In 2008, Montrealer Benoit Aquin--who had the unglamorous job of shooting for local alt-weeklies from 1989 to 2001--won the $75,000 international Prix Pictet in photography and sustainability for his documentation of Chinese dust storms. With that series of work now showing at Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto, I sat down for a brief chat with Aquin. Today, the National Post published our condensed Q&A. Here's an excerpt which actually kind of surprised me--on culture as a sustainability issue:
Q Is there anything else you'd want people to think about when looking at these pictures?
A Well, I wish our governments would invest more in cultural institutions and in art, because I think it creates strong bonds between people. And I think those bonds protect us from chaos. Think of Haiti, or Somalia -- these are places where cultural institutions were underestimated. I worked in Haiti recently. When I see our governments cutting into culture, I don't think it's very lucid.
Q So culture is a different kind of sustainability issue?
A Yes, it's very important. Chaos can appear very quickly, and things can change very fast. If there is creativity and bonds between people, it may take a better direction when something hard happens.
Image of one of Aquin's dust bowl pictures from photographie.com