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Faces in a crowd

Photo: Brian Meech

A University of Ottawa alumnus has put her photography skills to the test in hopes of putting a true face to the streets of the capital.

Stéphanie Houle is behind one of the city’s latest successful Kickstarter campaigns, a project named FACES. Houle has had early success in the arts community leading into her newest photography project.

Houle graduated in 2008 with a degree in general arts and immediately began working on her passion for photography. She has had her work displayed at the National Arts Centre, where she has worked for six years, but FACES is undoubtedly the biggest undertaking in her career to this point.

The project began as a set of 20 photos, all shot in the same manner where Houle would draw out a genuine emotion in her models’ faces. They’re all portraits with three-quarter composition in black and white against a dark backdrop.

“It makes everything more poignant,” says Houle. “I didn’t want them to be about clothing, fashion, garments, and culture. I wanted it to be about that moment where my model starts trusting me and I start to see what person they actually are.”

As Houle finished the first 20 photos, she felt the project wasn’t complete, so she extended it to 100. From there, she started a page on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to help fund a hardcover edition containing all 100 portraits. Houle hit her $1,000 goal in a month’s time.

The project is an exposition of raw moments of personality, from the smallest to the most obvious—on display are the traits that make each person unique.

“It’s about the little head tilt they do when they listen to you, or the sort of shrug when they’re too modest,” says Houle. “It totally defines who they are without even noticing it. It’s not depressing, sad, black-and-white photos, it’s about the emotion.”

The project’s backers will receive different rewards based on their contribution, such as a thank-you mention or a copy of the book itself.

Houle is expecting shooting to be finished this summer, followed by editing and publishing in hopes of having the books delivered by December.

“I’m hoping that I do it right and I satisfy,” she says. “We’re artists and we’re always questioning the purpose of our work and if it’s relevant, but whenever people support and participate, it is always a bonus.”