William Debois - Artist in Residence
William Debois is a French/Australian photographer who has been based in Gladstone since 2013, on the lands of the Bailai, Gurang, Gooreng Gooreng and Taribelang Bunda peoples. Debois’ photographic career spans more than twenty-five years and four different countries. He splits his time between running a commercial photography business in Gladstone and producing art projects. This allows Debois to explore the imposing nature of Central Queensland’s industrial heart as well as documenting the subtleties of human life in this part of the world.
Debois considers himself primarily as a portrait photographer, although his portraits do not always feature people. He trained in France, England and Germany, when film photography was the only choice, and feels as confident with traditional photographic techniques as with digital technologies. Despite earning a living from taking photographs since leaving high school, Debois has only started to explore the non-commercial potential of his art since 2017, with a book and exhibition project, The Sea I Swim In.
Since then, Debois’ work has evolved to focus on gathering stories and testimonies almost as much as creating photographs. His most recent project, Sacrifice, is typical of this evolution. The artworks created for the project, which is touring in Queensland throughout 2022 and 2023, are “collaborations”, where the subjects share personal stories of sacrifice, presented alongside their portrait. This orientation towards storytelling has led Debois to absorb media other than photography into his art, such as videography, graphic art and even experimentation with artificial intelligence.
Read Debois' written reflection(PDF, 85KB) on his residency and listen to his podcast episode on Behind The Art, RMOA's podcast channel.
Image: William Debois, Sacrifice Portrait Project (detail), 2021, digital photographs. Courtesy the artist.