Artist Statement:

For twenty-five years, Montreal photographer Benoit Aquin has travelled the world, poignantly documenting the struggle between humans and their natural environment. His practice strikes a masterful balance between documentary photography and contemporary art, negotiating the tension between disciplines and formal vocabularies and shedding light on ecological and humanitarian crisis, within the tradition of socially engaged photography.

Aquin’s practice avoids the aesthetics and narrativity of travel photography, instead using discrete compositions, rapid and instinctual framing, natural lighting or, contrarily, that generated by a flash. He captures the daily life of the communities he meets making visible the time he’s invested, resisting the spectacle of exoticism and the banality of snapshots. His practice relies instead on the repetition of colour motifs and the superimposing of surfaces and textures. Benoit Acquin reveals what lies beneath the catastrophes he witnesses, with all their intensity and disturbing beauty.

Benoit Aquin has documented, among other subjects, the effects of global warming in Northern Québec and Canada (2005-2006), reconstruction efforts in South East Asia after the 2004 tsunami (2004-2005), the Chinese “Dust Bowl” (2005-2007), food shortages on the banks of the Nile in Egypt (2007), and the return of daily life in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake (2010-2012). His most recent series of photographs, which will be exhibited at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2015, explores the human and environmental trauma inflicted on Lac-Mégantic in Québec’s Eastern Townships – a town devastated by the derailment and explosion of a train carrying crude oil in July 2013.


Having studied at the New England School of Photography in Boston, since 1988 Aquin has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in Canada, the United States, France, Switzerland, Holland and Spain, Greece, Germany, China, as well as the United Arab Emirates. Notable exhibitions include: The Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (1994); the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (1996); the Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2008); the Musée de l’Élysée Lausanne (2010), the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego (2011); the McCord Museum, Montréal (2013); Somerset House, London (2013); the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (2013, 2015); FotoDock, Holland (2014); as well as participating in the Mois de la Photo à Montréal (1993, 1997, 2003); and Les Rencontres d’Arles, France (1991, 2014). His works have been appeared internationally in print media, notably, TIME Magazine, Canadian Geographic, The Guardian, Foto8, Canadian Art, Walrus Magazine and L’actualité. He has also produced long form journalism, monographs, and photo-essays, sharing his environmental and humanitarian concerns with a variety of publics.

Aquin’s series, The Chinese “Dust Bowl” (2005-2007), examining the human-made desertification of Northern China, was awarded the National Magazine Award Silver Medal for Photojournalism and Photo Essays, as well as the prestigious Prix Pictet. He has also received the Prix Antoine-Desilets (2006), the Canadian National Newspaper Award (2007) and the Grand Prix Lux (2007). Aquin’s work is represented in collections of institutions such as the Montreal Museum of Fine Art; the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec; The Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography; the Canada Council Art Bank; the National Gallery of Canada; the Banque Pictet, Geneva; and the Library of Congress, Washington DC. Benoit Aquin is represented by Galerie Hugues Charbonneau in Montréal.