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Q&A with Photographer Jack Chauvel

by Daniel Smith

I interviewed Sydney photographer, Jack Chauvel about his photographic practice, the wedding industry and finding that work life balance. Thanks to Jack for sharing his images and an insight into his photographic practice.

Daniel: Can you tell us a little about your journey with photography. How did you get started? How long have you been shooting? How long have you been photographing weddings?

Jack: I have been shooting on a regular basis for over 5 years now. I grew up with framed prints on the walls that my dad had taken on his travels and of myself and my mum (he has a Rolleiflex & Zeiss Ikon). There was also some very inspirational prints from other photographers (Ansel Adams) and it kind of ingrained the love I have for photos early on in my life. We always had many photo albums littered with our travel photos, as well as historical photos of our family in Australia and abroad from over the years.

Eventually I picked up my first proper DSLR in late 2008 in preparation for a trip to Europe in early 2009. I almost sold it before I even left, I felt like the whole process was too overwhelming and that I just lacked the eye for photography. I however persevered and took it with me on my trip. I made myself use it every single day for over 2 months and totally fell in love. When I came back to Australia I was hooked… and instantly was drawn to seascapes/landscapes. From there I started participating a lot on a forum I was a member of. I made a lot of friends, started organising get togethers and shooting trips as well as learning anything and everything I possibly could.

On one of these ‘sunrise’ trips I had organised I met another photographer who I would become best friends with. It was through our friendship and him starting his own wedding photography business that I came to start shooting weddings. As his business grew, my intrigue and how I fit into the picture grew until I was a steady second shooter (and he naturally became a mentor for me). It was in early 2012 that he unveiled some plans which saw me move to launching my business and brand. I ended up shooting many many weddings before I even booked my first one under my own brand.

D: What equipment do you shoot with?

J: I shoot with a Canon kit for weddings and an extensive film kit for a mix of weddings, portraits and landscapes.

Canon Kit: 5D Mark III x 2, Canon 5D Mark I, Canon 35L, Sigma 50 Art, Sigma 85 1.4, Canon 135L, Canon 45 2.8 TS-E, Canon 17–40L, Canon 100 2.8 IS Macro. Canon 600EX x 2, YN 460II, Phottix Strato II Triggers, Hold Fast Moneymaker Straps, Think Tank Lens Changer 3 Shoulder Bag, Delsey Roller Bag, Benro CF Tripod, Couple of LED Lights, Nasty Clamps and Westcott Lightstands.

Film Kit: Canon 1n 35mm, Olympus OM–1 35mm Kit, Contax T2 35mm P&S, Mamiya 645AFD Kit, Mamiya RZ67 Kit, Fuji G617 Panoramic Kit, Yashicamat 124g 6x6 TLR and a Crown Graphic 4x5 Kit and I had a Custom Polaroid Land Camera made which I have called ‘Frank’ (short for Frankenroid).

D: Tell me about your love of film. Is it simply the aesthetic that draws you to shoot film or are there other factors?

J: I really love the process of shooting film. So much so when it comes to my personal work I can go months without even developing or printing the rolls. There are many things to love about film, the detail and feel medium format/large format brings, the different characteristics of film stocks, the feeling you get when you develop your own rolls (and printing which I am starting to do) and not to mention the dynamic range/usability. The simplicity of film is also a very big draw card for me. It is about setting up the shot and once it has been taken there are things you can do in development & printing, but essentially the frame is going to be how you shot it originally. I find these days people focus so much on the editing, rather than the shooting itself (and often the complacency in being able to ‘fix it’ in post).

D: Many photographers working in the wedding field will have a clearly defined line between their ‘wedding work’ and their ‘personal work’. There is always cross over but do you draw that distinction? How much does one inform the other?

J: I think of myself as a photographer first and foremost, that happens to shoot weddings as a main profession but just loves shooting in general. The many hours I spend on my craft helps both my wedding work and non wedding photography and they definitely influence each other in positive ways. I am a firm believer in self improvement, and always aiming to get better and better at what I do. It is when you become complacent that it is time to give it away I think. Being able to show your personal work and love for photography also goes a long way in showing your motives for why you shoot. I think it also personalises and creates a good base for clients (potential, current and past) in being able to bond with you.

I am however looking to run a separate site/brand for my personal work. This is more for specific business reasons than anything else. I also hope to work on giving back what I know, what I have learned and how I can teach that to others in the future.

D: Obviously each shoot is different but what gives you the most enjoyment when shooting a wedding?

J: For me it is the unique story of each wedding. There are always two different people, who have a story of how they met, who have two families who are being joined and multiple social circles who are coming together. One of the biggest perks of the job for me is the variety of people I get to meet (from all parts of the world). There is so much more to shooting a wedding and wedding photography in general than just one wedding day. There are the meetings, the planning, sometimes engagements, the wedding itself, the delivery and all the social interactions in between. By the end of the whole process you get to know each other pretty well and certainly create a bond. I am lucky that I have been able to remain friends with many of my clients, they are able to see my journey continue on and I have the pleasure of them continuing on with their lives (and new beginnings such as starting a family).

D: Wedding photography is a competitive field. How do you define yourself and your style and stay competitive?

J: I think your greatest asset in an industry like wedding photography is yourself. You are the one unique thing you can say nobody else has and you need to make others want to have that asset. Defining a style for me is difficult, because it is just what comes natural to me. I would say it is a candid, photojournalist approach but there is definitely a level of premeditation there. Communication is key in the way you shoot and how your resulting photos look. Being able to talk to people and have them react in a way or interact in a way that is natural is something that comes with experience. You also need to build up that trust, the trust that you are creating the opportunities to take the photos they want. You have to be willing to try things out and have them not work, but know that when you get it right it will be sublime. There are also some clients that need something with a bit more direction, or they are having a wedding which consists of a lot of family, formalities and ‘events’. You must shoot the assignment in the way that it needs to be shot, but also do it in your own way.

The wedding industry is quite large and constantly growing every year. I would like to think there is room for anyone who is willing to find a place for themselves in the market and adapt. I like to interact with a lot of other industry professionals (photographers included) and friends I have made and we all get a long and look forward in growing each others businesses together.

D: Do you have any tips for aspiring photographers on finding that work life balance?

J: The ultimate question for a workaholic like me. I support two people and have done so for many years, so I probably jumped in the deep end a lot later than many others would have. So many people think you work like one or two days a week as a wedding photographer and that is it. I laugh out loud when I hear this now, the shooting part is like .. 10%–20% of the business. The rest of your time is spent doing all other aspects of the business. Maintaining a balance is important, and this is achieved through clear and regular communication with all your stakeholders. Your stakeholders are your clients, vendors, business partners, personal partners, family members, friends and peers. It is really easy to let things back up and become overwhelming and that helps nobody. Setting expectations and managing these over time will give you that work life balance back. Having said that, when it is your own business you will work night and day to make it work. So make sure to reward that hard work whenever you can feasibly do so. Also remember that those who support you will make sacrifices as well.. so I always like to show appreciation where I can.

To see more of Jack’s work have a look at, Facebook, Google +, Instagram, and Twitter.

All images © Jack Chauvel 2014. Used with permission.