826NYC Post
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826NYC Post

Interview with Julien Capmeil: A Professional Photographer

By Hudson Berry

Q. When going through the process of getting this to be your job, was there a point where you decided this is what you want to do? Or was it slowly integrated into your life?

A. Good question! I… uh, gave it a try. I thought I was interested in photography, I ended up doing it for free in Australia, and I fell in love with it because I had to learn the ropes. You work on the lights, you work with equipment. It was very different when I started to work with equipment, digital didn’t exist, you’d get pieces of film, you’d have to crank into the camera and take them to the lab, and get prints made. I did that for six months and became a pretty good assistant, so I decided to move to France. I actually wanted to move to NY, but I wasn’t American, so I had a French passport and I was pretty sure that it was what I wanted to do.

Q. When you started out in Australia, were you already prepared for photography? Or were you just new to it entirely?

A. I was pretty new, I dabbled in it a little, and I would take photos on my own. I LOVED photos. But I didn’t understand how to take photos that I liked. I got a little experience from my family. And then I just — dove into it!

Q. When you were starting out, what were the skills required?

A. Great question. There’s kind of… a lot of depth, it’s kind of a one-man band. You know in a movie, you have a director, director of photography, and all his assistants, and then ALL these other people on set. Those people are kind of a photographer all in one. Sometimes you don’t have assistants. On a film job there is a producer who says things like, “The sun rises at 5am,” and so we have to get the sets and the models all there by 5am. But with my job, it’s very much a one-man band. So it depends on how you wanna do it, the person really. Depending on the genre, there’s all kinds of photography, still life, and fashion, and they bring all kinds of different skill sets.

Q. When you go on these crazy trips to crazy places, what is the most difficult part of it all?

A. Generally a lot of stuff is planned beforehand, because you decide to go for a certain amount of time, like on my next shoot I have to go to four different islands and find a place to stay, and all that’s very complicated. Like you said, like working out when the sun’s gonna rise, so if the sun rises over here, I don’t wanna stay here, like the weather and the wind, so all that I think is the hardest part. So there’s the best case scenario which is your plan, but after a lot of experience, you learn to do pivots in case things don’t go your way.

Q. Is jet lag a problem when traveling?

A. So we did a trip to Kenya, and the flight was 16 hours, and you are SO bamboozled. But I can’t spend five days in bed sleeping, when you go for a safari at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning. The best way to do it is what they call “to not do jet lag” — I don’t do jet lag *laugh*.

Q. What is your typical planned schedule even if you pivot?

A. So if I’m on location, I’ll wake up before dawn, I’ll have charged my cameras over night, I’ll have formatted all the cards, and downloaded all the photos from the previous day. Generally get ready, plan the day, look at where my locations are, figure my timings, and figure out how long it takes to get a location, because sometimes you’re an hour away or half an hour away. Then we’ll just kind of go, so you make sure you have all the styles, the props, make sure the model knows what time to wake up, and then you kinda just hit the ground running.

Q. How much of your time (after you’re done) is just planning out which pictures you are going to take?

A. Really good question. It depends how much you shoot. When we were just on this job in Mexico, we did a cover shoot and I shot a hundred gigs, which is 3,000 photos of this girl just for one photo. So we did 25 setups with the model, and then they’re going to pick one setup, and then pick one frame. So you know, you go through it, so you don’t pick the one where she’s looking the wrong way, or the dress is wrong, or there’s light or there’s a tree in the way. People do it very quickly, but I kind of enjoy doing it, so I’ll generally come back and give the clients the photos in about a week.

Q. So I took maybe a month of photography class by accident from my school, so I learned rules of threes and rules of thirds, and I wanted to ask if you generally stick to those rules?

A. I think what ends up happening is you kind of train your eye a little bit. And I think you probably started to find this too, when you start to focus on the rule of thirds, you realize it’s just kind of pleasing, right, like the golden rule. You kind of feel like it looks good whenever you put somebody in that frame, and then it’s nice to break the rules also, right?

A great thing to do is to not just stand where you are, and zoom, but actually step closer and change your crop — big crops and small crops and kind of play with stuff, play with angles. I find that my photos are a little more classic. The way I crop things, and the way I angle things, but some people like to go really wide. It kind of stretches people out, and some people love that style.

Q. What is your favorite camera that you have, or have had?

A. There is a really beautiful camera that I have. I’ve sold most of them because they’re film. You’ve seen a roll of film before, right? So that’s in a little canister that’s called I guess small format, and then they also make medium format. I can show you the camera if you want!

Okay let me just pull it out. So when you have those little canisters of film, they’re about this tall and this big. But when you open up this guy it’s probably about 4–5 times as big. Did you learn depth of field? So when the background is very out of focus but the person is really in focus that shallow depth. And that’s a great skill to have.

Q. What are typically the types of places you like to shoot?

A. I kinda like a great beach location. It’s very, y’know, crisp sun, blue sky, green water, and that kind of stuff. But if not, I’ve done all kinds of jobs like I did in a snowstorm! So it depends on the assignment.

Q. And finally what is your favorite type of pizza and have you tried taco pizza?

A. Have not had taco pizza but I think I might have to. My favorite slice of pizza is gonna have to beeee: Tony Clifton.

Q. Have you ever been to Front Street, the place that sells taco pizza?

A. Where is it?

Q. In Dumbo on Front Street.

A. So what’s on a taco pizza?

Q: Basically you have all the ingredients of taco, sour cream, lettuce beef, cheese…

A. Wow, that’s kind of next level! I might just have to try it!

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