The Van Doos are leaving

First, there where kisses. Then there where hugs. But as the clock was ticking, tears started to appear.

The Van Doos are leavingCovering the first Van Doos leaving for Afghanistan was absolutely heartbreaking: one of the most difficult assignment I had to cover yet. Many time I had to restrain my emotion, many time I had to restrain the tear that was coming to my eyes.

Seeing so many mothers hugging their kids, so many kids hugging their father, so many fathers hugging their son, so many loving spouse and girlfriends hugging their beloved one…

First, we had to “steal” those very intimate moments. And then, we had to step in to ask names. One time, it was so heartbreaking that I could not. I had to ask a friend of the guy, because his girlfriend was so in pain that I was just not able to ask myself (third photo).

The Van Doos are leavingI did not know it would be so emotional. Even after the event, when I was editing my photos, many times a “ball of emotions” came right down from my gut, up to my eyes.

It is a good thing after all that my friend Hubert, who was getting married the day before (pictures on this blog soon!), will leave only next week, when medias will not be invited. I am not sure I would have been able to do my job properly with him being one of the guys leaving yesterday.

I already talked about photographing grievance and other painful moments. Again, I had the proof that what we do is important. Late yesterday evening, Nathalie Dupont, the lady in the second photo, sent me this email after discovering it on the Gazette web site (reproduced with her authorization):

Un petit mot pour souligner votre remarquable talent pour saisir l’émotion du moment! Si vous saviez tous les reproches essuyés par nos nombreux neveux et nièces avant le départ, n’ayant pas de photos convenable de nous deux… Une seule comme celle-là leur suffit amplement! Moi qui a longtemps cru que je n’étais pas photogénique… preuve à l’appui que le problème est souvent derrière la caméra, pas vrai? Merci pour ce baume au coeur!
(…) Pour les moments touchants, dommage que vous manquiez tous les ohhhhhh! et ahhhhh! des gens qui n’étaient pas sur place et qui s’ébahissent ici devant la photo

My free translation:

Some words to underline your remarkable talent to photograph all the emotion of a moment! If only you would know all the everyone in the family was sad to not have a decent picture of us before his leave. Just one like this is more than enough for them! And me who was thinking all those year that I was not photogenic… Now I have the proof that the problem was behind the camera, right? Thank you for healing our heart!
(…) For the touching moment, it is sad that you miss all the “owww!” and “awwww” of the people gathered here when they look at the photo.

The Van Doos are leavingI sent her a high-resolution version of the photo. That is the least I can do to repay my invasion of their privacy.

With my work with La Presse, and now with this one for The Gazette, I feel very connected with those guys. I have photos. I have names. I will check the headlines with another eye now.

My big project with La Presse can finally be unveiled. 50 portraits of the “Van Doos” (the Royal 22e Régiment) leaving for Afghanistan this month. The result so far: 5 pictures in yesterday’s front and a double spreads with more portrait in pages A2 and A3, and more portraits in today’s A2 and A3. And more on the website.

Here is some shoots that I like, all taken with the same setting: a 85mm f1.8 lens with an off camera flash bounced into an umbrella.

Lieutenant-Colonel Stéphane LafautLieutenant-Colonel Stéphane Lafaut

Caporal Chef Éric RouleauCaporal Chef Éric Rouleau

Sergent Steve ChagnonSergent Steve Chagnon

Capitaine Luong NguyenCapitaine Luong Nguyen

Caporal François-René CormierCaporal François-René Cormier


InukshukAn inuksuk (plural inuksuit) (alternatively inukshuk in English or inukhuk in Inuinnaqtun) is a stone landmark used as a milestone or directional marker by the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic

Inuksuit vary in shape and size, and perform a diverse array of tasks. It is a symbol with deep roots in the Inuit culture, a directional marker that signifies safety, hope and friendship.
Technical: Canon EOS 1d Mark II, 1/250 at f11 with a 300mm prime lens – ISO 500

Copyright © 2017 Francis Vachon. Réalisation web par Eve Drouin-V.