Those of you who blog and/or write may have had the following experience:
You have many things in mind about which you would like to write, some of which you have been intending to write for a long while, and that first sentence is one which causes you to get hung up because it is just so damn hard to find the right (write?) way to begin.
I got that out of the way. Nothing like just jumping in, is there? Beginning this post after not having written for this blog for a while has been causing me to stall, choking like a tiny Cessna in mid-air, losing altitude (or in this case, my writing wings). But I can feel the sputters of the engine as it ignites, comes to full power, and once more, I’m flying.
Welcome back, readers.
What I have been intending to write about since around the end of March has been a post about photographer Chloe Lodge, whom I have had the great pleasure of getting to know as she has been studying for her Masters in Photography at the Spéos Photographic Institute here in Paris, France.
To learn more about this talented photographer, please keep reading!
How Did I Meet Chloe?
I was introduced to Chloe by MJ of An American Mom in Paris. Chloe contacted MJ and made her the subject of a photographic project entitled “Virtually Connected,” a photo-documentary featuring MJ as an expatriate mother living in Paris. MJ said that Chloe was looking for other expatriate women to interview and photograph for what turned into a portfolio project and book called “Modern Women at Home in a Foreign Land.”
Chloe contacted me by email in mid-March 2011, sent a comprehensive questionnaire for me to respond to, and then we set up an appointment for her to come and meet and photograph me. She asked me to think of a place where I felt most at “home away from home” here in Paris and said that we would try to photograph me in that place.
The day Chloe arrived was cold and rainy, and while I had thought we might go to the Buttes Chaumont Park, after a cup of warming tea and some wonderful conversation, staying at my home seemed to be the best place to do the portrait.
While Chloe and I really connected with one another, and the photos she took of me in my home were really beautiful, neither of us was completely on our game that day — we’d both really shared from the heart when talking, and both of us carry a bit of heaviness within. Maybe the gray day also dampened the two of us: Chloe later felt that the photos were kind of “flat” and I told her that I had been feeling really “flat” inside for the past couple of weeks as well. We rescheduled for another photo shoot about a month later when spring finally decided to arrive in Paris, and this was the result:
She got it this time — she captured how I have come to appreciate Paris, and how the beginning of that was, in so many ways, because of this view in this park (the same view I use for this blog background).
Even before meeting up for this second photo shoot, however, I was really intrigued by our conversation and by Chloe’s story of how she came to professional photography and to Paris. After reading and answering the comprehensive questions she’d asked me, I realized I wanted to turn the tables on her and interview her as well. And that is just what I did.
Chloe and I did the interview both via email and in person over lunch at a nice “bobo” café on the rue des Pyrénées in the 20th arrondissement called “Aux Ours.” Chloe kindly submitted her answers in her own words and made posting this interview about her incredibly easy for me!
KARIN: I got to know you through blogger, MJ of An American Mom in Paris. You found her blog doing a search on expat women in Paris and asked her to be an integral part of your photography project. MJ and I have come to Paris for different reasons: she though her husband’s job and I because of my fiancé, who is American but has lived in Paris for over 20 years.
What about you? Where are you originally from? What has brought you to the City of Light? How long do you plan to be here?
CHLOE: I’m originally from the South of England. Two years ago I started looking for photography courses which would help me to elevate my previous interest in photography to a professional level. As it was a career break I was looking for an intensive course, the one year Masters programme at Spéos Photographic Institute fit the bill. Last September my husband and I moved here ready for my studies to begin.
KARIN: As an extension of the first set of questions, on a scale of 1 to 10, how “into” Paris are you? That is, how intentional was your choice of Paris as a city in which to study? (With 10 being super-intentional because you are a long-time Francophile and have a great love for the city, and 1 being you really don’t give a flip about Paris, but you found yourself here just the same.) Please elaborate on your choice.
CHLOE: Most days its about 6, some days its closer to 9. Being English, France has always been ‘just across the channel’ so its never been somewhere I have been naturally drawn to, my desire was always to travel further. When I discovered the course at Spéos, however, I felt that it was drawing me here and that it was where I was meant to study photography. Now I am here, I love it and hate it, but most often love it. When something drives you crazy about the city there is always something round the next corner which makes you forgive and forget. I probably won’t realise how ‘into’ Paris I was until I’m living somewhere else!
KARIN: What is it about photography that attracts you not only as a hobby and/or passion, but also a profession?
CHLOE: Photography is the one creative medium where I’ve felt truly able to express myself, growing up I tried painting, sculpture and even writing, but the results were always unsatisfactory in truly depicting my point of view. I love the freedom of photography, the ease of it, all you need is a camera, an interest in ‘seeing’ the world and away you go. Professionally, I also have been through a process of elimination, I love working with people and being creative, I’m also an organiser and as a job being a photographer is not just about the pictures – its about planning, researching, time management and delivering a great end result. In a nutshell, it ticks all my boxes!
KARIN: When we have spoken before, you mentioned that you are one of a smaller percentage of photography students in your program that has chosen to study the journalistic angle of photography instead of pursuing studio photography. What exactly is the difference between the two? What is it about journalistic photography that attracts you?
CHLOE: Simply put: being a studio photographer, you are inviting the world into your space and recreating something which wasn’t already there. Being a photojournalist, you are venturing out into the world and capturing what is unfolding in front of you. My intrigue has always been in the outside world, with moments in time which often happen through a series of fleeting consequence. I love the texture, light and substance of what is outside my front door, reality is often harsh but also very beautiful. In the craziness of life, with so many people, so many things around us, happening all the time – I love the challenge of trying to simplify it, too. As one of my greatest teachers taught me – remove all disturbing elements from your frame, this will make your images more powerful. And it really does.
KARIN: What kinds of themes do you find yourself drawn to in photography? In other words, of what kinds of things or subjects do you find yourself taking a lot of photos? Who or what are some of your favorite things to photograph?
CHLOE: I used to take a lot of pictures of trees and flowers, trying to capture the real beauty in nature. I love order, too: symmetry, perspective, the classical point of view. I guess this comes from my years studying Renaissance Art at university. Now however, I have become braver and bolder and I translate this intrigue in natural beauty to people. Many photographers find it hard to capture people, never really getting close enough to be genuine in their intent. Its a challenge, but just as with learning to play an instrument, you have to do scales – over and over again. Its one of the reasons I chose to do a portrait series, and will continue this work. It is my desire to be a wonderful portrait photographer, so its simply a case of working hard to achieve that goal. Looking and learning all the time.
KARIN: What photographers have influenced your work? Which photographers do you find yourself emulating? Or, if you don’t really have any mentors in this way, what kinds of photographs do you find yourself appreciating again and again, and how do these preferences influence your work? In contrast, how is your work set apart from others at this point in time?
CHLOE: My taste in photography is a bit like my taste in music, I’ll love one song by an artist but maybe not their whole album. There are many beautiful photographs which really touch something in me and make me remember why I want to be a photographer, but really I would have to say my main influence comes from my six years studying Art History, right back from Giotto up to present day. I love understanding art, design, architecture — breaking a work down to the influences, the practical reasons behind the work, and, of course, the simple and pure indulgence of what was considered beautiful or aesthetic in any given period. I always loved the story-telling of Italian Renaissance art, the texture and colours of les Fauves and the light and depth of Rembrandt’s oils, the subject I conducted my degree dissertation on.
I feel my work sets itself apart from others right now by being clear in its intent. I love black and white photography but I feel my strength is working with colour and often trying to capture beautiful light. My personal style is still developing. This is a lifetime’s work I know. But right now my simple aim is to capture the world through my eyes in a way everyone can understand and relate to. I am not trying to be clever or appeal to a narrow audience. My desire is that my work speaks to everyone.
KARIN: What is your biggest hope or dream for yourself when it comes to your photography work?
CHLOE: At the moment my hope is to build a career as a photographer; with so much competition and so many economic challenges in the market today, to be able to earn a decent income from something I love would be a dream-come-true. If we are talking about the BIG dream – it was a childhood fantasy to work for the National Geographic. This is still a dream, but quite simply I would really love my portraits and reportage work to be published in magazines. I’d love to publish a book, and one day have an exhibition back here in Paris, and maybe New York… lots to work towards!
KARIN: What’s next for you after Paris?
CHLOE: My husband and I are heading off to Malaysia to live. He is from New Zealand and I grew up in England, so we are heading for an in-between point and we both love Asia. I am very excited to be heading somewhere which really inspires me. As Steve McCurry [photographer of the famous “Afghan Girl” photo featured on the June 1985 cover of National Geographic Magazine] said “Above all, I feed on the colors of Asia: deep henna, hammered gold, curry and saffron, rich black lacquer and painted-over rot. As I reflect back on it, I see it was the vibrant color of Asia that taught me to see and write in light.”
KARIN: As a final word (or words) about yourself, give five adjectives to describe yourself as a photographer or person, or both.
CHLOE: Creative, Independent, Organized, a People Person…
KARIN: … and I would add “Incredibly Talented”!
There is so much more to Chloe’s story beyond the questions I asked her, such as the fact that she has traveled the world, planning only to be away for three months, but extending it to three years, doing such adventurous things as riding the Trans-Siberian Railway and spending four months backpacking in South-East Asia. She was the “right hand man” of English adventurer, writer, and television presenter Bear Grylls, organizing and manning his Trans-Atlantic Arctic Expedition in 2003. She has worked in the world of event management and for large businesses such as Goldman Sachs, living a busy and social Londoner’s life. While living in New Zealand for two-and-a-half years, she not only re-discovered her very early love of photography with a new digital camera, but she met and fell in love with her now-husband, James, whom she married in 2010 in an intimate wedding on an Italian hillside.
But it was not until the tragic and shattering experience of her mother’s sudden death at the age of 58, three months to the day before Chloe and James’ wedding, that Chloe really took a step back to consider her life and realize that life is not only precious but also brief. It dawned on her that she could and should seize upon her hope and dream to study professional photography.
As Chloe wrote to me, “Is it possible for light to come from the darkness of utter tragedy?” She expanded with the following:
At the end of our year [at Spéos Photographic Institute], we had the joy of meeting Paolo Roversi. He came to speak with us about life, love, his work! And he said something which has stuck with me. He told us how he believes many people often think about photography as looking for beautiful light in a place, in a scene, but he believes what you really have to do is ‘start with the darkness and move to the light.’ Only then will you really understand the beauty of form and texture of light.
Isn’t this true of life as well? As it has been said before, only through darkness can we truly appreciate light. Knowing that Chloe understands this about life makes her approach to photography (and life) a deep and rich experience.
You can find Chloe in the following places:
- Her website: ChloeLodge.com
- Her Tumblr blog: PhotographyByChloe.tumblr.com
- Her Flickr page: photographybychloe’s photostream
- Her Facebook page: Chloe Lodge Photography on Facebook
As a part of “What’s Next?” for Chloe, she just learned this past week that the print she exhibited at her final exhibition at Spéos Photographic Institute this spring has been selected to be part of the “26 Years of Spéos” exhibition at Les Rencontres d’Arles — a photography festival in the South of France in July. The exhibition of “26 Years of Spéos” will then be shown again in the Spéos Gallery (8, rue Jules Vallés, 75011) in Paris during November and December 2011.
This is quite an honor for Chloe’s work to have been selected for exhibition. Congratulations, Chloe!
Many thanks to Chloe for sharing her photos with me and for generously answering my questions. I am on a quest to learn more about creative people and their stories. It’s my hope to understand my own artistic process and goals as I find out about what makes other creative people “tick.” I’m really thankful to her for spending time with me so that I can discover more. I hope that you enjoyed learning more about Chloe as an up-and-coming photographer. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for her! You can keep tabs on her and her work by following her at one of the links listed above. I know I will be keeping in touch with her to see how Chloe’s future as a photographer and creative soul emerges!
(an alien parisienne)