Questions and answers with Jason Renaud.

{July 2020}

Title: Jordyn
Home: Los Angeles

Where was the final image from this photoshoot featured?

The final images were featured on the production team’s respective Instagrams as well as my online portfolio.

Give us a bit of background on the photoshoot concept.

I wanted to go back to the basics. With clean, elevated looks I wanted to focus on the body composition and positioning above all else - Jordyn is great at posing and I thought she’d be a perfect fit for this type of posing intensive shoot. I also wanted to play with a focus on textures - whether that was the shine of the leather or actual skin texture. I love larger, more complex concepts but I firmly believe there’s something to be said about making the most simple, minimalist outfits and backdrops interesting and compelling to someone’s eye. It’s a good practice for any photographer I think.

Why did you/your client choose the final image compared to the outtakes?

Ultimately, I thought these final images were the strongest both in composition and the model’s expression. Because it was a fairly stripped down lighting set up, it took quite a few different shots and light positioning to capture the lighting in a way that was most flattering while still containing the amount of depth on her features that I wanted. Additionally, while some of the other shots I thought were strong, I try to think of how the shots work together to tell the story of the shoot. In this case, what shots compliment each other most, in terms of composition and lighting. Even if one shot is unique, it only hurts the overall shoot if the narrative feels confusing and all over the place.

Any cheeky moments during this photoshoot that you'd be willing to share?

Not necessarily a cheeky moment but an unexpected one. The studio we were using had an unlikely companion dog that enjoyed watching the photoshoot take place. Ironically, he knew not to step on the seamless but that definitely didn’t stop him from asking for pets from the rest of the crew or playing with his ball around the set.

Have you ever experienced a fanboy/girl moment?

Never on set, but when Juergen Teller came to Owl Bureau (my favourite Los Angeles book store), to sign his latest book “HANDBAGS” I did fanboy a little bit! He’s always been such an inspiration of mine and even being able to talk to him for a couple minutes was amazing - he’s such an approachable guy and pretty funny as well, just drinking whisky and cutting it up with anyone that had the confidence to approach him. Still one of my favourite photo books that I own to date.

Shed some light on how you got involved in photography.

I actually got into photography by accident! I was going to school for motion pictures (to study cinematography) when I picked up a camera on the side for fun - a used Canon Rebel T5. I began shooting nature and portraits of my friends, before realising that I simply loved to be behind the camera - whether it was moving or still imagery. From there, I expanded my shooting into editorial collaborations and a few paid jobs - senior portraits, band promo pics, small jobs that taught me a lot about my style and also what skills I did (and didn’t) have. It wasn’t until I moved from Nashville upon graduating university that I really started delving into photography full time. I assisted at a photo studio for about three months schlepping gear to and from sets, driving sprinter vans, and painting cyc walls before making the jump to full time freelance. After about a year I felt confident enough to try to shoot at some of the fashion weeks in Paris and New York and hope to keep doing so!

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I draw a lot of inspiration from my favourite films or classic film cinematography. Like I mentioned before, having grown up with a background of film I think of it as a mental archive of visuals in my head that I reference and utilise as the concept or editorial suits. Although recently, I’ve been growing more inspired with older 90s and early 2000s campaigns, particularly from the Celine and Saint Laurent archives. They had such an intentional, clean vision with their creative direction.

What’s it like being on set with you?

That’s a good question to ask my team, haha! But, in all reality, I value comfortability and camaraderie on set. We don’t all have to be best friends when the shoot is over, but we’re all in this together and the least we can do on set is be courteous, have fun and make something great together. Not every job is fun, or easy, or with the perfect crew, but if I can maintain a positive environment that everyone feels valued in for their individual skill set, and they’re happy to contribute to the team effort, I think I’ve done my job. A photography job of any sort is a team effort, even if it’s just myself, an assistant and a model.

Do you prefer photographing with a big or small team on set?

I prefer a small team. A sense of intimacy and closed environment on a photoshoot can be really important depending on the model. Even for models that have been shooting for a while, a set of 10 people will always carry a totally different energy than one where it’s just me and one or two other people. Less distractions, less personalities on set is slightly more calming than a full production.

Describe your ideal photoshoot.

Ideal photoshoot would be in a huge natural light photo studio with a few great designer fits and a model that can deliver some amazing strong poses without any props or direction. To me, this sort of shoot is like a blank canvas and you have to push yourself in tandem with the model to make it visually stunning and not just be a rehash of another shoot you’ve seen or drawn inspiration from before. Can I also say an unlimited amount of 35mm and medium format film?

What makes a photograph special, in your opinion?

A photograph is as special as you make it with the meaning you give it. Some editorial shoots aren’t my style or taste, but it can still hold huge significance to someone else that worked on it or has drawn inspiration from it. Beyond this idea, I think the strongest and most special photos are the ones where you can tell the photographer cared about the subject or concept they were shooting. It’s hard to give a concrete example of this, but I generally think that you can tell when there’s a voice and person behind a photo rather than someone that shoot a model just to shoot a model. Because when someone cares, they’ll do the best work they can no matter what the challenge.

Express what photography means to you.

Photography (and film for that matter) is a way to see the world in a completely unique and stylised way that you can’t do anywhere else. I don’t see the world through a fisheye lens (although I think I’d love to try for a day), nor do I see the world at 300mm. Looking through a lens gives you a new set of eyes to see a subject/object in a way you can’t in any other medium. Then being able to style that capture with different lighting and colours to create another world separate from reality, as surreal or dramatic as you want, is a special process. It’s given me new eyes to express myself through and honestly a new way to see things day to day. The more you shoot, the more you see opportunities to shoot, compositions, interesting lighting, in the world around you.

Do you photograph full-time? If not, what pays the bills?

I’m a full-time freelance photographer and am very blessed to say that. When I first started out, I supplemented my income with that part time studio work, but after a while I didn’t need it anymore to make ends meet. That isn’t to say every job I do is my dream job. Freelance photography consists of every sort of job! I’ve done e-commerce, event photos, editorials, and headshots. You name a type of photography, I’ve most likely done it for a job at one point or another. I’m thankful to have a manager as well that helps with all of the shoot logistics and fine details.

Instagram and photography...need we say more? Give us your two cents.

Oh man, I could go on forever about this one. There’s some many different (and very strong) opinions on Instagram and photography and I’ll just say this: I think it’s currently the best place to share work and connect with other like-minded creatives, but I only view it as a necessary evil. The platform itself has a broken algorithm that favours popular or trending content above all else, where most of the content isn't the best creative or most interesting by a long shot. There’s also an incredibly toxic energy built around the system with likes and comments, where value of one’s work can be measured by hundreds of likes. I can only hope that the platform continues to evolve in ways that prioritise connectivity and art above likes, as it’s become nearly as important as having a portfolio website for most photographers out there. I hardly think people look at my website anymore relative to my actual Instagram.

Do you have any suggestions to budding photographers out there?

Shoot, shoot, and shoot. And then keep shooting. The best advice I can give. The more you practice, the more you experiment with lighting, subject, camera settings, etc., and the more you’ll advance. It’s great to plan a shoot with a team and make a whole collaboration happen, but even when you can’t do that, still find a way to be creative and keep shooting. You’ll find your voice as well as what you like and don’t like over time, but the only way to do that is to try everything. I can’t emphasise the constant practice enough.

Any additional info you'd like to share about yourself and/or your photography?

I went from being an English major to a Communications major, to a new college, to a Film major, to a film studio’s intern, to a photographer. All that to say, there’s time to discover what you love to do as an artist and what you really resonate with. Even if you’re a photographer that’s unsure what you want to shoot or maybe want to try other jobs on set as well like gaffing or producing, do it regardless! It takes time to hit your “stride,” to find something that really gives you meaning and value. We all have different journeys and some are shorter or longer than others. The time it takes is relative to you as a person. Don’t let social media tell you otherwise.

We obviously believe this outtakes concept is brilliant, but why do you think it's important for outtake photographs to be promoted in the industry?

I think it’s important to show that no photographer always gets it right. We try things, and sometimes it doesn’t always work. But since we only show these finals online and in publication, there’s sometimes this daunting pressure or thought of “I can’t create something that strong myself”. It’s not true. There’s a lot that goes into that final image and I think being able to pull back the curtain like this series is doing opens up the conversation and brings it down to earth a bit.

Anything you're working towards with your next move in photography?

As of right now, I’m currently trying to curate the work that I have into a cohesive body, to see if there’s any narrative I think would make a compelling show or potential book. I’ve never done an art show before and I’ll only do one if I think there’s a story to tell and enough work to do it. But I’m hopeful that this will come within this year!

Share a quote you live by.

“Negativity is the enemy of creativity”.
~ David Lynch


︎see the outtakes
︎follow Jason on Instagram

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