This week, the Phottix Journal’s Photog Friday spends a few minutes with New York-based photographer Jérôme Aoustin. From an artistic family, Jérôme picked up a camera in 2002 and hasn’t looked back. What does he shoot? Where will his craft be five years from now? Read on…
Name: Jérôme Aoustin
Country of residence: USA
I was born and raised in France amongst a very artistic family, exposed to sculpting, painting and music from a very young age. Thanks to my parents, I traveled intensely, developing an acute curiosity for new cultures and horizons. Academically, I was a good student, which paved my way to the Grandes écoles. In 2002, I received my engineering degree. This is also the year that I met my wife. As she is American, I moved there and we have been living in the New York area ever since, now with our baby daughter.
How did you first get interested in photography?
I’ve had many influences over the years, each of them leading to my growing interest in photography. It would be tough to pick a single one, but I can think of a few. First, my father, whom I’ve always seen with a camera. As a child, I had one but never took that many photos mainly due to the cost of rolls and development. I picked up my first digital camera in 2001, a small Canon, and really started shooting then. In 2002, I spent five months in New York City for an engineering internship, where I had a couple of artists and choreographers as roommates. One of them, Katja, saw a real potential in my compositions and was encouraging me to take photography lessons to develop my craft. I didn’t believe in having any special talent then and didn’t take any class, but the seed was planted. I have come a long way since.
What do you like to shoot?
Above all, I love photographing nature, whether landscapes or macros. My hometown, Nantes, is a very green city so I didn’t have to go far to be surrounded by it. Add traveling to the mix and I’m in inspiration heaven. Now living in New York City, I came to really appreciate urban photography. More recently, I started shooting models to diversify myself and enjoying it a lot. I also shoot weddings and media events. As you can see, I am constantly on the hunt for new sources of inspiration to up my game.
What’s your approach to photography, your philosophy? What do you look for? How do you set-up a shot?
I see photography as a great means to express myself creatively. I believe that beauty can be found everywhere – even in trash – and do my best to show how I see it. Eventually, as the saying goes, it is in the eye of the beholder, which makes it so much more personal.
Even though we are in a digital era where shooting a thousand frames costs virtually nothing, I like to take my time before I press on the shutter button. First, I study the lighting conditions and how it falls on the subject I intend to capture. If I can afford it, I will wait until it’s just right. Then, I frame the shot, which is a very instinctive process. Last, I make sure my exposure is nailed in order to get the widest dynamic range possible in camera. I always shoot in manual mode, don’t use HDR nor bracket, an exercise that forced me to understand light better. In the beginning, I surely messed up some of my exposures, but the understanding of those failures helped me grow as a photographer.
What is the best photo you have taken? Why? Background and details, please…
The two wedding rings on the leaf. I was the second photographer at a wedding in Queens. We had the opportunity to shoot the rings prior to the ceremony, which was taking place in this lovely garden. In a split second, I envisioned this shot, asked if I could take the rings out of their case and went for it. I was and am still very proud of the result, especially given the gear I used at the time. This wasn’t taken with a macro lens but with an older, slower zoom (Canon EF 100-300mm f/5.6 L). However, thanks to its enduring quality, I was able to accomplish my vision.
What gear are you using? What else do you want to buy?
At the moment, I primarily use the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM on a Canon 5D body. All the shots on my “Project 365” have been taken with this combo so far. I also have my older Canon Rebel XT and Canon EF 100-300mm f/5.6 L, a good combo when I need the extra reach. I am frugal and only buy gear when I really need it, which keeps it in check. On top of my wish list, a set of neutral density filters, graduated and non graduated. A wide angle prime. A fast zoom. Studio equipment. The list grows just thinking about it, so I’ll just stop here.
Which area of photography would you like to explore further (macro, landscapes, portraits)?
What I really want to do is develop my own style and find my vision. Something that defines who I am and recognizable as such. I am aware that it will take time, and I strongly believe that only regular practice will eventually lead me there. As Arthur Ashe once said, “Success is a journey, not a destination”. On that journey, I want to learn how to master artificial lighting, printing, and many more areas of photography that are still rather obscure to me.
Where do you see your photography 5 years from now?
Unfortunately, I am not a psychic. Who knows, it could even be my primary source of income, I wouldn’t cast aside that possibility. Five years is a long time, many things can happen in such a window. What I am sure of, though, is that I will be a better photographer.
What the best advice you would give to fellow photographers?
Be passionate about what you do, and do it. It may not make you the next Ansel Adams, but it will make you happy. And it will show.
Where can we find your images?
If you are interested in my project 365, where I post a photo a day, I recommend you read my blog. This is also the area I update the most.