One of our favourite things about photography here at Canvas is its ability to give you a glimpse into the photographer’s imagination – you are able to see the world through their lens. French photographer Justine Salzet understands this, and she has made it her mission to lead her viewers into imaginary and meditative spaces through her gorgeous photography. We spoke to Justine about her work, her approach to her craft and seeing new places.
Hi. Tell us a little about yourself - where are you from, where are you based and what do you do outside of photography?
I’m from France, I live in Paris but I try to discover other countries as much as I can. Outside of photography, I started cinema studies a few years ago and now I study Literature, History and Philosophy at university but I still don’t know exactly what I’m going to do after that!
When did you begin shooting, what made you start and what has driven you to continue?
Analogue photography came into my life when I was a little girl. Digital photography didn't exist and I just didn’t move on! I always loved keeping things so shooting on film was obvious. It's a way to preserve and share memories and I was aware that having a real photographic object can help me to remember. When you look at film photography you can step back in time, it brings you exactly where you were at this moment, what happened before, and what happened next. Like a time machine! I think I’m a little obsessed with that, wanting to remember everything.
What’s more, I also try to lead people into some imaginary places, help them to escape from reality and imagine themselves in peaceful and magic worlds where everything is possible because time has stopped and you can take a second to meditate and contemplate what’s around you. That’s what photography does to me.
When you look at film photography you can step back in time; it brings you to exactly where you were at this moment, what happened before and what happened next. Like a time machine!
What do you shoot on?
I shoot on Canon Eos 1000F, Praktika MTL3 and La Sardina by Lomography. The Canon belongs to my father and I remember him taking photos, especially the shutter sound - I loved this sound, I still love it! When I was 18 my father offered it to me and the real fun began there! Before that I used disposable cameras and tried digital but I never managed to get the desired result, which is strange because analogue is more unpredictable. I think it’s this unpredictability that I need to have in my “photographic life”.
Over what span of time were these photos taken? What makes them stand out from your other shots?
Those shots were taken during my trip in Iceland in February 15’. I love them much more than my other shots because it reminds me this amazing escape. Nature is omnipresent, savage and there is this multitude of different landscapes, kind of surreal places where everything is possible. It’s like pictures of an imaginary world where you can really feel freedom. You are here, alone with the nature and you can stop for a moment, contemplate, think. Being there was so inspiring, every road takes you to something new, something you weren't prepared for. These shots are just taking me back there.
How do you think your work is affected by sharing it online?
I don’t think it affects my work so much. Of course, you’re conscious that there is an expectation from your audience and I only post photos that I’m proud of, thinking “ah I love this one, maybe they will enjoy it too”. There is no stress about that and I think it works pretty well. But right away, when I take a picture, it don’t think of sharing it, I just want to fix on film what matters to me, this moment I choose to remember. Because even if my photos are mostly of landscapes, they actually are very personal, all of them recall a feeling to me so when I’m shooting I really don’t think of social media. I think that there is a time for shooting and a time for sharing and you think very differently during the two processes. Furthermore, with analogue you can’t really think about sharing because you never know exactly what you will have.
What do you look for when you’re taking a photo? Are you more concerned with the composition or evoking a certain feeling?
It’s a question of instinct. Composition is important because it attracts your attention but first you have to be authentic if you want to share emotions. You can’t just tell that this picture is going to be great because it’s a pretty landscape; you have to feel the very essence of the place. It can take a second and you can be unprepared, beauty strikes, fascination appears, and you feel suddenly so awake! There you can shoot and, if you’re lucky, people are going to feel this little thing too. It’s my own approach, I’m very sensitive to everything around me, I try to be the quiet observer, paying attention to the world, and I hope it comes out into my work because it’s what I’m trying to share with people.
Is there anyone you’d like to shout out?
Shout out to my awesome boyfriend, my travelling companion who supports me when I want to stop ten times in five minutes because I need to take pictures and who is helping me to carry all my cameras during long Icelandic walks. To my parents and sisters, to some of my great friends. To my friend Alix for being an amazing woman who always pushed me to do my best in life and who is also a great 35mm photographer!
Of course big thanks to you Grolsch for your interest in 35mm and analogue photography, and a big shout out to all people who participate in the resurgence of analogue: labs, photographers, followers etc… To everyone: Go shoot film!