As with all creative pursuits, photography encourages us to imagine and represent the world around us in many different ways. Montreal-based Felix Renaud shows us how we can build our own visual stories this way with his mini-series, Section Fumeur. In this four-piece portrait set, he had a simple idea: use color and glamour to tell the story of the “pathetic and sometimes dark side of the cigarette.”
That doesn’t seem to give viewers much, but we can definitely see how the results are attention-grabbing. The colors are vibrant and definitely lend a cinematic look. The subjects are styled in a way that gives us more clues to come up with our own interpretations of Felix’s story. Of course, the cigarettes are part of all the scenes playing out before our eyes.
We can only guess what stories were playing out in Felix’s mind as he conceptualized and executed Section Fumeur. Still, we can see this as an opportunity to let the story build with a closer look. In every frame, we see the subjects do more than just pose with a cigarette in a “glamorous” way. Instead, they act out certain personas that somehow have ties to the cigarette.
A waitress smokes to pass time when the diner isn’t busy. A janitor acts out his rock star dreams during a slow day at work. A mother smoking without any regard to her infant child inhaling all the noxious fumes. A senior still casually smoking despite his deteriorating health. Which ones are pathetic and which ones dark? Felix lets us decide.
Section Fumeur is just one of the personal projects where Felix plays around with the narrative power of photography. I do wish to see him add more “episodes” to this mini-series. It would be interesting if he expands the stories and creates more images around something as banal as smoking and cigarettes.