Celine Dion's private life shown in new book

Celine Dion and her husband Rene Angelil are shown in an undated image from the book "Celine: Beyond the Image" by photograhper Laurent Cayla. Photographer Laurent Cayla was welcomed into the inner circle of Celine Dion and her husband Rene Angelil and took hundreds of behind-the-scenes photos of the pop star and her family. Cayla shares the intimate moments in "Celine: Beyond the Image," along with his own story: Dion helped him turn his life around after numerous drug relapses, overdoses and stints in rehab. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Laurent Cayla

TORONTO - Celine Dion and Rene Angelil's one-time personal photographer has released a book containing more than 600 candid shots of the celebrity couple, whom he credits with helping him kick a drug addiction.

While "Celine: Beyond the Image" is chock-full of intimate shots of the Quebec diva and her family, it also details Laurent Cayla's personal story.

The Montrealer worked for Dion and Angelil from 1997 to 2006, snapping intimate shots of the pair during trips, performances and family events.

It was at a Christmas party, Cayla recalled, when Dion finally confronted him about his substance abuse.

The photographer says Dion touched the cross he always wore around his neck and told him: "I know that you'll pull out of this."

While Cayla had been in and out of rehab, he said the diva's words had an impact.

"(I felt) something very strong, that I'm worth something, you know, and from there the next day I went in therapy and I started rehab and after a year I gave them the idea of doing the book and she let me go with all the pictures I wanted."

He sifted through some 25,000 photos to come up with more than 600 for the book, released in English this week from ECW Press. Most of the photos have never been published and were not retouched.

Journalist Diane Massicotte spent 30 hours interviewing Cayla for the text, which intertwines his story with that of Dion's.

Cayla says half of the book's profits will go to the Celine Dion Foundation to help others with addictions.

Telling his story "was hard, but it's a release too," said Cayla, 52.

"This book exists today so that a story of suffering and endurance can be told. Without this story, and Celine and Rene's support, I sincerely believe that I would not be alive," Cayla writes in the book's preface.

Dion and Angelil wrote in the foreword: "When Laurent told us about his idea for a photo book, we saw an opportunity to turn a difficult situation into a message of hope that might help someone, somewhere, who just needs somebody to believe in them again."

Originally a golf photographer, Cayla first met Angelil on the greens and was later invited to shoot the couple during a visit 1997 with Muhammad Ali.

As a fan of Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones, Cayla said he was more excited to be introduced to the boxing legend than to Dion.

"When I met her the first time she was kind of tired, skinny a bit ... but she had just finished (a) tour."

Angelil continued to request work from Cayla and the photographer eventually saw Dion in the recording studio and in concert.

"The first time I saw her on the scene, I say 'I was wrong' — all her soul, all her power, her feelings. She really feels her music. I was really impressed."

Cayla said he loved photographing Dion in the fraction of a second before a song ends.

"I like the release at the end of a song, all the feeling that she gives at the end of a song. ... She give all she had to give and it's done."

Some of his favourite photos are of Dion with hockey legend Maurice Richard, of her golfing and of the family having picnics or romping in the snow.

Another picture he likes is of Dion on her "Let's Talk About Love" tour, mostly in silhouette standing under falling snowflakes.

"When I did the click I really feel in my bone 'I've got it, you know.' Her little finger, her head up, her form, the snow — I really feel that one."

He had fun juxtaposing photos of the couple's baby son Rene-Charles sitting inside a font at his baptism and a week later sitting inside the Stanley Cup, which Colorado Avalanche had just won. Team president Pierre Lacroix had promised his friend Angelil he would show him the cup.

There are photos, such as the one on the cover, that are overexposed or in soft focus, Cayla acknowledged.

"It's not technically the perfect picture all the time. It's the emotion I want to show ... the feeling, the story, break down the barrier."

Cayla is still doing photography and says he has now been drug free for 5 1/2 years. He shares his experiences with young people and tries to give them hope.

Says the photographer: "It's really my new journey of life."