Quebec-born photographer Yves Garneau is just as much at ease on the resort’s snowy slopes as he is in its luxury chalets, where he works his magic in long and perfectly polished photoshoots, playing with light to enhance the reality of both environments, as this photo gallery shows.
Yves Garneau first came to Verbier in the winter of 1997, his head full of images and yearnings of powdery snow and off-piste slopes. The son of the astronaut Marc Garneau, the first Canadian in space, the Quebec-born photographer planned to explore the area for a season or two and return home to train as a helicopter pilot. Twenty years on, he remains in the Val de Bagnes, with his Swedish wife Carina, whom he met here, and their two boys, aged seven and nine. In the meantime, the 40-year-old Canadian has established himself as one of the most talented photographers in a part of the world that is not exactly short of them.
All down to an accident
“I only got into photography so I could share all the incredible things I’ve experienced in the mountains with my friends,” says Garneau, a passionate freerider. “I hadn’t been in Valais long, though, when I fell on my back in the snowpark and broke a vertebra. That meant no more snowboarding for the rest of the season. I was still able to walk, though, and I decided to devote all my time to photography.” The shutterbug started out by taking photos of his friends. Before long, his services were in demand among the semi-pros, which is when he decided to invest the money he had set aside for his pilot training in some top-of-the-range equipment.
Despite his boundless enthusiasm, it was nearly two years – during which time he took on one small job after another – before one of his images finally made it into a magazine. “It was a photo of the freestyle skier Tanner Hall, which appeared in Skieur. Things began to snowball from there and I gradually built up a reputation.” To make ends meet, however, Yves had to draw on his culinary skills as a part-time caterer. “I just kept coming up with the same five nice recipes that I’d learned when I worked in the hotel trade,” he explains. Photography began to take up more and more of Yves’ time, though, with commissions regularly coming his way from the ski world, including photoshoots for the prestigious Swiss brand Movement.
Finding a niche
The turning point in his career came in 2007, when luxury chalet rental firm Bramble Ski called on him to photograph its properties. Despite lacking experience in the field, Yves accepted the challenge. It proved to be a wise decision, with real estate photography having now become his speciality, bringing him a living and taking him on his travels. “I’ve been devoted to it full-time since 2014. I had my mid-life crisis ten years early, turning my back a little bit on skiing photography and the dangers that come with it, especially avalanches and the fact that they could have deprived my children of their father.”
Whether he is shooting a luxury chalet or hotel in Verbier, Zermatt, Mallorca or Gstaad, or delving deep into the Bagnes countryside for the local tourism office or putting drones up (chiefly for videos), Yves has an obsession: “To find the best angle and the best light and make the end result better than real, but without seeming unreal either.” His main aim is to make people dreams, and where better to do that than in Verbier, in a little country where “sublime light reshapes the mountains every season and keeps drawing you back there”? The images below only serve to prove him right.