The Essence of…

Jean Roux

Indomitable Spirit ~ Pathfinder ~ Jongleur ~ Reflective ~ Ambassador ~ Joie de Vivre

This is my first attempt at interviewing someone for the Essence portrait series.  I prefer taking the easy way out and having the subject write their answers.  In this case, Jean Roux decided it would be in our best interest if I interviewed him and wrote the article.

The first time I met him was in New York City. We were introduced by a mutual friend Colin Gladwish. Colin thought we would have fun together as we were both passionate about photography. It was an instant connection; we have been good friends since that weekend. He lives in White Rock, BC, and I live in Mississauga, Ontario.

We have visited and stayed at each other’s homes, plus shared accommodations at several conferences. We have connected on many levels.  He lives to cook, and I love to eat and cook. He is a snob when it comes to BC Wild Salmon. On one visit, he barbecued the most delicious freshly caught Salmon I’ve ever had.  

To give you an idea of what kind of host he is. He showed me the room I would sleep in on my first visit.  I slept in it for two nights, not even thinking anything about it, it wasn’t until the third night that I realized I had been sleeping in his room, and he took the couch. I was under the impression he had another room where he slept.


One time he stayed over at our place before a company conference. At that time, he was so highly thought of that he would speak on the main stage with the five hundred attendees. He ensured I would be ready with the camera for his presentation.  We also had a  frank conversation about his bout with cancer. We discussed how much of an immediate impact it made on him when the doctor told him he had cancer. “It was like a punch in the face” He described the surgery details and procedures involved.  

The company wanted him also to share his experience as he used that first-hand experience to promote important insurance to protect his clients.  Jean didn’t just go up on stage to deliver a speech from the podium; he had another idea which has become, in my mind, one of the best and most heartfelt speeches I have seen in 30 years.  He started speaking behind the podium but shortly stepped aside and promptly started to strip while speaking about his cancer experience.  He wowed the crowd. During our conversation, Jean said something truly profound, “I’m not afraid of dying; I’m afraid of dying slowly.”

He also pushed my comfort zone and took me for my motorcycle ride. Additionally, he has a lead foot when driving the car. 

Jean Roux took all the remaining pictures you will see – There was no better way to tell you about the man than to see where he has been.  We’ve gone out on photo shoots numerous times, and each time I learn something. 

I truly believe he is a master street photographer and an extraordinary landscape photographer.  You will see why I affectionately call him the cloud whisperer when you see some images.

Please note one extra material fact, this is a work in progress as I am slowly aggregating information and location on his images.  They will be filled as I get them.

As I reflect on Jean’s Journey. I will do my best to relay the essence of his stories – I know in advance that hearing Jean tell the stories FIRST HAND and in his own voice are both different and beautiful.  I am doing my best to retain his storytelling’s integrity from his perspective.  Please bear with me if I jump from him telling, to me relaying.

Could you tell me about a fork in the road? 

My father started to take trips all over, but only in Canada.  He wanted us to travel and be good ambassadors of Canada.  He would say, “How can you go anywhere without seeing your country first?”

The year I finished high school, as an 18-year-old, in 1973, I bought an open ticket to Portugal, then Spain; we hopped over Africa with some friends, and while in Morocco we went to Ceuta, Marrakesh, and  Agadir. It was an adventure. We even got stuck in no man’s land between Mauritania and Senegal because the border crossing wasn’t open on both sides simultaneously. We spent almost a week there.

I’ve had wanderlust throughout my life.  I don’t do regular tourist travel, I go to explore and see the real place. I want to spend time with the locals and eat what they eat. I want to see the country, not just the touristy areas. (Editor’s note here – we couldn’t be farther apart in this area due to my circumstances and comfort zone. I do only the tourist areas.)

Because of our differences, I will be sharing his images instead of pictures of him.  I will, of course, include a couple of my favourites of Jean.

Tell me what challenge you’ve overcome.

“There have been many, many challenges, but we manage. One memorable challenge I was jailed for a week in Columbia by corrupt airport police.  I was accused of having marijuana. Ironically the penalty was equal to all the money I had on me when I was arrested. Another twist, at the time, coming from rural Quebec, we had two names. My Catholic name was Joseph “Emile” (godfather’s name)and my legal Jean Roux. The name on the passport didn’t match my name. My parents were looking for me under one name, and the police had me under a different name.  Had we not been released, they may not have found us.

Another memory from that event comes to mind. While in jail, I had to work, and one of my jobs was to climb up a concrete cistern and lift the lid. I needed to get pails of water that I had to pour down on the guys below so they can have a shower.  I was the showerhead of sorts. “

When asked about the six words – he asked for assistance, I think more to push my comfort zone – I’m sure he would have come up with his six given the time.  I took on the task, but we discussed them, and he agreed. I added an extra twist; I wanted to include French content to honour his heritage.  The difference between me simply stating the six words and asking him to come up with them. I felt the need to explain myself:

Joie de Vivre – more than most people- brightens up any room he enters.  The energy level changes, and all of a sudden, the conversation noise level goes up two or three times what it was before he entered it.  His laughter alone is infectious. He truly lives for the moment.

Jongleur – is a medieval minstrel, entertainer and storyteller.  Jean tells us these stories with this beautiful ability to capture unique scenes of what a place is truly like.  His camera in hand is a mere tool, and he has reduced that tool to the bare minimum. He doesn’t need the myriad of extra lenses and accessories. His strength is telling stories through images. He brings these images to others who live vicariously through him. I am guilty of being a consumer of the touristy elements of other countries, so I genuinely appreciate Jean bringing those hard-to-reach places to life.

Ambassador – as explained in the story of his early travels with his father.

Reflective – we’ve had many conversations, deep ones. These haven’t been the shallow ones about sports – even though he has an inherent weakness.  He loves the Montreal Canadians, arch-rivals to my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.  Well, we can’t all be perfect.  Notice I didn’t mention who’s loving the wrong team.

Indomitable Spirit – I’ve seen him at his best and have known him at his lowest; one constant has been his Indomitable spirit.  He is one fighter who never gives up.

Pathfinder – whether it has been at IPC, his photo business or his travels around the world, he embodies opening up new paths for others to follow.  With free will, he doesn’t push someone to do anything; he’s only showing the way he has done it. I’m not afraid; I wouldn’t have driven my motorcycle south past Patagonia if I were.

One hint for life:

When I asked Jean about specific regrets, he was emphatic, “Have no regrets; understand that every decision you made was the best at the time. I could never move forward if all I did were look backwards.”

Another thought has stuck in my head since we did the interview. I quote directly here, “I’m not afraid of dying; I am afraid of dying slowly.”

In deference to Jean’s adventures and journey. His captured images truly reflect the essence of the man.  His pictures show you more than I could ever tell you.  Bravo good sir, you are a shining example of truly living to enjoy the journey.

3 Responses

  1. Jean Roux – incredible pics. Hope you are well. When are you coming to visit this way my friend?

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