The project

In May 2020, I was asked to do an Instagram takeover of @galeriepfoac. As part of that process I went looking for making-of images from some older projects. I came across sets of images produced in May 2009 that I had long forgotten about. One set was a version of The Raft of the Medusa (1818–19) strewn with skateboards and a bicycle with the models wearing hoodies, baggy pants, baseball caps and sunglasses. The idea here was easy to work out, this was The Raft of the Medusa with contemporary street clothes –a colourful mix of young people from 2009 inhabiting the historical space of Gericault’s seminal work. The other images were harder to decode. In this group, the models are wearing Tyvek protective suits, blue nitrile gloves and white masks with yellow elastics. I finally remembered having shot the project in 100 Mile House, a town in northern British Columbia, as a response to the H1N1 pandemic. When I arrived in 100 Mile House in late April 2009, H1N1 was on the minds of Canadians so we decided to shoot a version of The Raft of the Medusa with everyone dressed in personal protective equipment (PPE). By the time I had returned to Montreal and sorted through the images, the pandemic had subsided and the images were archived.

Looking at these images in 2020, in the middle of a global pandemic, creates an uncanny feeling. Gericault’s raft, a rudderless vessel cut loose by those in charge and left to drift aimlessly, is once again a potent symbol of inept leadership and the human toll it takes.