“The best compliment for a photographer is to be recognized for your artistic touch, even before reading the name below the picture.”
Emma, can you tell us about yourself and your photographic background? Emma May is an alias. I’m 31 and I live in the region of Lyon, France. The art of photography has always been enthralling to me – my grandfather was also a photographer and I remember having spent magical moments staring at the process of silver photography in his lab when I was a kid. A few years ago, I became a model before I wished to create my own pictures and now I’m on the other side of the camera, finally fulfilling my artistic desire. I exclusively work with natural light and most of the time outside.
What do you enjoy most photographing? I’m far from having tested everything in this so very huge field that the art of photography is! But my area of expertise is definitely around models, especially with natural-light portraits.
What is one last impression you want to leave in your photos? I’m really overcome by an urge for people to escape with me, I like trying to create new, often oneiric, a little lyrical and romantic, universe.
What is your mental checklist before a shoot? I make sure the places and lights are checked before sending my views on the atmosphere to the team that accompanies me. I guide them when it comes to choosing make-ups, hairstyle and fashion design, when the shoot has been set out beforehand.
Can you talk a bit about the importance of a photographer’s style, and how did you develop your style? I don’t reckon I have a style of my own. I haven’t been a photographer for a long time now and I do believe time and experience help a style to mature. But I’m trying to widen my knowledge so as to get hold of as many inspirations as I can. The best compliment for a photographer is to be recognized for your artistic touch, even before reading the name below the picture. But evolution is obviously compulsory…
In your opinion, what makes a good photographer? What is the most important skill set for a photographer to have? You’ve got to be creative and have skills on communication so that you can share and sell this creativity. It is also important to know how to cope with the flow of work, starting from the very shooting to the editing/photoshopping process. To me, a good photographer must be an all-rounder and adapt to any shooting situations, lights, clients’ demands when necessary.
What was your most memorable/favorite project your work on so far? What’s the shoot you are most proud of? A shooting I’ve made very recently all by myself. It was very far from my home, I couldn’t have checked the place beforehand and the weather was particularly unpredictable, even disastrous. It had been raining all day long and catching the right light was hazardous. The model was a young woman I had been dreaming to shoot for several years so I couldn’t cancel the shooting. This meeting has been fabulous and I’m proud of the pictures that came out, a true challenge in regard to the chaotic conditions of that day.
Emma, what are you currently working on, and what do you have planned next? I’m currently working on several editorials to be published in paper magazines and on the web for this fall and winter. Then I’d like to turn to less floral projects, less romantic, to more untamed, more genuine ones, and to nude too… and thus supplying my first exhibition…
How do you keep productive and retain your creative edge? It’s also important to take breaks, to step back a little and therefore have time to think about new personal projects. Images taken at random on the net or in books also help me create a kind of ‘inspirations notebook’ and prepare the next shoots.
Is there something you always ask yourself/think just before you press the shutter button? I’m definitely not confident… I keep wondering whether I do a good job or not, I don’t want to let down the people I work with. Each shoot is some sort of a challenge!
What does your “team” consist of? It’s regularly just me and the model during a shooting. But I do appreciate to work with a small number of make-up artists and hairdressers on whom I can count on and with mutual trust. Their creativity is essential to carry out efficiently any projects. I try as much as I can to be surrounded by fashion designers whose poetic universe make perfect sense to me.
What do you like best about your job? The beautiful persons I meet, the sympathy and friendship that come out of it! It’s never the same but so rewarding on a personal level.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges for an independent photographer? To make a decent living out of it. Apart from the technical skills that are compulsory, you also need to know how to communicate and be a good salesman. And that is far from easy, especially in such a competitive environment that has become so popular.
You bring a very high production value to your work. What is your retouching/production philosophy? I believe retouching is part of the process. It’s mostly during that moment that the personal touch of the artist is being revealed. We’re living in a time where retouching is a huge part of the job for many. I like taking many hours playing with the colors, trying to create my own universe, which makes perfect sense when it comes to color handling process. I do not seek to reproduce reality. To my mind, retouching symbolizes, in a way, the part of the dream, the photographer’s reading and personality within. On the other hand, I hate spending time retouching the skin, which is quite paradoxical given the portrait ratio in my work… I find it pretty boring.
What are some tips/advice you would give to yourself if you started photography all over again? If I were to start all over again, I’d definitely tell myself to doubt in a more useful way, to be positive and to move forward. Moreover, to be surrounded with the right persons is important, not to mention to meet people and make plans.