IN CONVERSATION WITH MAGDÉLEINE FERRU
Magdéleine Ferru, also known as JustMagd, is a different style photographer who feels most connected with what she has seen and what she has lived. From her personal experiences, Magdéleine explores feelings and matters such as body, identity, human nature, time passing and death. She shows what she sees and plays with different processes. Her projects are brought to life through handmade unique art books or different art techniques.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you become interested in photography?
"Les voyages forment la jeunesse" (French saying: “To travel makes the young become who they are"). Living elsewhere, learning different languages, cultures, traditions, discovering other beliefs, religions, ways of life…Witness other's life. To be an observer, but also to feel.
My father took a lot of pictures, always in slides, and what a pleasure every time to take out the projector and the screen. It’s like a ritual, a kind of gateway to the forgotten world, before literally stepping back into the past.
Travel and photos entered my life, one then the other, then never one without the other. I began shooting with films. The happiness of discovering photo appearing in the developer. Then I went digital during my first long journeys. I worked odd jobs and traveled, inventing myself a new life on every different part of the world, taking inspiration, breathing in life. South of France, my parent’s home remains my forever home.
Tell us about the project 'Abysses' that you submitted. What got you to photograph icy scenes?
I had done some ice climbing, and glacier exploration in New Zealand a few years ago, and I remember the immensity of the ice wall, the blue, the light shimmering through….definitely a fairy tale world. When I got the chance to embark on an adventure to walk on and 'in' a glacier in Alaska, I jumped on the opportunity. I was amazed again at the beauty and greatness of such a natural wonder, but suddenly got aware of its frailty. I could see bubbles and sediments, air and rocks imprisoned in the ice. Glaciers are alive...move, change, melt…they are huge. By taking close up, we lose the feeling of scale. I wanted visually attractive pictures, to get the viewer's attention; its abstract and beautiful. Now come closer, feel the ice, you might never be able to see this again, because its disappearing. They are not huge anymore, instead they are very fragile.
These days, when we see landscapes of ice, there is always a bit of a wistful sensation for the viewer. A fear that it might all disappear because of climate change. Does this play a role in your project?
In the series Abysses, definitely, yes.
I have had the chance to travel around and over just a few years, I can tell a difference in landscape due to the climate change. If some of my projects are light minded, and dreamlike, some others are made (at least I try to) to awaken the viewer, to make oneself questions all the assertions one believes in, to challenge what one knows (human condition, climate change, etc…)
I wish people could understand that just turning of a light when they leave a room, unplugging phones/computer/turning off a TV when they are not in use, being careful with their water consumption (shorter shower, closing tap water when not using it, etc…) recycling, using public transportation (when possible), are huge steps, and if everybody was just doing this simple gesture, making it an habit, a part of their everyday life, it would make a difference. It is just a matter of respect and education.
Where do you find your inspiration? And do you have a favourite place to shoot?
My ideas are inspired a lot by what I have been/am going through, and how I feel. I am very sensitive and emotional. Sometimes just a person, a light, a place, a word, an event, a sensation, even a film or a song will inspire me. I am quite sensitive to fairy tales, magical stories, and fables from my childhood. The inspiration and the resulting project can be quite spontaneous. I let myself be surprised by a moment, a situation. I watch the light, if I see something that I like, I go out to take pictures, or even just admire and enjoy the moment. It is also good for inspiration to let yourself relax and look at the gleaming moment.
I love shooting snowy landscape in winter light, everything is so quiet and white. You never really know what you’re going to see but the magic surrounds you and makes you enjoy every second of the trip. No matter how many good photos you took the moment is always full of wonder.
In general, what do you want to express through your photography? And what are some of the elements you always try to include in your photographs?
I explore feelings, I explore matter: identity and society, human nature, our natural or urban environment, and their relationships, which intertwined in my photographs. Reproduce reality with a touch of utopia. Sometimes the other way around. Bittersweet thoughts. So if my travels and my various experiences continue to animate me, people and body (especially the female body), are regularly found at the center of my work, often dreamlike and delicate, sometimes daring or provocative. The human presence is either clearly visible, or just suggested, as most of my projects question the human (relations, print on our natural world, everyday life, etc..), but also myself, who I am and what is my place in the world.
Do you have a concept in mind of what you want to shoot, or do you let the images just 'come to you' or is it both?
A bit of both really. I have images that come to mind, or in dreams. I take notes, sometimes I make small sketches of the scenes before rendering them into photography. As I said earlier, sometimes something catches my eyes, and I take pictures, not knowing exactly when or for which projects I’m going to use them.
I have long term projects that I’m working on, so, I kind of know what I want to show, and what I want to do, coincidences does the rest; definitely a mix of thinking, chance and random opportunities.
Do you have any favourite artists/photographers? Who do you think has mostly influenced your style?
When I was a teenager, I loved watching fashion shows on TV, especially ones from Jean-Paul Gaultier (it was always magic, spectacular and extravaganza!), and I loved circus and dance shows/movies.
I discovered just a few years ago the work of photographers like Kirsty Mitchell full of wonder, reminding me of the illustrations from my childhood books.
As I grew up in my practice, I became more interested in photographers like Kyle Thompson or Nicolas Bruno (staging themselves, showing their vision of the world) and multi disciplinary artist like Kelly Webeck, Anne-Lise Broyer, Sara Skorgan Teigen (sketchbook/journals, mix media). I have also met so many great artists during artist's book fair.
The workshops I did with Claudine Doury in 2018 really influenced my style, helping me finding my personal language and photographic identity.
Richard Petit and Fabienne Forel also helped me each in a different way, in developing my own artistic vision. Richard Petit gave me numerous advises on editing and building a series, while Fabienne Forel introduced me to the art of cyanotype. She is a great artist's book creative as well and it’s always a pleasure to exchange words with her.
Are there any readings that have inspired your creativity and that you would like to recommend to us?
I love reading fictional book, whatever I find, to cut off from the real world, to go away from the daily routine; to forget and become somebody else for a moment; this is the only time and way for my brain to shut down and rest.
I like The Polaroid Book (Taschen) as a reference I go to, to learn more about polaroid. As I said earlier artist’s books, sketchbook, journals inspire me a lot.
Do you have a favourite quote/lyric/saying that especially resonates with you? And why?
"Enjoy each breath, make the most of each second. Basically life is now, not yesterday, not tomorrow. Never give up."
I’m a true believer of dream coming true, if you try enough, if you want enough, if you give enough of yourself. Just believe that it can happen, believe in yourself. I was talking to my dad the other day, wondering why going through all the difficulties of "do it yourself" when I could just buy it; he answered, "it's called ambition"; it makes me happy and proud and that's what matters.
And of course "Live, Love, Laugh" - the most beautiful and important things to do for a happy life.
Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?
It depends a lot of the project I am working on. I like to go back to a film practice for some projects, especially polaroids, Diana (toy camera) medium format, or old instamatics.
I am working now on a long term project, kind of a journal of feelings and for me to achieve the 'right now vision' that I want to express, I want to use my polaroids; the medium here defines the all idea; it has to be instant; it has to reflect the mood, the moment.
My digital camera is Nikon D7200, mainly one lens Nikon 16/85. It’s perfect for my practice, when I have to be fast, in focus, and ready, or when I want to experiment and play with exposure/lights, photoshop enhancing, etc.
Have you been involved in the artistic world before or other than photography?
I am mixing more and more my photo projects with the art of book and with different 'plastic art' techniques (collages, overprinting, mix media, etc…). I create, recycle, incorporating matter into my visual work. I have taken workshop 'book sculpture', and different techniques of book binding. I have participated in a few artist book fairs. I’m working on a project for the next Délires de Livres (artist book exhibition) and in the middle of creating a piece for the series Abysses.
I have always been very drawn to books and beautiful illustrations.
What are some of your goals as an artist? Where do you see yourself or hope to see yourself in five years?
I would like to be able to move forward in many of my projects, and have more time to spend in the dark room. I would like to experiment more ancient photographic processes (cyanotype) and pinhole camera, play with chemicals, and develop my own technique.
I would like my work as a visual artist to be recognised as a full time job (so that people stop telling me "But you have time, you don't work". It is work.
I would like to succeed in exhibiting my photos in a large gallery or at a festival dedicated to contemporary photography. To be able to live off my art.
I warmly thank my family who have always supported me. My parents, my brother and my boyfriend who let me live my dream, who help me and follow me in my wildest ideas. I love you guys! All the people who have trust me over the years, and who encourage me to never give up. My photographer friends who are always here for a question or advice and with whom I am always learning something.
A HUGE THANK YOU to all of you!
Thanks the Pictorial-List for the interview!!