Photography of Joelle Neuenschwander from Switzerland

My name is Joelle Neuenschwander, I am 34. I grew up in the countryside in the French part of Switzerland.

Since I was a kid, photography was a very present thing in my life mostly because my mother in her everyday life always took a lot of pictures by making photo albums and also showing us diapositive pictures. I remember that looking through her 6×6 Rolleifex’s frosted glass felt like magic to me.

I grew up without television, therefore as a kid I spent hours looking at magazines, photo albums, fashion catalogues, comics… going to the movies was my favorite thing.

From very early on it felt quite obvious to me that I wanted to work in the visual domain. At college, I chose visual art as my major subject. We had to draw for hours and I was pretty bad at it and bored. With a friend of mine we discovered that there was a unused photo lab at school, we asked for the keys and started experimenting around. I had very little idea the way it worked but I enjoyed the whole process. I decided to knock at the door of the only photographer of my local town and asked him to explain me the basics of studio photography and the method of developing. I set up a studio space in my brother’s room (he had a bigger room) and made the boyfriend that I had at the time pose naked for me.

After school, I was working at the photographer’s dark room on my own photo project. I presented it as my final artwork at college and won the 1st price.

Afterwards I worked for a entire year for the photographer and studied technical photography for two years. That was an interesting period where I learnt to use middle format, 4×5 inch cameras with films as well as digital. By that time it was still the beginning of digital photography.

Still at school, I started to work for an advertising agency, I was lucky but very naive and went through copyright abuses and unpleasant professional experiences.

At least I learnt straight away how tough and complicated the industry can be and that one has to fight for his own rights, even more when you are a woman. Ever since then I work as free lance photographer for different magazines, music industry, watch industry as well as fashion industry. I shoot mainly portraits and architecture. I have always kept shooting analog for my personal projects.

I consider that life and its environment are in constant change, an idea can makes sense the moment you think about it and a second later it can seem completely absurd. Photography is one truth of something that doesn’t exist anymore.

I have a deep interest in humans and their vision of life in general. Women fascinate me. I can spend hours chatting about life with the person I just took pictures of.

Light is also a fascinating thing to me, how it can transcend reality, how it can change my perception, its impact on my mood. Light has a real power.

Photography is the most appealing medium to me to explore my gender and the sense of life.

On a shoot where I work with or in a team, with a lot of equipment it is very important to me to be organized and prepared as well as possible. It seems fundamental to me to have time to concentrate on the creative aspect and to be relax with the people I work with. I like to mix different light sources and create meticulous lighting.

On the contrary, when I work alone, I love to be more instinctive and shoot in day light, because the technical aspect of photography can be exhausting sometimes. This is probably why I love shooting analog so much, working with films requires a thoughtful approach but there is also a part you cannot control. Discover the image that reveals through chemistry is a pure fascination.

I have a few cameras I appreciate depending on the nature of the work as well as the physical weight I want to carry or not: Canon 5D sR, Mamiya 7ii, Mamiya RB67, Olympus Mju ii.

These last few years, I mainly took pictures of friends, places I’ve been and situations that were appealing to me. Then I let the images sit for a while, I almost have to forget about them to be able to edit them.

Five years ago I started a blog. This platform allows me to post my images without going to the painful process of giving a sense to my work. It is like a first draft.

The next process that I find interesting is to assembly pictures to tell stories, print them on paper, bind them. It adds another dimension another intimacy in between the images. I self-publish one small publication per year, a total of four in the last years. It shows my way of looking at things in life during a certain period of time. Images posted here are an extract of the next issue.

I come from a very privileged place in the world; we have safety, freedom and wealth, but a very self-centered culture generated by social pressure as well as a productivity complex which seems to be leading an entire generation to seek for their own truth, their own boundaries.

I love magazines, small publications. It is cheaper and quicker to produce than books, therefore more accessible and contemporary. I also love cinema, documentary films, and contemporary dance. I am a big fan since his very beginning of the work of Xavier Dolan. Maïwenn, Nathalie Rykiel, Patti Smith are only a few of many wonderful women in this world that inspire me.

I have started playing music and practising respiration techniques to explore other senses and challenges of my daily perception and its performance. I think we easily forget what make us progress is the process and not the result.

All photos © Joelle Neuenschwander : Website | Blog


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