"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.