Chloé Vollmer-Lo’s photos speak for themselves. Every image, whether it’s a portrait or a seemingly simple snapshot of a street alley, tells a story. The Paris-based photographer tested the New Petzval Lens 85 recently, and the results, as expected, speak volumes. She talks about her experience as a freelance photographer – and with the New Petzval Lens 85 – in this exclusive interview.
Hello Chloé, please tell us about yourself.
Hello! So, I’m 26 years old, and I studied literature and theater. I also spent hours learning photography by myself. Now it’s my job and I specialize in portraits and reportage, but you know most of the time I’m shooting portraits, it defines my kind of practice. Apart from that, I have a passion for Japanese food and I am also a feminist, but I’m not sure that it’s very relevant here!
Why photography? What connection do you have with this artistic field?
I like composing images, but I ended up with the idea that I would never be a good illustrator… It made me very unhappy when I was a teenager, but fortunately digital photography came along and resolved this frustration. After I tried my parent’s compact, I worked all summer when I was 16 years old to buy my own camera. I was in boarding school at the time, and not allowed to go out that much…So I started to shoot my friends like a compulsive person and I realized that it greatly pleased me.
By the way, it’s always a bit like that nowadays. Excluding the special commissioned projects, I only shoot my friends and people that are very close to me. Also, I’m constantly try ingnew photography processes. Currently, my practice is divided into two parts : on one hand, the professional requests with which I’m trying to improve my techniques. And, on the other hand, I have my personal projects, frequently with analog, which can make little beautiful accidents and pleasant surprises !
What is your favorite subject ?
The faces, the faces, the faces ! I love to shoot the diversity of humanity and tried to give back reality as much as possible. I don’t like smooth pictures, I prefer it when photographs have personality. I have also a little attraction for melancholy…but it’s totally part of the art of photography, isn’t it ?
What are your sources of inspiration?
Anything and everything, it especially depends on my sensibility. Sometimes, I’m really receptive about the light in some objects, the shape from a tree branch, a pattern on a worn wall. All of these details give me the urge to shoot! You can express an emotion through practically anything and make a story out of it.
Otherwise I read a lot of comics. I think it helps me to work on the composition of my shots. I have also a rich dreamy life, sometimes that gives me some ideas, desires, or just photographic intuition. Finally, like anybody else these days, I surf the internet, as it contributes my creativity (it’s a really good excuse) !
Why did you become a freelance photographer? What do you like about working freelance?
I became freelance almost by accident. Even if you know that when you want to be a photographer, there aren’t plenty of options! Even while I was finishing my Master’s degree in theater, I started to have more and more commissioned work. So I made an official clean status and I started to work when customers arrived. The transition between the end of my studies and the beginning of the professional life was very slow. I think I had a lot of luck. Today I can’t imagine doing another job other than freelance. I love the freedom it provides, the no routine and free schedules because I am the only one to decide. And especially, I have the right to fuel up the enthusiasm and that’s a wonderful chance. But the price to pay for that, is insecurity and instability. But for now, these two are not too important!
How was your experience with the New Petval Lens 85 ?
It was amazing! I felt the same sensation that I felt when I shot with a large format. Even if the utilization of the Petzval is less difficult and doesn’t need a lot of meticulous adjustments. But, we feel that is a reproduction of a very old lens, so I find this sensation so sweet, it’s like you’re making a new time with old-time photography.
What was your key element for this series? If you can tell us through music, what songs would you choose ?
I saw a lot of pictures shot with the Petzval, they look like so calming and bright. I wanted to do the opposite and use the swirly bokeh to suggest a light-heartedness, in a happy, giddy world. For the background music, I would choose :
- Black Poppies, of House de Cocorosie.
- Missed me, of Dresden Dolls.
- Beautiful Freak, of Eels.
- Blue Velvet, Lana del Rey’s version.
- Street Spirit (Fade Out), of Radiohead.
- Sex Born Poison, of Air.
- The Other Side, of Woodkid.
- Into the Night, of Angelo Badalamenti (it’s an extract of Twin Peaks’s BO.)
Now that you’ve been introduced to the New Petval Lens 85 — is there a project that you’d like to use it for?
Yes! I would like to try it with a remote flash outdoors. I would like to work with a slightly unreal light that would fit very well with the Petzval’s features. In addition, it would have a little anachronistic side, and I like the idea!
How was it working with the Petzval lens ? What tips could you give to people who have yet to use it for the first time?
I took my time when I was composing my pictures very carefully and to think ahead what I wanted to do. We find the ceremonial side of the photograph, while we remain in digital! So, my best advice would be this: take time. This is not an easy subject to tame, especially as the design point, the aperture requires a lot of precision. But the fun is only tenfold! And if not, a more pragmatic approach: beware of the caches and the lens cap, which have a slight tendency to fall.
Do you have any projects you would like to talk about?
I have a project that I’ve been obsessed with for about three years, and I’ve been desperately seeking for time to realize it. It would be a collaborative project with friends and unknown people, as the deluge series I made in 2011 to 2012. It would be a sort of Paris mapping through the memories of its inhabitants over the streets.
What unusual place would you like to shoot ?
I have an immoderate love for museums such as the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, the Museum of Paleontology with gigantic skeletons, greenhouse and teeming tropical plants, the Gallery of Evolution and unmoving packs…and even the mineralogy gallery! I love building architecture, wall textures and the little outdated mystery that spread the scene. There is really a billion of images to shoot there. Anyway, any other cool and amazing place suits me too !
A memory, a story to share, perhaps?
This is a great opportunity to pass my thanks as a somewhat playful and apologies to my models for some of my creative wanderings! Therefore, thank you to Marion who ate the DIY string just to please me. Thank you Manon whose coat I have potentially ruined with double-sided tape and was close to tears. Thank you to Cali who had smoke in the garden and so worried the neighbors. Thank you to Alix for including yoga poses that shocked the older people in the street. Maroussia, thank you for letting me paint your big belly the last few days. I was afraid that she might just give birth any moment. Thank you for allowing me to be with Alexane who helped me on two of these sessions. And also, thank you to Lomography for letting me test the Petzval !