Interview-series: Cindy Jeannon

Interview Cindy Jeannon
by Kristel Schneider

(c) Alexandre Deschaumes
(c) Alexandre Deschaumes

I sometimes happen to dream about photos, imagine atmospheres and to be inspired by music, books, paintings and photography in my sleep. Then images come to life once I’m in nature.

Reading French magazine, Nat’images introduced me to Cindy Jeannon in 2011. We were both part of the publication ‘Special about nature female photographers’. The introduction  explained that she had decided to live her life closer to nature and that ever since she had left her job in 2005, her live has been like a journey. Cindy’s images show that this private journey has developed into a great life experience full with emotion and creativity. Traveling in the French Vosges or in the northern part of Europe, in Norway Cindy’s images show her love for Nature. Beautifull winter mountain scenes picture impressive clouds and silhouettes or the serenity of emptiness and minimalistic subjects.

(c) Cindy Jeannon

(c) Cindy Jeannon

Can you introduce yourself in a few lines explaining your background and how you got introduced to (nature) photography?
In 2005 I gave up my job in computers and a way of life that was too « conventional » to be more in tune with myself and with my wish to live closer to nature, to live a life that would be “different”. I first started with a career change and trained to become an Eco interpreter. Back then I already wanted to do nature photography, but it was impossible to change everything at the same time. I therefore focused on what seemed to me then as essential: a lifestyle closer to nature. For four years I led a “nomadic” life – I lived in many different areas in France to deal with nature awareness projects all over the country – such a lifestyle lightens you up from the heaviness of the material and allows you to reconsider your views and thoughts altogether. I have always materialized my thoughts visually, or so it seems, but I started materializing my emotions through images while strolling along the deserted Atlantic coast on long lonely nights. That’s also the moment when, in Autumn 2008, I decided to start a new life again, around the main question, “how do I relate to nature?”  I then started a new journey, the one of my own personal experience based on intervals of total immersion into nature, looking for the primal link that connects us together, pondering on my own personal connection with nature, on Man, on society. I therefore moved to the Vosges Mountains at the eve of winter 2009 – a very icy winter.
My photos came to life after these moments when I be one with nature, when I dived into its roots to be able to read it, feel it and express it.  I have always been attracted by the hardships and loneliness of mountains and great wilderness. So in autumn 2009 I left for the Sápmi area in Lapland (in the north of Sweden) along with Jean-Pierre Frippiat. This was the first of a series of journeys to the North, mainly in Norway – journeys that I did nearly without any assistance, to be “cut off from the society ” and to make one with great wilderness, journeys where living takes over time, where you can feel nature at large.  These trips – in the Vosges Mountains and in Norway – are the moments from when I have developed another language, a language through images.

When you look at Nature photographers in general you see that woman are in the minority, why do you think this is? Do you think it is more difficult for a woman to be a nature photographer? An often said, maybe cliche expression is that female photographers are not in performance but in emotion. What is your thought about this?
It is true that there are less female nature and landscape photographers than males. First, maybe because it is not as easy for a woman to combine motherhood and a field job in nature, as it could be for a man.  And so it goes in a way, which is imposed on us by society, however unfortunate it is on a cultural point of view though. And then again, such is the case almost everywhere, not just in nature photography.
Then, of course, we have to take the physical aspect in account. Especially when you carry heavy equipment and bear harsh weather conditions. As far as I am concerned this never has really stopped me, although I’m not the sportive type. So, I guess everything can be dealt with even if my hiking and camping experiences with male photographer friends have shown that we don’t have the same physical aptitudes.
Now, is there a difference between photos taken by a woman and photos taken by a man? I tend to think that sensitivity and strength can be represented in both, whatever the gender. However I think that personality-traits are different depending on gender; and that can be seen in the images.

Your project ‘ Métamorphose dans l’immensité du Bleuis set in Norway, what is the origin of this project and how did you prepare this project.  The creative part and the travel part.
I started the series during my solitary 4-month trip in Norway in 2012, when I had planned to merge even longer into the mountains. Unfortunately, I slipped on my first base camp and injured myself. How much worse can it get when you are no longer autonomous on a self-sufficient journey? I could not walk any more, still I decided to stay in Norway, alone, and think my trip over. On the first days I had to stay in the mountains because I couldn’t walk or drive. But my original idea was still strong: the trip had to go on, I had to live it through, whatever it took. As far as I’m concerned trip and nature are both a walk into the unknown. So as soon as I could drive again, I left the mountains for a safer place nearer a water place – first the lakes then the sea. That was how my images became the reflections of moments spent near water.
As for preparations for that trip (or for any trip in Norway), I make sure my vehicle, my bivouac and of course my photo and computer equipment can be self-sufficient. For that specific trip I had planned a 4-season logistics.
I also leave with a lot of books and music, which play an important part in my inspiration, and a travel book – my writing companion on the road – but no phone and no internet.
Preparing a trip is also to organize the before and the after of the journey, in order to manage it all well.

The subjects and compositions of your images are they a resolt of lots of preparations at forehand or is an image created in the field, like you see the composition building up at that moment.
I sometimes happen to dream about photos, imagine atmospheres and to be inspired by music, books, paintings and photography in my sleep. Then images come to life once I’m in nature. I don’t focus on which lens to use, I just let myself be driven by the outdoors. This is what I call “breathing” : I inspire what nature gives into myself and expire photos. Movement and light really inspire me, hence my big attraction to clouds. I often write down phrases which express what I feel then – I generally draw lines between what I feel inside, human interactions and what happens in nature. Photography is a philosophy in life: by observing and living within nature, I get to know myself and others better.

What are your personal photography goals for 2014 and what would you like to achieve in photography in the long term? Do you have any exhibitions or other events coming up ?
I’m planning to keep expressing myself through photography. There are moments when I’m in nature and take photos and there are also moments when these photos have their own life and materialize…in exhibitions for example, or in publications. It’s also very important to share my work with others: I think it would be meaningless if it was not shared.

Exhibitions, books and workshops – that are very dear to me – are ways for me to spread my philosophy with nature ; I can observe, accompany people, I can see the changes: human nature is as rich as nature itself.

Photography is not only a means to express myself; it is also a means to make people express themselves especially in training sessions and workshops. If I had to put what I would love to fulfill in photography in a nutshell, I would say “exchange”: expressions and interactions between nature, myself and others. I plan long-term projects because things happen slowly. I draw the big lines, then combine them with what happens in my life and then gradually build things up. I have ideas and plans for the coming months, but it’s still too early to talk about them.  For the coming year, I have a couple of exhibitions planned.
In April I will be in the Bird Festival in the Bay of Somme (France). Later on in October I will be at the Traveling Festival of Saint Valéry en Caux and the international Photo Festival Montier en Der.
There are other places, but it’s still too early to talk about them.
Last October GDT invited me in Lünen. That exhibition had a big impact on me, as I really enjoyed meeting and exchanging with Northern Europe and Italian photographers. I think I really love showing my work abroad, public response being totally different.

Can you share with us some of your personal photographs you like best?
And can tell us about the conditions and your emotions when you captured this image.

Pre¦üfe¦üre¦ü-Metamorphose-20c

(c) Cindy Jeannon

I chose the image of an atmosphere that pictures me the most: night and blue. I took it during my 4-month trip to Norway. I was on the Lofoten Islands at the end of August, it had be quite a chaotic day. So that night, I found peace by taking photos of the bay at nightfall. There was hardly any light. I love it when dark becomes black, when only the faintest light of hope remains. That’s what I meant to convey: even when situations surround us with darkness, there is always hope.  I did a series of long exposures then.
This technique really appeals to me, as it seems to me that each image was created by nature and myself… as in a communion. I decide on how long the exposure has to last depending on light and what I want to say. Then, by looking at what movements happen during that length of time, I can imagine shapes and light traces that will appear on the image.
This is the last image of the series, the very last faintest light that could reflect on it, as of to give it more chance.
I wrote a text to go long that image, a text about the depth of blackness:  The depth of darknessEmptiness, absence, darkness,  All reflecting the stars of the heart of the matter.

Cindy had a look at Kristel’s website (www.kristelschneiderphotography.com) and picked out some images that really popped out for her.
She explains why:

(c) Kristel Schneider

(c) Kristel Schneider

  • I immediately picked up the first image. Some will say, “because it’s blue”. OK, it’s true, blue really appeals to me. But that image speaks to me because when I travel I’m often in the rain. When I’m in my car, I spend a lot of time looking through the window at how the rain changes the scenery around me. This photo takes me back to those moments when relation to time is different, when thoughts are set free. It also calls the idea of protection to my mind : how nice it can be to watch the rain from an inside place.
  • Indeed, second image is also blue. I really love the peaceful and mysterious atmosphere – an atmosphere that really speaks to me.
  • A dreaming moment. I love blurry pictures, as well as abstract one, which do not impose a point of view on you, but suggest it to the viewers and allow them enough freedom to build a personal interpretation.
  • And finally, one that is totally different from the others. I chose it for the message it conveys to me… two small creatures helping each other out.

Coming up next, in the “Interview-Series” : Andrea Gulickx, don’t miss it!
See other interviews here

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