Within a scene of truly spectacular fantasy, Maryline Rivard portrays elements of her reality. Her conceptual creations are something to admire, more so as she plays the dual role of photographer and subject. Through hard work, persistence, and the odd climb up a huge rock, Maryline sets the bar in terms of her work ethic and creative output. Impressed by the photographer, and mesmerized by the subject, we wanted to get to know the artist from Quebec, Canada a little better.
Phoblographer: You have some very detailed scenes. What is your process in terms of coming up with a concept, right through to bringing it to life?
MR: I am inspired by several artists including conceptual and surrealist photographers, poets, painters, etc … Sometimes the inspiration comes from an emotion that I have difficulty expressing with words or a simple object found in a brocade. This is how I develop the concept in my head and I always have many ideas to realize.
Phoblographer: It takes most people 20 attempts just to get a nice selfie. How long do you spend getting the right shot when doing the self-portraits?
MR: A self-portrait using a remote is not easy indeed. The biggest challenge is to have the right focus. I now have great ease making self-portraits with my Nikon D750, more than with my cell phone in fact. I sometimes have the right pose after 20 photos (especially outside in winter hehe) and sometimes I have to take 200!
Phoblographer: What it is within you that attracts you to doing self-portraits?
MR: I started photography as a model so I always liked being in front of the camera. Being my own model greatly facilitates creation. No need to confuse me in long explanations on the clothing, the hairstyle, the makeup, the poses, the way to make an emotion with another person who does not have in mind your concept. I have perfect control over the entire creative process which I think allows me to create stronger images.
Phoblographer: How much time is spent on lighting the scene? Is there a particular lighting technique you like to have in your images?
MR: Since I work only in natural light that is very capricious, I have to adapt the shooting depending on the time of day and whether there is sun or not. I am very attentive to this kind of detail and it can be sometimes frustrating to wait for a cloudy day for an outdoor concept. But light is an essential element for the atmosphere and the rendering of the final image.
“I sometimes have the right pose after 20 photos (especially outside in winter hehe) and sometimes I have to take 200!”
Phoblographer: Many people cringe when they see photos of themselves. What do your self-portraits make you feel about yourself?
MR: Being a model for other photographers and for myself helped me to develop and feel higher self-esteem. With time I learned to know my best angles, to feel the light on my face. Surprisingly it also helped me a lot to improve my portrait technique with other people.
I think it is important to show a certain vulnerability in a world where we constantly struggle to show that we are perfect, strong and powerful.
Phoblographer: You’re a photographer and a model, but which one do you feel most comfortable being and why?
MR: It’s hard to say, I can not choose between the two. I have been a model for eight years and a photographer for five years. Even before I became a photographer I remember that I was already involved in many aspects of photo shoots (shooting, composition, editing, look, etc.). I feel that both disciplines make me a complete artist and that one does not go without the other in my case.
Phoblographer: When we look at your images, we see freedom, shyness, confidence, and beauty. Do you think this is a fair description?
MR: Wow, thank you it’s very flattering! I think the word shyness is not exactly right, I would say rather a vulnerability. With my self portraits, I dare to expose my emotions and show different aspects of myself and my personality which makes me necessarily more vulnerable. But that does not bother me, I think it is important to show a certain vulnerability in a world where we constantly struggle to show that we are perfect, strong and powerful.
This is how I found my way, the discipline in which I excel, I can now say that I am a self portrait artist.
Phoblographer: You have so many wonderful concepts. How do you keep yourself motivated to ensure you’re coming up with new ideas?
MR: I do not need motivation because creating is for me a visceral need. I come back from two weeks of vacation and I have the spirit that bubbles !! Two days ago, I created three self portraits in one afternoon! I believe that inspiration is something that needs to be nurtured and that the more we use it, the more ideas abound in our head and we have to get them out!
Phoblographer: What have your self-portraits taught you about yourself and the kind of artist you are?
MR: That I need a challenge in my life. In April 2017 I took on the challenge 52 which was to create a self-portrait per week for one year. This year has completely changed my life. Every image created was like a mirror, a new version of myself that always taught me a little more about my aspirations and what I really wanted in life. This challenge has given me great confidence in my field. I created images that I never thought I could do with ease that surprised me every time. This is how I found my way, the discipline in which I excel, I can now say that I am a self-portrait artist.
Phoblographer: Finally, what are your goals for your up-and-coming work?
MR: Many years ago, I dreamed of photography my only full-time job and I did not think it was possible. I am now a full-time professional photographer for two years and a half. Since you always have to aim higher, I hope someday to be able to make a living with my self-portraits in order to devote myself entirely to it.
I am currently running another challenge, the 365 challenge that I decided to tackle in my own way, as a way of life that involves creating every day of the year. I’m going to create 365 self-portraits without imposing a time limit. I realize an average of three a week. You can follow my challenge on my Instagram account – @marylinerivard and my Facebook page – Maryline Rivard Photography.