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"Varial sees the world with great compassion and intimacy. His work has a universal quality and blends both documentary and portraiture at the same time. Accomplished and clear in his artistic vision, his images are stunning and expressive, as they portray dignity and beauty as well as hardship within the culture he has documented."
Lens Culture Review 2015
Cover National Geographic China December 2016
Hello, let me offer you a personal welcome!
I am so glad you landed here and I hope you will take the time to explore each section, embrace the moments these images capture and the stories they tell. My photography and film works reveal untold realities, documenting some major transitions one world imposes on another, from one continent to another. Always seeking, questioning, and exploring, my approach to images is immersive, physical and lyrical, spiritual and mind-expanding, inspired by Mother Nature and humankind.
Born Cédric Houin in 1978 in Paris, a single child, with a free spirit traveler pianist grandmother named “Moon”, an intellectual, loving mother, and a father who worked for 40 years in Africa, South America, and the Pacific, Cédric grew up traveling a world of contrasts. The mountains have been his universe since he is a child. He has led his own expeditions in backcountry skiing and winter camping. Several of his ski stories and photos have been published in France Ski Magazine. He has trekked and climbed in the Alps, Ecuador, India, Patagonia, Indonesia, and North America. He is also an active and still very alive paraglide pilot, flying in places like Mexico, France, and India.
PHOTOGRAPHY AND VISUAL ARTS
After graduation from a business school in Grenoble, he moved to Canada and ran under the artist name of Varial his own visual art studio in Montreal from 2003 to 2010, where he created more than 400 single digital images, conceptual images, mixing photography, photomontage, and illustration. He collaborated with the most exciting creative spirits in the Montreal scene, from singer-songwriters, musicians, circus troupes, art centers, and music festivals. In 2010, he sold everything to start a nomadic documentary journey.
Embedded in many worlds, cultures, and traditions, Varial is naturally driven and attracted to extreme journeys, remote places, tribes, and threatened cultures, obsessed by untold realities, rare captured moments, simple but singular realities, and striving for the sublime. Varial’s personal photography and film works humbly document transitions, major transitions: from "uncontacted tribes" to "contacted tribes" in Ecuador, from surviving to disappearing in Afghanistan and Borneo, from illiteracy to literacy in rural India.
2010 Sells all his belongings and embarks on a nomadic documentary journey.
2010-2011 Winter roadtrip 45,000km accross Canada and USA for a full backcountry ski season. Ends up in Mexico.
2011 Treks for 5 weeks with his friend Fabrice across the Wakhan Corridor and the highest routes in the Hindu Kush mountain range of Afghanistan, with horse and donkey carrying all the equipment; brings back unseen images from forgotten places and forsaken Wakhi and Kyrgyz people barely surviving there.
2012 Invited to New York to exhibit the Wakhan Corridor pictures for two weeks at the Milk Gallery, and for a month at the Impossible Project Gallery. Write-up of the exhibition in the New York Times Lens Section and a one hour interview on NPR radio.
- Wins 1st prize in the 2012 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest with Butterfly, a photo from his Wakhan trek.
2013 After 3 months with several tribal groups in Ecuador, lives a month alone with a so-called “uncontacted tribe” in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon, the Waoranis, later covered by National Geographic and NBC, which gains them momentary worldwide fame.
- Begins work on his own Waorani film and photo project Contacted, now seeking distribution.
- Uses the images from Afghanistan to make a film Wakhan Another Afghanistan, which wins a prize in 2014 for a first or second feature documentary at the Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois.
2014 On assignment with well-known author Alex Shoumatoff, he journeys as deep as possible into the rainforest of the mythical island of Borneo to meet and live with the last nomadic Penan for weeks to do a photo feature story published in 2016 by the Smithsonian magazine and National Geographic China.
- On assignment for NextGenClimate, a private NGO which acts politically to prevent climate disaster and promote prosperity, Varial shoots 5 stories in Michigan, Colorado, Iowa.
2013-2016 Travels once a year to India for several months to collaborate with Barefoot College, 15th NGO in the world, acclaimed for empowering women from 72 countries to become solar engineers and electrify their villages.
2015 The NGO The Nature Conservancy, main consultant for the COP21 in Paris, assigns Varial to travel for two months in the Mayan forest of Mexico to make the documentary, Teene Mayaen, which chronicles the impacts of climate change and deforestation on the indigenous communities who live in and around the Mayan Forest in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, and their efforts to both combat and adapt to it.
- Travels to Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Salvador, and Ecuador to document the life of 15 indigenous women chosen to become solar engineers. The project, Doña Luz, a 350-page photo book, is released in 2020.
2016 Helps Barefoot College develop a new media strategy and supports the communications team, based on grassroots content and short story telling.
2017 Survives a 200m fall from the sky doing paragliding in Ecuador, breaks 7 vertebras, receives surgery and 2 titanium plates in his back - re-learns to walk
2018 Official photographer of the World Vision Canada Campaign in Nepal.
JUNE 2018 - TODAY Travels aboard a 4x4 Camper Van designed as a mobile production studio, travels accross United States and Mexico shooting and composing music for a future secret project.
Varial Cédric Houin
Arsenal Contemporary Art Center, Nikon Canada, Impossible Project, The Québec Government Office in New-York,
Duggal Visual Solutions, Artnet Auctions
Arsenal Contemporary Art
2015 - ETONNANTS VOYAGEURS Film Fest
Selection and listed as Best of Show
2014 -RENDEZ-VOUS DU CINÉMA QUÉBÉCOIS
Best 1st or 2nd documentary
2012 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELER
1st Place Winner, World
2012 - PDN ANNUAL - Photo District News - USA
2011 - EXPOSURE - Artist Wanted - USA
2011 - APPLIED ARTS - Canada
2010 LUX - Québec
2010 APPLIED ARTS - 3 Prizes - Canada
2009 LUX - 1 Grand Prize + 4 Prizes - Quebec
2008 LUX - 1 Prize - Québec
Conceptual - Illustration
2010 PDN PIX - Photo District News - USA
2010 LUX - Québec
2010 APPLIED ARTS - 4 Prizes - Canada
2009 CREA - Annual Québec Advertising
2005 FELIX - Best CD sleeve - Quebec Music Awards
2003-04-05 - ONETOP - 7 Prizes + Best of Show 2004 - Quebec
2009 - CANNES LIONS - shortlist - World
2009 - APPLIED ARTS INTERACTIVE - Canada
2008 - BOOMERANG - Grand Prize + 1 Prize b2c - Quebec
2008 - FWA - site of the day
2008 WEBBIES - nominee - World
From Darkness to Light
in supportof/with the Barefoot College
April - August 2014, Arsenal Contemporary Art, Toronto
October 2013 - March 2014, Arsenal Contemporary Art, Montreal
January 2013, United Nations, New York
April 2012, Traces of Time, Impossible Project, New York
May 2012, Milk Gallery, New York
November 2012, Buddha Bar Gallery Paris
May 2012 , Impossible Project Gallery, New York
April 2010, eXcentris Gallery, Montreal
October 2009, eXcentris Gallery, Montreal
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2012 Contemporary Art Fair St-Lambert , Québec
2012 Vaste&Vague Gallery - Québec / 2011 Oeil de Poisson - Québec ( video)
2011-12 Its Happening, Paris / 2010 W hotel, Montreal
2009 Punkt Atelier, Montreal / 2009 ART & DESIGN, Montreal
2009 Lipstick, Montreal / 2009 Pecha Kucha #12 & #14, Montreal
PUBLICATIONS & RADIO
NPR the story (listen) , Radio Canada , New York Times,
CBC, Huffington Post, National Geographic,
Smithsonian Magazine, National Film Board of Canada,
Telefilm Canada, TV5
Barefoot College, Karuna Schechen,
Hutan Project, Shining Hope, NextGenClimate
Varial has worked with us over the last few years extensively documenting impact and human stories in both photography and print. He has been instrumental in mobilising resources around our organisation and has added a critical dimension to our own understanding of the lives we are affecting. Highly professional and nimble individual.
Meagan Fallone - CEO Barefoot College International
Varial came and worked for the HUTAN project (based in Sabah, Malaysia). Not only he showed great human qualities but his work and his pictures were outstanding. He was a very easy going person, able to be friend with everyone at the project and to make everyone feeling at ease during the work.
Marc Ancrenaz - Director at Hutan - Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Project
Travailler avec Varial est un réel plaisir. C'est un photographe créatif et polyvalent qui trouve des solutions aux problèmes et sait collaborer étroitement avec ses clients. Varial livre un travail photographique de calibre international.
Nicolas Thiboutot- Creative Director at Publicis
Varial is a creative and original thinker. He has native intelligence, great curiosity about people and ideas. In addition, he has demonstrated excellent powers of observation and an ability to communicate through his art.
Amina Castaing - Producer at Bang Bang
Varial is one of the most talented photographers in Montreal, a city that certainly doesn't lack in talent. But, in addition to his singular creative vision and his attention to detail, Varial has a charming personality that makes him a pleasure to collaborate with.
Richard Ostiguy - Executive Producer at La Maison
Varial is one of the most authentic artist I had the chance to work with. He's truly passionate about his work, extremely skilled and ready to invest whatever it takes to deliver stunning artistic results. I have learned a lot with him and he helped Ubisoft in many different Communication projects between 2006 and 2009.
Cédric Orvoine - VP, Talent & Culture at Ubisoft Montréal
Very creative and innovative corporation
based on Cedric talent and imagination.
Monique Savoie - Présidente fondatrice - Société des arts technologiques
J’ai travaillé deux fois avec Varial. La première fois, avec une idée difficile à réaliser et des délais de fou. Cédric est une personne qui devance les attentes, qui réfléchi, qui crée et qui livre. La deuxième fois nous avons collaboré sur Close to Paradise de Patrick Watson. Il a devancé et amélioré en quelques jours des idées que j'avais mûri pendant plusieurs semaines. Varial est un réel atout dans des projets créatifs et un charme de relations inter-personnelles.
Jean-christophe Yacono (yako) - Creative. Innovation and multimedia director
Varial is not only a VERY talented profesionnal, is also a great man with strong values: respect and curiosity. He knows to take time to better understand client needs and go fast to deliver #1 answers.
Jean-Julien Guyot - VR-AR - Neuroscience - AI
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