This week I talked to Beijing-based photographer Juliette Song (@jscameye) for the POSITIVES 'N NEGATIVES photo series. She shared two photos with me: the one towards which she feels the most positive and the one by which she was most disappointed.
Camera: Olympus mju II // Lens: 35mm 1:2.8 // Film Stock: Fujicolor c200
How did this photo come to be?
“This photo is one of my best not only because of how it turned out, but also the process of taking it (though I love the colors and everything in this shot; I was screaming when I got it scanned on my computer). It was taken in a small town located at the west of Paris, which is called Houdan.
One time, before this, I saw a creamy white colored vintage car parked in front of a pharmacy in town. I found that car so pretty and I regretted not snapping a photo. A few months later my boyfriend was driving in that same town again, and I saw THIS car coming! So I took my camera out real quick and snapped a photo through the back window of the car. I had no idea it would be this pretty but all I was thinking was that I can’t miss it again.
I don’t know if it’s the same one as I saw last time, but what I do know is that this is the most beautiful car I’ve ever seen.”
I noticed that this photo-- like so many others that you've shared-- has such a dream-like quality to it... How do you achieve that effect?
“Thank you for describing it as having a dream-like quality! I'm so flattered! I don’t normally edit my film shots because I want them to be as raw as possible. What I do is simply document the moments and things that touch me. I think the MOMENT is the key. For example, how the lighting is, how the place itself looks, and things that happen at that time.
"Dreamy" is the word I usually use to describe a photo that triggers me. I guess by seeing as well as learning from them, it gradually changes my taste when it comes to adjusting the scan settings by myself.”
From following your work for a while I know that you recently moved back home... Do you feel like your environment changes your work?
“Definitely! To be honest, I’ve always found the place where I grew up "ugly". However, by doing film photography, I started to see things differently and tried to find beauty in this “dull” place. In this case, I played with light and small things more after I got back home. I also document my life at uni a bit more-- it's people that make the photos alive! So yeah, it’s definitely positive since I have more perspectives to shoot!”
Where were you when you took this photo? And what was going on?
“I was in an art museum that is made up of several artists' studios in Paris (unfortunately I forgot the name). I was wandering around on the street and saw their poster so I went in. The photo was taken in one of the art studios. It was inside the attic and the instant I saw that corner I wished that I had one! So I clicked the shutter button-- I have no idea why it was out of focus, luckily I've got a digital copy taken by my phone!
I just realized it often happens that you find out your most anticipated photos have turned out worse than expected, and thinking about one moment makes me think about many more. But it’s true that people always share their “best” photos and leave the bad ones behind. Right now I feel that I have so much more to say when talking about one of my “worst” photos than one of my best…
I was so obsessed with that view when I saw it, and I was like ‘oh this is gonna look so good on film’-- but I was using a point & shoot camera and I have no idea why it was out of focus at that moment... point & shoot cameras are not completely reliable after all.”
Do you have any advice for how to avoid this?
“Accident happens, and maybe when there’s a view that you enjoy a lot, take two photos! They can’t all be bad! And if they are, it’s still a unique memory of that moment.
And there's another mistake that I often tend to make: I trust that my hands will stabilize the camera in low light conditions too much, so I have a few blurry photos due to that as well. I've been making progress on that recently though!”
Is there anything you find redeeming about this photograph?
“I was so disappointed seeing one of my “imagine-to-be-good-looking” photos turned out to be one of the worst. But all I can tell myself to cheer me up is that this is the view I see after taking my glasses off. I was lucky that I remembered to take a photo with my phone, that’s such an adorable corner in an attic.”
Do you have any advice for beginner photographers? / What's one thing you wish you'd been told when you were starting out?
“What I find the most important in photography is that you need to set a limit for yourself.
Doing film photography is what works for me. Before I started with film, I shot digital for a while but I hardly ever thought about what I was shooting. I just shot whatever I wanted to and I ended up having way too many photos! After having set that limit, I have started to think twice before I press the shutter, and that works for getting better results. It also helps me overcome my laziness in re-organizing my photos!
Oh-- and if you are starting out, please never overestimate how steady your hands can hold your camera...”
To see more of Juliette’s work, check her out on instagram @jscameye
Author: Dana Gingras