You could say that photographer Laure Joliet is in the image business, but her work is about depth as much as surface. She has a way with spaces, rendering them intimate and mysterious at the same time, capturing the revealing detail you notice out of the corner of your eye. Though her subject is often interiors, a large part of her job involves getting to know people. “I spend the day with them and find out things I don’t know that you would normally get to find out, what they’re passionate about. It feels really satisfying to have that experience.”
Joliet developed her skilled but instinctual approach partly as a reaction to the conceptual rigor of CalArts, where she got her BFA in 2001. “It got to a point where I couldn’t take pictures without thinking about how I was going to defend the work in a critique. So I had to take a break for a long time to be able to enjoy it again.“ After a few years of production work and blogging for Apartment Therapy, she took a position with an interior designer, shooting the end results, and that gave her “the confidence I needed to call myself a photographer and to put myself out there.” Since then, numerous commercial clients and publications like The New York Times and California Home + Design — not to mention our own site — have featured her work. As her assignments have increased, she’s lately felt a pull towards projects that are somewhat more tangible, that “you can hold in your hand.” These include the beautiful black and white print posters now available at her online shop. And launching today is a guest artist print with Debbie Carlos, who shot Joliet’s Echo Park home for us.
So how was it, being on the opposite side of the lens? “I felt all the things I know someone is feeling when I show up at their house. ‘Tell me if I need to move anything! Does this look okay?’ Really, everything was fine. And it gave me an excuse to pull out and share things that aren’t necessarily décor but are really important to me.” In conversation with Joliet, you quickly get the impression that her home is a real reflection of herself: easy-going, understated, and West Coast cool.
Renato D'Agostin was born and raised in Venice, Italy, "where for most people photography in those days meant weddings and passport pictures," he says. Yet the city did manage to nurture his future career, if only inadvertently so: After falling in love with a photograph of an elephant that his mother won in a town prize drawing, he commandeered his father's Nikon, signed up for a local photography class, and spent his teenage years documenting scenes from everyday Venetian life, a process he's hewed towards ever since. Still, he considers his first foray away from home in 2002, on a road trip through the capitals of Western Europe, to be his most formative experience. "I took that trip to see if interpreting reality was what I really wanted to do," D'Agostin recalls. "From that moment on, I never had any doubt. I felt like traveling was the place where I wanted to live, and the camera was my extension."
If photographer Brian W. Ferry shoots like he takes absolutely nothing for granted — making us pine hard for moments of intensely quiet, understated beauty that probably already exist in our everyday lives — it’s likely because he feels so grateful to be doing what he’s doing. He may have discovered his inner camera nerd way back when he was growing up in Connecticut, but just a few short years ago, he was working long hours as a corporate lawyer in London, taking pictures merely as a personal creative escape hatch. Only after his blog began delivering fans and potential clients to his digital doorstep did he gather the resolve to quit his job, move to Brooklyn, and make a career out of triggering in people a kind of strange, misplaced nostalgia. “I think a lot about taking photos that are about more than capturing something beautiful, that have a heaviness attached to them,” Ferry told us earlier this winter at his Fort Greene garden apartment, as we rifled through his belongings together.
“Being a photographer and being an artist working with materials like resin, plants, and glass — those two worlds should not really mix,” says Heidi Norton. “You have the camera and you have film and you’re trying to keep things clean and archival, and then you have dirt and glass shards everywhere.” Such contradictions are at the core of Norton’s work, from the immaculate glow of her photography to the dirt-under-your-fingernails feel of her sculptural pieces, which typically feature houseplants in some form or another. Norton started incorporating plants into her photographic practice several years ago in a series of still lifes. It was partly a way to bring the natural world she grew up with, in rural West Virginia, into the urban setting of Chicago, where she’s lived since getting her MFA at the School of the Art Institute in 2002. Those photos eventually inspired her to make plant-based sculptures that explore how we create, cultivate, and change ourselves. Therein lies the central paradox: “The idea of preservation, and trying to save the plant while at the same time killing it through that preservation, became really interesting to me,” she says. “All of the mediums I use deal with that idea in different ways.” Even her studio itself, shot by Debbie Carlos for part two of Sight Unseen's series on Chicago artists, is part of the process.