to make an impact in my own way.
AoU: You transitioned from geologist to photographer a few years ago. Can you achieve your goals through photography?
Nicolas Bourque:My first passion was always to do landscape photography and document nature. I started four years ago, but I quickly realized it was very difficult to make a living out of this kind of photography. I decided to take on portrait photography as a way to earn a living while pursuing my passion for nature photography. It forced me to reconnect with people, something I always had trouble with. I’ve been growing my portrait business for 3 years with my partner and we are starting to connect the dots and bring nature back into the fold. And to be honest, nothing of what I did in my short entrepreneur life so far has been planned. I know I want to go back towards nature and we are riding the wave that is leading us to it slowly.
One way to have an impact on the environment is to first make yourself known, have a significant social presence before you can bring the environment to the forefront. For this reason, social media is a great tool to raise public awareness of environmental causes.
AoU: Do you think we can have an impact on the environment?
Nicolas Bourque: Conscious entrepreneurship is the answer here. Thinking beyond oneself, even if it means paying out of your own pocket. So yes, I think it is possible to do something for the environment, but there are costs associated with that, which we have to bear personally.
THE RIGHT MINDSET TO MAKE YOUR BUSINESS GREENER
#1 Define your values = make the conservation of the environment as part of your core values
#2 Be sustainable in your choices = think about reducing your impact on the environment
#3 Step up for your uniqueness = inspire people, by following you they will be more sensitive to your engagement for the environment
AoU: What do you see in nature, when you look at a landscape, when you take a picture of it?
Nicolas Bourque: Serenity. Silence. A state of being that is pure. Our lifestyles are very disconnected from nature. For me, taking pictures of the environment reconnects me with those elements. It is a return to this original symbiosis that we all have with nature, even if some of us have forgotten it.
AoU: Tell us about your ecological and conscious approach to photography?
Nicolas Bourque: My passion, above all, is to be in nature, it is not to be a nature photographer. Photography is secondary, it is only one way of documenting it.
In nature, there is this principle that you must not leave any trace of your passage. No matter where you go, it should not be apparent that you have passed. “Leave no traces” means leaving no waste, or taking things to bring them home. You know, if you step on a patch of rare flowers to take a picture because you want a specific angle, you're going to tell yourself that it's not that bad. But if everyone does that, very quickly the pan of flowers will disappear, and by extension, diversity will become scarce, and little by little nature will become poorer until creating irreversible damage.
ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLE FOR NATURE CONSERVATION: LEAVE NO TRACE!
#1 Do not leave any waste = plastic bottles, granola bars wrap, sandwich wraps, plastic cups, straws, etc.
#2 Do not destroy the ecosystem = do not crush the flowers, break the branches, move the rocks on the ground or in the water, etc.)
#3 Do not bring back home anything with you = shells, stones, etc.
Nicolas Bourque: You can take your photo, but without destroying nature. Protecting the environment in which I find myself should be the priority. Otherwise, I shouldn't be taking the photo. The goal should not be the cliché, but the experience of nature, respect for it above all. If I have the opportunity to document it, great, but it should not be to the detriment of the environment. And by extension, in the city, it’s the same. We must not forget that a city is a part of borrowed nature. The same principles apply: do not leave a trace. This is the only way in which human beings and nature can find an organic and "sustainable" balance.
Interview of Nicolas Bourques by Mariette Raina. All photos by Nicolas Bourques.
Nicolas Bourques is a former engeneer who worked in the sustainable sector before transitioning to starting a career as a full-time photographer.
Mariette Raina writes articles discussing environmental, spiritual and artistic subjects. Mariette has a Master's degree in Anthropological studies and vast experience within the Fine Arts field. She has contributed to numerous projects for Dax Dasilva since 2016. She is currently Head of Research for Age of Union.