Renaud Philippe in Chandler



Renaud Philippe, Québec City, Québec |

In March 2020, on the road connecting the Saguenay region and Québec City, in the middle of a snowstorm the winter storm, the one that means nothing exists except the stretch of road illuminated by your headlights and the enclosed space of the car – photographer Renaud Philippe is listening to the radio and hears the WHO declare a pandemic. Life, as we know it, stops. Following the path taken by numerous states around the world, Canada, from east to west, goes into lockdown. A moment as unreal as it is historically significant. Two days later, his bags packed and his photo material ready, he finds that his departure to the border between Brazil and Venezuela is cancelled.

As a documentary photographer, Renaud Philippe normally works on difficult situations, and there he found himself, in spite of himself, at the heart of the crisis, an invisible crisis, where the words COVID, pandemic, quarantine and curfew were not yet part of the daily vocabulary. He felt the same adrenaline, the same ultra-awareness of the environment, the same automatic reflexes. Somewhat instinctively he left Québec City, in semi-isolation in his car, and spent 21 days crossing Canada, alone on an infinite road. A wondering in a deserted country, convinced that the COVID crisis was the zero point of a period of turmoil, instability and major change whose entire scope we could not yet grasp.

Exhibition at Rencontres


A freelance documentary photographer, Renaud Philippe (born 1984) was raised and still lives in Québec City. For 15 years he has primarily worked on the long-term consequences of armed conflict and natural disaster for civilian populations. His documentary work focuses, with an anthropological eye, on the notions of forcible exile and collective trauma in the current geopolitical, but also historical, context. The photographic medium is first and foremost an encounter, a connection created by the eagerness to serve as a witness, sensitive to the drama experienced by those who have had to leave everything: victims of war, injustice, natural catastrophes.