Readers, meet Montreal-based photojournalist Yves Choquette:
I have been taking photos since I was 11, taking my father’s Brownie Super 27 camera without his permission, to shoot people throwing stones at soldiers in the streets of Montreal, during the 1970 October crisis. I found out early that I was more attracted by stories than by simply shooting for the sake of it. Unfortunately, I never took it seriously until a friend asked me in the 80’s to take a photographic road trip of him and his band, between Montreal and Chibougamau, to the far north east of Quebec. Since then I have shot different documentaries covering mainly social or humanitarian issues.
What motivates me is helping groups of people suffering from injustice to gain media attention so their story can be known.
My work has been published in Latitude magazine, The Palestine Telegraph, Reporter SA, Life Force magazine, La Presse, Journal de Montréal, Bayard groups, the Center for Armaments Research and many others. I also often partner with NGOs such as MSF, COVA, Groupe L’Itinéraire, Mira Foundation, Fauna Foundation, Global Compassion, the Post War Crisis Center and the St-James Center. Recently, my work on the Roma people in Bosnia won the first prize at the Terra Bella Media international contest in Italy and my work on the conflict in Ukraine won an honorable mention at MIFA 2014 (Moscow International Foto Awards). I’m also a Fuji ambassador for Canada.
Who attracted you to covering conflict? Tell us how you got started and who helped you break in.
When I was in Northern Ireland in 1993, I began following British soldiers in Derry running after IRA members, I was very curious. One of them turn back, look at me and scream: ”Are you press photographer?” I hesitate a second and answer “Yes! Hell yes of course I am”. But at that time I was not at all busy except shooting at the IRA, the British soldiers did not bother to ask me for accreditation. A friend suggest I develop films and send it to some European newspapers or magazines. Stern published two of them. To be honest, was more of a thrill at that time.
What are the items you can’t survive without in the field?
I’m not a fan of icons, so I can survive without most of my stuff as long as I still have something to shoot photos, like my iPhone.
What makes your approach different to getting attention from editors?
I’m very bad at marketing myself, never know really how to approach editors, never know what to tell them exactly. That is why I send my materials to agency like NUR photos or Trans Terra media. It is their jobs to sell my materials and I guess they have a lot more contacts than I do.
Describe that item you carry around with you all the time and never use.
Damn monopod in my camera bag. Don’t know why but I always think I will need it eventually but I never. Even in very low light, I prefer to hold my camera with my hands.
What media/news/feeds do you follow and why?
I don’t have preference as long as there is a serious, good and in deep article, I will read it.
How do you measure risk and how do you protect yourself?
On this one, lot of my peers going to hate me. I never ever use flat jacket or helmet. Especially today with all those modern weapons, they are kind of useless for me. I spent April in east of Ukraine and I did not see any bullet or anything else that even a 5 inch thick jacket would stop. I think that now they make ammunitions to be sure they are going to pierce anything.
But I’m not an adrenaline junkie so if I feel that heat is too high, that I’m going to get killed, I just move back.
Describe your most rewarding career moment.
Winning prizes is for sure rewarding, it meant that your peers agree that you do some good job but this lasts only for one day. Most rewarding moments is when people I shoot say thank you for coming here and hope you will show this situation to most you can.
Tell us about your most recent assignment or work.
I spent most of April 2015 on the front line, in villages destroyed by the conflicts in Ukraine. I saw old people crying for foods, clothes, etc. I saw kids in bunkers totally traumatized. A humanitarian crisis is on the making for sure. I accompanied volunteers who are willing to go there once a week to brings foods and other goods to these war torn villages. I remember this woman in Krasnogorovka with a baby in her arms crying that they have not eat anything for the last four days. I remember people in distress living in the city dump. But this is what I like to report on, human insanity.
But I also spoke a lot with soldiers on both side, way too young to be there who already have family waiting for them at home.