An Interview with Joëlle Poulos: Photographer and Traveller.
Joëlle is one of our talented photographers. She lives in Falmouth working as a freelance photographer and artist living in her own self-converted caravan. Among other talents she’s a self-made business woman and runs ‘Joelle’s Emporium’ in which she sells her own prints and custom design temporary tattoos. Most recently she was off photographing what appears to be every nook and cranny of SE Asia. She has a relentless love for adventure, exploring new cultures and places and meeting awesomely interesting people.
Here, you can see her stunning photography and gain an insight into the remarkable creative mind behind it.
When did you first get into photography?
Umm, so when I was about 12, I reckon, I got my first digital camera and I started taking it with me everywhere. But I wouldn’t say my photography really started to develop until I got my first SLR when I was 15.
Your photos exhibit quite a range of scenes and are quite diverse; is there a particular type of photography you’re more into?
My favourite thing to document is my day to day life; just very candid, film photography stuff.
Do you have a favourite camera that you like to use?
Well, it would definitely be my Minolta 35 mm film camera. But I don’t have a specific model or anything and I do end up going through a couple of camera bodies a year. Some photographers will hate on me for saying this … but most 35mm film cameras are fairly similar so it doesn’t matter too much.
Why do you go through so many?
Just wear and tear. I’m not very good at treating them well. I try to not to get too attached to my material possesions.
I guess you get more honest photos if you take your camera absolutely everywhere and just batter it around though.
Exactly, exactly. Like when I was travelling I think I went through four bodies. I dropped one in water, and yeah, I dropped them a lot.
One thing I love about your photo series, especially the portrait shots, is how honest and raw they seem to be. Do you feel that your photos come quite naturally, or is it sometimes hard if people know they are being photographed not to seem very staged and rigid?
Because the photos were taken in these developing countries with very different social expectancies, they didn’t have this need to smile or pose because they hadn’t been subjected to that. They didn’t really pose at all. It was lovely. It was awesome. And they didn’t ask what you were going to do with the pictures or get worried about where you were going to put them because they weren’t even really aware of the idea that they might be posted somewhere. This sounds explotitive (a lot of documentary photography is), but even if they had wanted to tell me I couldn’t take their picture, they didn’t really have the ability to communicate that with me because they didn’t speak much, if any, English.
And on that note, do you feel it’s hard to capture the exact essence and atmosphere of a place… Is there sometimes a disparity between being there and the photographs?
For me the photos conjure up images in my mind of the places that are possibly even better because I have all these lovely memories and associations and stories with the pictures. But I guess for anyone viewing them, it’s just a beautiful picture. For me, I love looking through them so much as it’s this great documentation of such a fantastic time in my life.
Are you ever disappointed with the way your photos come out, especially when using film?
Oh yeah – that happens all the time. But that’s just part of it. It’s awful, but you win some you loose some. I’ve lost rolls of film before that I’ve been super psyched about. But it just kinda makes it that much better when they do come out awesome. There’s also something really human about that though – how not every photo can come out perfectly.
I think I probably already know the answer to this question, but would you ever go travelling without your camera?
No, no way! I didn’t have a camera for a week when I was waiting for a new one to arrive and it was the worst week. I didn’t want to go out in case I missed something.
What tips would you give to any aspiring adventure photographers?
Just shoot away. Take as many pictures as possible. Yes some are going to be crap and some will be awesome. You just never know, you’ve got to experiment. Get creative. Just shoot loads – that’s the best thing you ever can do.
Where is your next destination?
I didn’t finish my trip so I’d quite like to go back to South East Asia, but I’m definitely going to hit up South America in the near future.
Why did you come back from your travels early?
I got really ill. Like really really ill. And I just realised that I really wanted to just go home for a bit. So I booked my flight and I did. When I left for travelling I was going to go for a full year, it was going to be this ultimate adventure; and it so was. But I realised that I had no obligation to fulfil that year quota, if I wanted to go home I could, and I did.
I hear you’re living in a campervan, how did that come about? How are you enjoying life in a van?
So my dad was actually the one who suggested the idea to me because I was coming back early and I didn’t want to be living at home. And we had this old campervan and he told me I should do it up and move, because I was on about how I wanted to move back down to Cornwall. And so that’s how that happened. He helped me redo it and I moved down to Cornwall in it. And I love it. It’s great! My home is totally portable, and I have the most phenomenal view; and I have no contract, so I can go travelling again whenever. It’s great.