Proust Questionnaire 5.0: Brandon photographer Colin CorneauDecember 11, 2011
Colin Corneau was a young photojournalist that I crossed paths with at the Winnipeg Sun in the early 1990s. Right now, he’s working at another of my old papers, The Brandon Sun, but most of the work of his that I see and love are his digital photos shot via the retro-looking Hipstamatic app. The retro look is eye-catching, but it’s the photos themselves that grab me: beautiful composition, precisely seized moments, and a great sense of humour (I’ve sprinkled a few shots throughout but do check out his blogs; links below). “Street photography or whatever” is what he calls it among his answers below to the December edition of the Proust Q. 5.0 (What’s this, you ask? Details at the bottom, but read on first). His particular tech obsessions include an affinity for using and defending the use of old-school film, the likes of which you can see in his blogs below.
Here’s Colin Corneau:
We’re doing this interview via email, but if we were doing it in person, who and what would you be wearing?
I don’t really follow designers – never had enough money based on my laziness and spending what I had on travel or cameras. So I don’t really know, except I’d custom tailor it if possible – simple pants, shirt and maybe a jacket. Comfortable and simple.
And, most importantly, what would we be drinking?
Ah, priorities…it all really depends on the moment and the place. Sometimes a nice pint of beer is perfect. Other times, some peaty single malt totally fits. Or a glass of chilled white wine or a G&T. I can only answer this at that moment.
Okay then. What are the qualities you most admire in others?
Sense of humour, empathy or a progressive set of values (which are kind of the same thing), intelligence and a quick wit.
What do you like most about yourself?
I don’t think that’s for me to say.
What is your greatest achievement?
Being able to successfully go through a revolving door without getting my head stuck. It was a long journey!
That, and maybe my exploration of China, photographically. It showed me what educating yourself is all about.
What is your present state of mind?
What is your first memory?
Pretty fuzzy, without photos to look at. Probably early childhood, either in school or at my grandparents’ farm.
What, currently, do you most love doing?
Walking around with my camera – whether you call it street photography or whatever, just exploring a place with a lens never tires me out. Followed with a close second by working with those images – either making prints or creating their presentation digitally.
What was your worst job?
Never really had one that was a dud, they all had their good points and suited me at that time.
Your favourite colour?
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being free from the worries and doubts of everyday life, freeing yourself to fully enjoy what you’re doing and where you are at that moment. Think of it like clouds being swept away, revealing a clear blue sky up to infinity.
Knowing happiness and knowing you’re separated from it.
If not yourself, who or what would you be?
I’d be myself, a decade or two into the future. I’ve often thought the things that intimidated me or confused me were so much smaller after a lot of time went by, so coming back with that perspective would be pretty interesting.
Where would you like to live?
My main concern is happiness, which you can be anywhere depending on your state of mind. But for a fun fantasy, there’s just too many interesting places to explore – I doubt I could pick one.
What is your favourite or most memorable meal and when is the last time you indulged?
I like food that’s really healthy as well as delicious. Probably a month or two ago when I was in Toronto — vegan and Thai restaurants.
Name the person who influenced you most and how.
I just can’t answer this, there’s so many. Good and bad, in any number of ways. I would probably say the photographers I saw working at newspapers in Winnipeg around the time I was in high school and just after — it was an amazing time as both papers had terrific staff who were allowed to do their jobs, or at least do them less hindered by accountants and centralized control as exists today in many places.
A regular reader would see features, portraits, photo stories, everything and you could talk to them fairly easily, being in a smaller centre. I guess there was a lot less barrier between ‘us’ and ‘them’ at that time.
Name the film/song/book/art that influenced you most and why?
When I first saw pictures in the newspaper, I wanted to do that right away. I didn’t think there could be anything more interesting to make photographs of than real life, and I still don’t.
From there, it evolved into works like John Paskievich’s book The North End (and a terrific and amazingly ahead-of-its-time film for the NFB based on those pictures) and Fred Herzog‘s Vancouver pictures. I liked the idea of spending a long time photographing a specific place, and that’s evolved into my ‘street’ photography or however you choose to define it.
In this or any time, which real-life figure(s) do you most admire?
Joseph Rock had an amazing life, as has the current Dalai Lama. I admire photographers who work hard enough and are talented enough to be able to travel the world making images.
Who is your favourite fictional hero?
I tend to like narrative non-fiction, so I don’t really have any.
What fault can you most easily forgive?
Forgetting some relatively outdated bit of etiquette, like which fork to use when during a formal meal.
What fault can you not forgive?
Lying or deliberate deception.
What is your motto?
If that’s the worst thing that happens to me all day, that’s a pretty good day.
How would you hope to die?
Calm and controlled, able to adjust to it best I can.
Anything I haven’t asked about that you’d like to volunteer? Deep dark secret?
Contrary to popular belief, I am not a world-travelling playboy. On a good day, I might get a drink thrown in my face by a beautiful woman, though. If I’m lucky, it’ll be a non-burning liquor.
Any last words?
Always keep laughing – if not at my jokes, then at my expense.
More from Colin Corneau here:
Admit it. You read those celebrity Q&As and you know you’re easily as worthy of being profiled. I know I do, but my friends are way more interesting. So, with nods to the “confession albums” of the late 1800s made famous by the fabulous Marcel Proust’s answers, to French TV host Bernard Pivot who adapted the questionnaire, to Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton who gave it another spin and to Vanity Fair, which uses its own elegantly spun version to anchor the magazine’s back pages, I submit for your entertainment and enlightenment, my own version of the Proust Questionnaire, re-retooled for a blog age.