Tuesday, April 21, 2009

An interview with Jules Bianchi

wedding photographer lifestyle portraits

I stumbled upon Jules Bianchi through Twitter. I checked out her site and was immediately impressed. I love her wedding pictures and it gives me inspiration to try some new techniques. Then I found out about Olive, her dog, and I knew I had to bag an interview.

So here, after ahem several weeks of waiting (Jule's really busy, I totally understand), read below for my interview with her.

Tell us a little about yourself, how you got interested in photography, what gear?

About me: I love shooting weddings because I get energy from being around people and yet, I tend to spend most of my off-days at home puttering around with my pets and my boyfriend. I have this weird life where I'll be home for weeks and sometimes not go farther than around the block for days, and then I'll be traveling and not stay in the same city for more than a few days. (like right now! Bay Area for two shoots and a workshop I gave, then St. John for a wedding)

I used to draw a lot as a kid, and I was super close to my family. I discovered photography at age 12 and was so excited about finding something that combined art with my nostalgic sensibility.

I use Canon gear!

Interesting. Everyone has a different reason why they first picked up a camera and peered through the little eyelet. How about Olive, your dog? When/how did she become a part of the family? Did she pick you or you her?
hollywood dog print book

Olive came into my life when my mother's dog had puppies nearly 11 years ago. I was actually there at her house the day Olive was born which is unusual since I live 400 miles from my mother. One month after the puppies were born, I was back at my mother’s house. This time, my boyfriend (at the time) was with me. I had always had cats and never really felt like a "dog person," but for some reason, my boyfriend decided we should keep one of the puppies. I was working in the film industry at the time, so he claimed the dog would keep him company when I was away working on a movie. On our drive up from LA, we’d been talking about how old-fashioned names were making a come-back, so when he picked up one of the puppies and said, "let’s take this one and call her Olive" I said okay. She had blue eyes and white fur on her chest at the time. I could hold her with one hand.

I had 2 cats at one time as well! They're great fun, but not as fun as a dog. (Sorry cat lovers, you know it's true.) When did you decide to make "Olive Goes to Hollywood"? How long did it take?

In 2002 someone gave me a book called "Betty & Rita Go to Paris." It is a book about two dogs and their adventures in Paris done completely in black and white and as if the dogs themselves were just tooling around discovering things. I thought it would be fun to document Olive going around Hollywood with her various friends as both a photography project and a way to represent my life. I wrote down a bunch of location ideas and even which dogs should go with her where. It wasn’t until the spring of 2008 when Ann Hamilton was in town with her dog, Bogie, that the book actually began. Ann told me to meet her and Gene Higa at Pinks just to hang out. I knew Bogie was with her, but I honestly can’t remember if I thought to start Olive Goes to Hollywood before I went to meet them or not. Either way, I had my 5D with the 24-70 on it and by the time I got there I knew I was going to do one of the chapters (finally) of Olive Goes to Hollywood.... Only six years late. In fact, that was April 16, 2008. Just over a year ago! Once I had those images, I was much more motivated to do more. And when I would post images on my blog, other people would write to me and ask if their dogs could be in the book. Once I decided to enter Olive Goes to Hollywood in the WPPI competition, I had a deadline. Originally the book had a storyline to it, but for the purposes of the album competition, I eliminated most of the text and just let the images tell the story.

I think it totally works without too much text. The sequence of pictures themselves already tell a great story, and leaving it to the reader's imagination to fill in the blanks is really the way to go. Now, pets aren't always easy to capture. Was there a moment while creating the book where you're like, "Arg....I give up! I'm going to photograph a blade of grass instead!"

NEVER! Olive is really fun and although I didn’t always get what I wanted, I always ended up getting something I loved. Seriously, every chapter I shot was so much fun!

That's great to hear. My attention span and patience is a little less than yours. Okay, switching back to wedding shoots: Obviously, your pictures (especially weddings) are spectacular and quite fresh. Is there any one tip that you can share that will make others go, "So THAT'S how she does it!"

Practice practice practice. Try to make the camera an extension of your arm so that when the shot presents itself to you, you are always ready (and have probably learned how to anticipate the moment at that point!)

I have to concur. Practice long enough, and one develops an intuition to when the next "moment" will occur. Having said that, sometimes moments have to be - well manufactured - to an extent of course. How long do you spend on average to post-process one picture? Are you in the camp of shoot first, edit later, or plan carefully and click once?

It totally depends on the shoot. With Olive Goes to Hollywood, we went into each shoot with ideas and open minds. Most times I would shoot the story I was hoping to get, but then I would go home and look at the images and another story would emerge. I DO plan as much as I possibly can with weddings, family shoots, pet shoots, whatever... But I also recognize that once my players are in place I need to be ready for spontaneous moments. As for post-processing.... I’m really big in getting right in camera as much as possible. Having said that, I have created custom presets (yes, they are for sale – check the store at http://www.julescafe.com) that I love applying to my RAW files. Unless there are skin issues with brides, I rarely go into jpegs and do much else to them.

Ah, that's where we differ. I still don't shot in raw as I feel that I don't need the extra flexibility that it provides. However, I'm starting to have situations where I wish I had most processing control, so definitely something I'm going to try this year.

Finally, advertise your website/services at will.

Oh my gosh.... I am SOOOO sorry that this interview took so long. This has been a crazy month for me – I’m flying to LA tomorrow and then St. John the day after that and I’ve been up in the Bay Area shooting and teaching a workshop.....

Stuff to share:



Oh yes, and she included 1 example of her work. I love how well lit everyone is, and just how casual and relaxed her subjects are. It's not always easy to get both, and have the bride/groom sharing a private moment together too? Priceless.

portraits group wedding picture

Thanks Jules for taking the time out to communicate with me and share a little of yourself with my readers. Give Olive a good old tummy rub.


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