Sports photography | Athletes in Bernard Brault’s sights for nearly 50 years

Bernard Brault is the reference in sports photography in Canada. The proof: two days after Sportcom went to meet him to share his passion, the Longueuil resident headed to Rideau Hall to receive the title of Member of the Order of Canada.


Posted at 10:42 a.m.

In his work office, it is difficult to see the color of the walls as they are covered with honorary diplomas and prizes won in competitions. Some notable sports photos from his nearly 50-year career adorn the walls, but also from the political and artistic world, as evidenced by the portraits of René Lévesque and Yoko Ono. And that’s without mentioning his archives which contain all his negatives, slides, and more than 165 scrapbooks of his publications printed in different newspapers, stored in another room.

A photographer’s bib is on the back of his office chair and it was with a cup of coffee that looks like a camera lens that he took the time to answer our questions.

It is his friend, the former worker and 1994 Olympic champion Jean-Luc Brassard, who probably sums up the photographer’s work best: “Whether we are at Mount Sutton or at the Olympic Games, there is no of difference. His intention to take beautiful photos is absolutely the same. »

“That’s so well said,” says the main person concerned when we quote the Mogul Boss’ remark, even if he concedes that there is more pressure at the Olympic Games than in the Estrie ski resort.

Bernard Brault covered 13 Olympic Games for The Press in addition to having followed the professional sports circuits in Montreal. He will return to Paris next summer as a freelance photographer for the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Preparation + luck = iconic photo

A few months ago, the photographer commented on his Instagram account that his two iconic sports photos were that of Jean-Luc Brassard’s kozak jump performed in his victorious Olympic descent in 1994, as well as that of Patrick Roy, his arms in his arms. airs, in his last game with the Montreal Canadiens, in a sad memory of a scathing defeat suffered against the Detroit Red Wings.

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PHOTO BERNARD BRAULT

Jean-Luc Brassard’s kozak at the 1994 Olympic Games

The photo of Brassard in Lillehammer almost never got taken. The thermometer read -20 degrees and froze the photographer’s camera. Unable to take photos in burst mode.

“He told me he would do this jump at the bottom one. I start (to photograph) and I see that it doesn’t work. I flicked the box and just as it made its kozak, I managed to catch it. Then I got his reaction at the bottom of the track. […] At that time, with manual focus and a 36-exposure film, you really had to be on it! »

The rest is history.

As the photographer mentions, he had previously discussed with the worker to find out what he intended to do on his descent in order to find an optimal location to shoot the action at more than 10 frames per second. Knowledge of sports is also an essential element when it comes to scouting.

At the Olympic Games, this maneuver is repeated for a fortnight in a row, in cold weather or in oppressive heat, depending on the season, all while transporting kilos of equipment in crowded buses from one competition site to the other. other.

“The Olympics, you have to arrive in good shape. I can say I lose a few pounds when they are over because it’s not a regular schedule. You eat when you can. »

The photographer is a privileged witness to the action, but paradoxically, he is also isolated from it.

“You have to go into your bubble and you have to capture the emotion. I’m not saying I don’t have emotions. It happened at a funeral or, I remember very well, at Jean-Luc Brassard’s last descent at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City (2002), when he hugged his sister. It was very emotional for me and I felt the end of a career for him. He is the athlete I have photographed most often. I was there at his first World Cup at Mount Gabriel in 1991, at the Games in Lillehammer, Nagano and Salt Lake City. »

Bernard Brault also maintains a special relationship with the world of freestyle skiing, a sport that he began photographing at the end of the 1970s.

“Freestyle ski athletes are simple people, not complicated and never haughty. It’s definitely my favorite sport to cover. The athletes are much more accessible than in Formula 1, for example. »

It was he who took the photo that worker Mikaël Kingsbury posted online, around ten days ago, to announce that he and his partner were expecting the arrival of their first child.

The digital revolution

From the 1970s to the 2020s, the profession of photographer has suffered a technological shock marked by the arrival of digital photography. Bernard Brault began to leave film photography for digital at the Nagano Olympic Games in 1998. This allowed him to send his images more quickly to the photography office. The Press instead of returning to the press center to have your films developed… and possibly missing the deadline due to the time difference.

He is immersed in this technological change with enthusiasm. Same thing with drones for photographing from the air, tools that he has mastered for four years now.

“It didn’t scare me and I’ve never looked back. I have hardly made a film since the beginning of the 2000s. I don’t want to go back and I’m content with digital. It’s progressing, the devices are so efficient! »

Today, photos taken in an Olympic final are found in the image banks of major international agencies in less than 5 minutes. This acceleration of the process also made the lifespan of a photo more fleeting. Instagram gave photography a new lease of life, but video took over with the arrival of real.

“People look at the Instagram account and I don’t even know if they look at all the photos. The first one really needs to be punchy. […] Good photos still remain and people appreciate them. No matter how much you watch videos, you may not remember them, but a photo will leave an impression on your imagination. »

Capture the emotion and the moment. This tiny moment, captured through his eye, fuels his flame which continues to burn, even after all these years.

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