Pierre Carreau did what many people only talk about with bittersweet longing: He quit his job and moved to the Caribbean. He said that after years in France working as a commercial engineer, he decided to become a professional photographer and moved with his family to Saint Barthelemy, an island playground of the rich and famous, popularized by the Rockefellers in the 1960s. Greta Garbo and more recently Billy Joel and Beyonce have frolicked on its shores.
Carreau opened a photography business there and began to explore a lifelong fascination with water and waves. That eventually turned into “Aquaviva,” a high-speed photographic exploration of wave shapes. The viewer usually sees each photo as a slice of time. Somehow, Carreau’s waves appear to have been frozen into icy shelves mid-drip. Each is stopped when optimally swollen with kinetic energy, ready to crash but never able to.
Carreau, 41, is unsure of what meaning will emerge from the series when it’s finished, but he says he feels compelled to make the photos. He answered questions about his project via e-mail. His answers have been edited for clarity.
Q: How did you come up with this project?
PC: After more than 10 years of commercial photography, I really wanted to find a project to express myself as an artist, something more personal based on sharing beauty and good vibes. I was a little bit disappointed when I observed that contemporary art is mostly based on sadness and resignation.
How are the photographs made?
I don’t want to explain the technical process of my photographs. If a magician tells you his secrets, there will be no more magic!
What draws you to water?
I consider every place where you find water a little paradise, whether it’s an ocean, a river or a lake. . . . It’s a mysterious world of contrast — simple and complex at the same time. It has infinite possibilities.
Why did you decide to move to Saint Barthelemy?
Life is so good on this piece of paradise that we don’t know if we will be able to move someday! On such a small island, everybody knows everybody. It can be both good and bad; you just have to live with it. Most of us are conscious that if you want to be happy on a small island, you have to leave it and travel as much as you can! Everyday life is paradise, but if you stay for too long it can be stifling.
What are your upcoming projects?
I am thinking about new photographic projects in the future. They will all relate to water. But first, I really want to go deeper into “Aquaviva.”