Melissa Pelchat recently graduated from Dawson College’s Professional Photography program where, for three years, her mentors have guided her on a quest for balance between technique and creation.
She is, first and foremost, a dreamer who gets lost in her daydreams so much that she often finds herself in wacky situations. Thankfully, she was given a great sense of humour that allows her to see the comical side of everything and that love of comedy can sometimes be found in her work.
Her relentless imagination, her joie de vivre and her natural complicity with kids have naturally led her to pursue child portraiture. However, no matter who she has the chance to photograph, her greatest wish is that the true spirit of her subjects, their inner spark, will shine through her portraits.
An Interview with Mélissa
Q. When is your birthday?
A. March 6th 1981. Just like Michelangelo! Woohoo! Well… Not the same year, of course. But I like older men so we’re fine.
Q. What is your best memory/moment from one of your past birthdays?
A. When I was 8, my parents invited my whole class for lunch at home (I was living right next to the school). It was a lot of fun and my dog peed on my teacher’s shoe. I guess he decided she was his.
Q. How about your worst? And why?
A. I would say my 18th birthday. It was supposed to be a surprise party but the day just went wrong all over, and the weather got so bad (Canada in March, enough said) barely anyone could make it, so it was pretty much a flop. But I lived to tell and even sang some obscure Savage Garden song on a stage in front of strangers. How’s that for a majestic entrance into adulthood!
Q. What do you believe is the most important aspect of celebrating a birthday?
A. Well, cake, obviously. *long awkward silence*. But besides that, I believe birthdays are the perfect milestone to evaluate where we stand in life at that precise time in our life. Who surrounds us, what have we accomplished in the last year, how have we evolved and grown, where are we headed? Admittedly, it’s a bit heavy. But hey, what about just celebrating the fact that we are there to celebrate life, our life!
Q. Do you/your family have a tradition/rituals/ceremonies to celebrate birthdays? What is it?
A. Again: cake, the answer to everything. *crickets chirp as I try to think of a more scientific and elaborate answer*. I know my parents have always made it a point for me to have a cake on my birthday, no matter if I was going to eat it with my hands as a baby, be in awe over a pink bunny shaped cake lovingly made by mom when I was four, grab a slice in a hurry before going out with my friends as a teen, or even, last year, on my 33rd birthday, my parents (who are not together anymore, but dad snuck in next to mom in the kitchen as I was getting ready) sang happy birthday over a cake before I left for work in the morning. They are adorable and never hold it against me if I am having a harder time blowing aaall the candles year after year.
Q. What is your life motto?
A. “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.” – Richard Bach. The way I interpret it, is that every end is an opportunity for a new (and potentially more beautiful) beginning.
Q. What/Whom drives you to keep going and why?
A. I’m not sure if I need a reason to “keep going”. I’m pretty happy to be there and exist and live and experiment and bloom a bit more every day.
Q. If you could change one and only one thing – big or small – what would it be?
A. Compassion. I wish there was more of it.
Q. Which photographers have influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing and career path?
A. Gosh I’m sure we all have a long list of influential artists and I feel a little bit like I won an Oscar and I’m scared to forget to thank someone. I’m still going to name names. Hélène Cyr, who was my “aha moment” as we called it. When I saw her stunning images, I was moved so deeply I knew I wanted to do “that”, whatever magic she does. I feel her serene presence in all of her images even if she is behind the lens and there’s like a pause in the moment she captures that draws you in, as if a moment is left suspended in time, just to be deeply enjoyed. I am getting carried away but spending a few hours with her when she came to Montreal was a moment I’ll always cherish. I’m so lucky to call her my friend. Richard Tuschman, for the way he masters light in mysterious ways and for his humility. Jessica Monson Drossin for kicking butt so splendidly. Every one of her images is “wow”, for lack of a better word. She’s the proof that you can be everything and be good at being everything. Miss Aniela because her vision is mind-blowing and she took the time to answer me in the kindest way when I was bold enough to ask her super specific questions about her images, back when I knew nothing (not that I’m pretending to know much now). Tadao Cern for his humour and for not laughing at me but rather encouraging me and even giving me tips when I wanted to emulate his “Blow Job” project for a school assignment (and we had the best time doing it). I am just realizing that I actually reached out to all of these photographers I admire and that they were all good people. I think it’s important not to be afraid to reach out to those you admire in life and ask questions or simply share you enthusiasm! Especially when they trigger a chord in you because you share the same passion. I think we can all help each other grow.
Q. What motivates you to continue to take photographs?
A. Simply the pleasure it gives me. I’m always having a good time when I’m photographing and the people I meet through it and the time I spend with them is the best part of it. Being able to see an evolution, as well, in your technique, in your style, in your inspirations, in what interests you… That’s a big motivator.
Q. Why did you agree to participate in The Birthday Book Project?
A. I love anything that involves collaboration, and what is happier and what brings us together more than birthdays?! I am very impressed by the talent present in the team and I am very humbled to be part of it, but I know I will be out of my comfort zone, and that’s intriguing. I like to push my limits.
Q. What do you expect to accomplish through your participation in The Birthday Book Project?
A. As far as the project goes, I am very much looking forward to use this opportunity to meet new people and discover what this project means to them and to explore with them new and beautiful ways to come up with a portrait that they will feel represents them in their uniqueness.