To celebrate summer, in the course of the following months I will be collaborating with various photographers and photography collectors to bring you exclusive stories from behind the lens. Whether travel photography or pictures from the movie sets, One Day That Summer is an invitation to discovery, to open your mind and eyes, to live life like you stole it.
Sometimes, or most times, I think you should accept that you love a piece of art without having to explain why. But many times, just like in the case of the movies I love and write about, I try to give a reasoning. In our world today, when we can so easily “like” tens and hundreds of images every day, I think it’s shallow to just say you “like” something, especially when that something is such an elaborate creative process, often with incredible stories behind, as in the case of a film or a photograph. It’s also a sign of respect towards an artist’s work to try to be a little more accurate. I am bringing this up because when I first saw, and every time since then, Delphine Jouandeau’s photograph above, I thought that this was the kind of photo that didn’t need any words. I could frame it, hang it on a wall, know this is art and would be perfectly comfortable to just say that I love it… but, at the same time, I wouldn’t. Because it is not every day that I come across a picture that leaves me the impression of a sculpture in sand, inspiring a strong sense of witnessing, “seeing” the passing of time. And when Delphine told me the story behind it, I could understand why.
I discovered Delphine Jouandeau’s photography when I came across RingTheBelle some time ago – she makes a great team with Florence Donné – and was happy to find out that her incredible body of work includes landscape and portraiture (two mediums I am particularly fond of), among others. In our interview, Delphine goes behind the scenes of the photo that I love, talks about the creative power of Paris and opens up about her work, for which I am particularly grateful to her.
“To me, photography is like meditation.
It’s like a dance with a partner, a connection
between two souls. This is pure love.
You share something big with your subject
and the space around. Even while shooting a landscape,
you just forget about yourself,
let it go and be part of life.”
What’s the story behind this photo?
That would be the story of a friendship. I was in vacation in Hossegor, France, with my best friend, Lola, in 2005. At this time, I used to shoot her a lot. I’ve learnt what photography means to me thanks to her. She was patient enough to let me improve my skills. Also, that was the time I really discovered how important was the connection between the artist and the model and the space around them (the room in between them and around).
We had spent the day upon the dunes of Hossegor, all by ourselves, lying on the sand… doing nothing but being… The purpose of the journey was to shoot some portraits of Lola, but when the inspiration popped, we changed our plans to take some pictures of Lola walking on the dunes. After a little while, Lola sat down on the edge of the dune and started to slip off the dune. I didn’t think too much about it when I took the photo, but now we have this nice testimony of the passage of my friend on the dune. It’s quite symbolic to me. It’s like a body print of my friend on the space.
Do you always carry a camera with you?
It depends of my mood, honestly. Most of the time I carry a camera cause that’s what I do for a living. But I appreciate a nice walk in Paris or in the countryside without necessarily seeking to get back with a good picture. I like to get inspired by life without a hidden agenda.
What led you to photography?
I’ve always loved images. I’ve started studying cinema without knowing precisely what I wanted to do. Writing stories… being a cameraman… a director… I didn’t have a clue. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to express myself… but I didn’t know by which means. And then, by chance, someday a student from my school asked me to take some pictures for a movie he was creating. The sensation I got from that experience was very strong. So, I guess Photography found me at that point. One year after that experience, I was studying Photography. And I have never stopped since then.
Take or make a photograph? Do you wait for a good photo? Are there times when you simply witness the moment without taking/making any picture?
There’s a fine line between taking and making… Before a shooting, you can work on what you would like to do… what kind of ambiance you would like to create… but at the end of the day, you must deal with what really happens during the shooting. The encounter between me and the subject, or between me and the model is quite unpredictable. When I do portraits or nudes, I like to let my model free to live the way they feel at that moment. It brings a lot of uncertainty… but it allows the model to remain genuine and I guess this is what I like the most. I don’t really expect the model to behave in a certain way… I’ll be there whatever happens, and I’ll catch whatever makes sense to me. There’s always something happening – even when nothing is planned. Especially when nothing was planned.
In other words, you try to start a photo shoot without any preconceived idea or plan. Do you try to get to know someone a little before you do a portrait or a nude? What is the most challenging thing about photographing a nude?
Usually, I take pictures of friends or people I met within my network of friends, so we spend time before the shooting while we talk about ourselves, our lives, etc. Sometimes I meet someone for a shooting and we spend 2 hours talking vs. 20 min taking pictures! To me, the most important thing is to tell a story – through a personality, a gaze, a mindset – that genuinely talks about life and that I can share with people though my pictures. That’s why I like nude… I can work on the body and it won’t lie – on the contrary, outfits carry too much information.
What’s important about nudes is to give the model a lot of freedom, they must be very comfortable and behave without any constraints or fear. Freedom is the key. Because what I’m looking for is not replicable… you cannot make it up either – it’s just a moment of pure sincerity that fades away in an instant. After years working on nudes, I realized that the body is not the subject of the photos… The body is just an echo of what’s happening inside. You’ve got to follow the echo!
What is the most fundamental ingredient in your pictures? How close do you have to get, physically, emotionally, mentally, in order to get a good shot? What do you aim to communicate through your photographic stories?
The light and the relation with my model are fundamental ingredients.
To me, photography is like meditation. You get in a new world and you don’t really know what’s going on there, but when the link is created, it’s like you’ve touched something, and you cannot really explain what you do or what you see. But you know it’s there. It’s like a dance with a partner, a connection between two souls. This is pure love. You share something big with your subject and the space around. Even while shooting a landscape, you just forget about yourself, let it go and be part of life. I guess that’s what I’m seeking, this intimate communion with my subject. What I try to communicate is this inner life movement… the feeling of existence… Portraits and landscapes are means to share this feeling.
Do you only photograph people you are interested in? Does their profession, or what they stand for matter? Because your photos go beyond physical beauty.
Yes, when it comes to my personal work, I only photograph people I’m interested in.
I’m not interested in perfection though. It’s not about pure physical beauty – it’s all about truth – which is the ultimate beauty, because it’s organic, it’s universal and it’s genuine. That’s why it is important to me to know my models. Cause that’s the only way you can overcome the appearances and dig into the deeper personality and beauty of your model. When you share enough time with someone you care, you start to get a sense of their inner truth. I guess what I’m trying to do with my work is to show and share this sense, because it leads to the inner truth of my models.
You live in Paris. What is the best part about living in Paris and which you would miss if you lived anywhere else in the world?
What I like the most in Paris is probably the access to culture. It is very easy to enter a museum and get inspiration from art. But art is everywhere. Simply by walking along the streets, you’ll find pieces of art from Le Corbusier, Guimard, Buren, Rodin, etc. Besides art, if I had to leave I think I’d miss my friends and my taichi ’s master.
How does Paris influence you creatively?
Living in Paris is inspiring. Knowing that so many artists from all over the world came over here to live their art in this city is a big deal. It’s like a cycle… Every artist, writer, musician must come to Paris at least for a while to get inspired and to inspire the world in return. It’s hard to describe. I guess the Parisian lifestyle is kind of unique as well. People like to meet up after work to get wine and cigarettes at the terraces… A decent amount of time is allocated to talk and share precious time. It has this unique “art de vivre” that I enjoy. It’s a cool city to live in.
What is the most rewarding thing about your being a photographer?
Being free and being allowed to share with the world my views about life.
Your work includes artists’ portraits, kids’ fashion, lifestyle photography. Do you approach differently the various mediums you photograph?
I’d say it’s always kind of the same process to me. I like this encounter with people. I like to discover what they have to tell – with or without words. Although when it comes to kids’ fashion, I’m no longer alone, so that’s slightly different. I work with a staff of stylist, makeup artist, hair stylist, and the kids… So, it’s more like a teamwork… everyone comes up with their own ideas. It is pleasant to get others’ insights. Also, kids are really spontaneous and genuine, so they often help me out in the process. Also, I like to have Florence Donné beside me during the lifestyle shootings for RingTheBelle. She’s definitely adding her own touch to the process.
What is your favourite moment of the day for shooting? Do you swear by the “golden hour”?
Best moment is probably when I feel what I’m doing (she winks). I don’t really swear by the “golden hour” – I really let it go and see what happens. When it makes sense, somehow, this is my favorite moment of the day…
If you could be anywhere in the world right now (old or new location), preparing to take/make a photo, where would you want to be?
In the Lot, an area in Southern France.
For more photographer interviews and stories, click here: One Day That Summer