Story 143: Jade Joannés

What is your backstory?

I was born in 1994 in Epinay-Sur-Seine, in the suburbs of Paris, in France. I grew up in a modest family, between the countryside and the city. My relationship with photography started very early in 2008, I was about 13 years old, maybe even before. My father and my grandfather loved this medium. I discovered it by borrowing my father's Nikon Coolpix from the 2000s, and my grandfather gave me one of his 35mm film cameras. Naturally, I started documenting what was around me and my life. I have two sisters and I used to take pictures of them. I also did a lot of self-portraits, I had mental projections of staged photographs that I would perform with my own body or my sisters' bodies because it was a simple way for me to make these projections. All these photographs were taken in my parents' house. I was self-taught and this practice, a bit naive and adolescent of photography, lasted for a while.

I studied at the National School of Arts in Paris Cergy, where several experiences during my studies completely changed my way of doing photography. I first worked in a penitentiary center, then I went to live alone in Japan for several months in 2018 where I took a lot of street photographs. While making them I understood that the world was not limited to my own personal space.

When I came back to France, I realised that the more I grew up, the more my parents house became too small for my practice. And that's where documentary photography became a very important part of my practice, it brought together many of the photographic genres that I appreciate : portraiture, landscape, street photography, and more conceptual ideas. I no longer felt frustrated by limitations, the possibilities of photographing became endless. During all these years, my practice of photography has evolved a lot, but I have always been obsessed with the notion of portraiture. The idea of making a portrait of something. It can be my friends, my family, strangers, places, spaces, traces, environments. In each of my projects I try to draw the portrait of an idea, and this by questioning the issues of the medium of photography, and the relationship between photographer and subject.

I graduated from ENSAPC in 2019. Today, I live between Paris and Lille. I currently work in a museum, while maintaining my photography practice.

What camera gear/editing setup do you use?

I usually use medium format, but it all depends on the project I'm doing. At the moment I alternate between the Mamiya RB 67 and the Pentax 6x7. I really like this format which has good proportions in terms of image composition. I mainly use Kodak Portra and Ilford Hp5 and I develop my own negatives, whether for color or black and white. I first scan my films at home with an epson V800 then I do my final scans with a Hasselblad Flextight scanner, which is in my old school. I edit my photos in Photoshop and Lightroom. Then I make my own prints and editions with an Epson printer. I even make my own bookbindings, I love bookbinding. I like all these steps of work, each step can be decisive in the construction of a work or a series of photographs.

How do you achieve the look of your photographs and could you take us through the process?

As for the process, it differs depending on the project. For Portrait Of A Tree Structure I first started by photographing my family and friends, asking them how they wanted to be photographed: the place, the frame, the distance from me, the pose, etc. Gradually I asked to photograph the people close to them, slowly accumulating and collecting an archive of portraits that would eventually form a genealogy — a tree of family, friendship and human relationships.

For A Strange Attraction, the process was very different. I was walking around, finding something and photographing it, whether it was outdoors or indoors. Sometimes I would also recreate what I had seen, as in the case of the dictionary photograph. I could also be looking for something specific and find it in reality, but that was rare. In this series I was always looking for something that evoked the imagination, collective, popular or personal, and which ultimately referred to more social, political or environmental issues. But in general, I would say that I photograph very instinctively. Contrary to my previous practice, I now let myself be carried away by what others and the world have to offer me. I no longer try to make mental projections. I want to let myself be surprised by the things that surround me and that lead me to question the nature of the world.

Could you tell us the backstory of some of your photographs?

Many of my photographs have anecdotes and backstories. For example, for the series Portrait Of A Tree Structure I wanted to take a photograph of my grandmother, I told her about the project but she refused, she doesn't like it. Then she started to rummage through her things and she took out a fan that I had given her. She said to me: “I only accept to be photographed if I wear the fan on my face”. I was very happy because she had accepted and we had finally found a compromise. On top of that, she wanted me to get as far away from her as possible during the photo. I think this photograph is very representative of the series, because it also talks about consent, respect for others in the photographic act and the power relationship between photographer and subject. Letting others determine how they want to be photographed.

For A Strange Attraction, the most representative of the series is the "ghost". It was the first photo I took and it set the path for the series. I was in Paris with a friend, we were walking around and I came across this. It intrigued me, right away, the shape reminded me of a ghost and that runs through our collective imagination. Later, I learned that this sheet was actually used to protect the statues during the winter, so that there would be no damage to the stone.

What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

I still consider myself to be an aspiring photographer. I feel like I'm constantly evolving. I'm always learning because I tell myself I can always do better, I always need more. But my advice would be to never give up, always work and above all to educate yourself. Also, I really appreciate the work of photographers who are not linear, whether it is in aesthetics, in form or in the subject. I always find this type of work very interesting because it is rich and diversified. Don't fit into one style and don't lock yourself into it. Experiment, get out of your comfort zone and understand your mistakes.


Jade Joannés


Story 144: Yana Kononova


Story 142: Kenneth Jimenez