BY PENNY WEBB
Whidbey Life Magazine contributor
March 12, 2014
Louie Rochon starts—again; it’s about the light.
To say that photographer Louie Rochon has had an interesting life is an understatement. He’s been rags to riches countless times, walked across America to raise money for kids with AIDS, battled addictions and undiagnosed bi-polar disorder for much of his life and, in the last few years, cared for his aging mother.
And, throughout it all he has been a frustrated artist.
“I sucked!” he admits, describing his early attempts at watercolors. “I wanted to paint so bad! In my mind I would see all these scenes, all this color—and couldn’t get it out.”
Though he found creative solace in his marketing work for real estate clients and, later, in promotional marketing, there was always something missing.
“I don’t believe that some are born artists and others are not,” Rochon said. “I believe anybody can develop a talent.”
So, one day Rochon headed into the Langley library on a mission to develop a talent.
“I was in the art section and a book literally fell off the shelf and into my hands,” he said. The book was “The Simple Screamer: a Guide to the Art of Papier and Cloth Mâché,” written by Dan Reeder, a kindergarten teacher from Kent.
Rochon took to the medium immediately and began creating large papier mâché monsters, which he would then paint in bold colors. He began showing and selling his work and even opened a studio at Ocean Shores called The Strangest Little Art Gallery in Washington.
“I sold the hell out of them,” Rochon said. “My two-headed dragon, called Bi-Polar, sold to a shrink from Montreal for $10,000!”
But the monsters didn’t quite satisfy Rochon’s creative jones or fit his personality. “Being bi-polar is a strange mix,” Rochon said. “It would take me maybe 20 minutes to construct a monster in my head, but maybe a month to actually complete it. I’m impatient; my mind is moving really fast, and I can’t do something that long.”
He abandoned the gallery and returned to Whidbey to care for his mother and her property. His gift of a camera to his girlfriend finally led him to photography.
“We’d be out on a hike and she’d stop to take a picture,” Rochon said, “and I’m standing there, thinking ‘Let’s move!’ and then, ‘Well, I could do that!’ So I got my own camera.”
That’s when Rochon finally found his passion: macro photos of flowers.
“I finally found My Thing,” he said. “All my life I have used addictions—alcohol, food, coke, whatever—as a way to deal with my mental illness. With photography, I have finally found the creative outlet that allows me to express whatever needs to get out in a healthy way.”
Now with the help of social media like Facebook, Rochon is connecting with others who have similar stories of mental illness and addiction.
“The real gift of my photography is how I have been able to help people through my images,” he said. “I didn’t expect the hundreds of letters and emails and comments from people, expressing what the photographs mean to them, how it touches their emotions. I’m very vocal about my emotions, and about my depression and mental illness. What that does is free people to talk about their own experiences. They feel empowered to do that, without so much shame.”
So what is it about the photographs? Aside from their titles and inspiring quotes that accompany them, the images themselves are lush, tactile, and almost three-dimensional. Rochon uses light in a way that creates the illusion that his subjects are lit from within.
“There’s an energy that is present when I’m able to see what’s coming through the flower. I’m really trying to capture the flower’s essence,” he said.
Rochon works in his small studio apartment located in what can only be described as an enchanted wood.
“I’ll set up a vase with buds in front of the camera and just watch what unfolds,” he said.
Shooting at night seems to be a favorite for Rochon, both for the absence of natural light and also as a means of burning off his manic energy.
“When I’m in a manic phase I can work and work for hours,” he explained. “I have to remind myself to rest; otherwise I will push myself into a depression.
“There’s a lot of confusion about bi-polar—that the manic state is this great inspiring place to be, which can be true, but it is also synonymous with irritability, restlessness and discontent. I liken it to having drunk three pots of coffee. Or the concept of not being able to stop.”
Rochon plans to harness his current manic phase by finishing his new website, polishing up some old photos and taking lots more pictures. His fine art photography career is just getting started.
“My goal is to look at flowers like nobody has ever looked at flowers before,” Rochon said. “And then share them.”
Rochon’s photographs are featured in our Virtual Gallery show this month. To read more of his amazing backstory, check out his blog. Also, for the latest uploads of Rochon’s images, like him on Facebook at Louie Rochon Photography.
Watch for his upcoming show at the Whidbey Art Gallery in Langley, scheduled for some time after the road construction is over.
Photo at top: Rochon at his worktable, starting a new creation (Photo by Penny Webb)
Penny Webb is a writer, mother, gardener, and musician. She is currently pruning her roses and planning ahead.
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