Nicolas St-Pierre: Old Ottawa East 2021 Art Tour participant wins prestigious international photo book award

Lorne Abugov

Fresh from exhibiting his photographic artistry in front of his Marlowe Street home during the OOE 2021 Art Tour, local resident Nicolas St-Pierre has captured international acclaim by winning the 2021 URBAN Book Award at the world-famous Trieste Photo Days festival. A practitioner of urban street photography, St-Pierre’s book, entitled Where Have the Birds Gone?, took the prestigious prize as the top photography book of the year.

St-Pierre’s photography was first featured in the pages of The Mainstreeter in the October 2019 issue. Readers may recall his arresting image of a young girl peering through metal bars from her train compartment while it idled at the Howrah railway station in Kolkata, India.

The urban artistry of photographer Nicolas St-Pierre was first published in The Mainstreeter in October 2019. Photo by Nicalos St-Pierre

The urban artistry of photographer Nicolas St-Pierre was first published in The Mainstreeter in October 2019. Photo by Nicalos St-Pierre

Since the Trieste Photo Days festival was launched in 2014, it has confirmed itself as a point of reference for cutting-edge international photography. Every year, the festival attracts an ever-increasing number of international artists and guests. Amongst the various awards presented each year by the festival organizers, the URBAN Book Award, which was conferred this year on St-Pierre, is dedicated to extended authorial projects/photographic books.

For St-Pierre’s part, the URBAN Book Award, while unexpected, represented his progression as an urban photographer onto the global scene. According to St-Pierre: “Given the increasing recognition of the Trieste Photo Days amongst photographers who practice street photography, it only seemed natural for me to submit my book to the festival in the hope that it would catch the jury’s attention and help me establish myself as an international artist.

On the images in his book, Where Have the Birds Gone?, Nicolas St-Pierre recalls: "I spent countless hours exploring on foot the streets and back alleys of Tokyo. Almost every day, I was stopped dead in my own tracks by the unexpected sight of something that did not belong to the scene, or the deafening silence of something that cried out to be there." Photo by Nicolas St-Pierre

On the images in his book, Where Have the Birds Gone?, Nicolas St-Pierre recalls: “I spent countless hours exploring on foot the streets and back alleys of Tokyo. Almost every day, I was stopped dead in my own tracks by the unexpected sight of something that did not belong to the scene, or the deafening silence of something that cried out to be there.” Photo by Nicolas St-Pierre

“Needless to say, I was thrilled beyond words to learn confidentially in August that my book had been selected by Francesco Cito, Italian photojournalist, from over 125 competing projects, and would be published in Italy by the festival organizers. I am also pleased that thanks to this award, my work has now gained critical acclaim and will soon be published in French and Italian photo magazines.”

Commenting on the artistry of this year’s award winner, awards judge Cito observed that “Nicolas St-Pierre’s work is an intellectual fantasy carried out with mastery and a skilful photographic language. Good photography, engraved, well structured, and masterfully post produced.”

St-Pierre, a career diplomat within Canada’s foreign service, has travelled extensively for work and pleasure, usually with camera in hand. Describing himself as a “wanderer at heart,” most of his spare time is spent capturing the places and people that he encounters while abroad.

Photo by Nicolas St-Pierre

Photo by Nicolas St-Pierre

“Ever since I picked up my first camera some 30 years ago, this little piece of equipment has become a wonderful tool to help me step out of my comfort zone, an invitation to explore, and a means to build bridges between myself and the other. The camera provides me with both an excuse and an incentive to get closer, to connect emotionally and physically with those who cross my path and arouse my curiosity,” St-Pierre states in his website biography. “Of all photographic genres, street and travel photography, with a slight documentary bent and an occasional touch of humour, are those that currently appeal to me the most.”

The award-winning images in Where Have the Birds Gone?, which St-Pierre captured during his time in Japan, are not easily described or simple to understand, nor are they intended to be, according to the photographer. He has described the contents of his breakthrough book in the following words:

“From 2015-19, I had the amazing opportunity of living in Japan. During the four years that I lived there, I spent countless hours exploring on foot the streets and back alleys of Tokyo. Almost every day, I was stopped dead in my own tracks by the unexpected sight of something that did not belong to the scene, or the deafening silence of something that cried out to be there.

Photo by Nicolas St-Pierre

Photo by Nicolas St-Pierre

“Despite all the time and efforts that I had invested to learn Japanese and acquaint myself with local culture, I was never able to completely shake off the impression that I had set foot in a strange land. The photographs presented in Where Have the Birds Gone? constitute my own attempt at rendering the sense of alienation and unease that I felt while living in Japan, and which will be so familiar to those who have visited the country.”

A selection of images included in St-Pierre’s award-winning book, Where Have the Birds Gone?, may be found on his website at the following address: https://www.nstpierrephoto.com/Personal-Projects/Where-have-the-birds-gone/. Those interested in purchasing the self-published edition of the book can also do so online through St-Pierre’s website (https://www.nstpierrephoto.com/Shopping) or alternatively by emailing him at nstpierrephoto@gmail.com to arrange for a direct purchase of books and/or prints.

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