Blogging is about community, sharing and friendship, and with that in mind I have decided to add a new component to my website simply titled “The Interview“. This new, somewhat regular serial, will contain a feature interview with a photographer who’s work I admire and who I think you should know about. My inaugural interview takes us back to the city you’ve all come to know through this blog, Toronto. I truly hope you enjoy.
Meet Jessica Laforet, Toronto portrait photographer, and lover of analogue film. I first learned of Jessica’s work through Instagram. She was in the midst of completing a 100 Portraits project in the streets of Toronto using film. I instantly fell in love with her images, their feel and their tones. She displays a true knack for connecting with her subjects and capturing who they really are at that very moment.
Here now, The Interview…
Shane [SF] Jessica, can you tell us a little bit about yourself; who you are, and how you came into photography?
Jessica [JL] I live in Toronto, ON and I grew up loving photography. I have been taking photos of all of my friends for as long as I can remember. When I was in my last year of high school I transferred to an Alternative school and they let me take a photography course without having any other Art background and it was such a great experience. I could spend hours in that room and feel like no time had passed at all.
[SF] I’ve been following your 100 portrait project for quite a while and have been in love with it from the start. Where did the idea come from? What motivated you to pursue what many might view as a daunting personal project? How did you start it?
[JL] Last year I was just taking photos of anything and everything which was fine, but one of my best friends’s suggested that I try and focus on something specific. Since I love taking photos of people I thought I should come up with a way to take portraits of a lot of people so that a) I could photograph something I love, and b) It would be amazing to see my progress as I went from 1 to 100.
[SF] The portraits are a combination of friends and strangers, correct? Did you find one more difficult to approach than the other? Were you ever turned down? How did you approach the strangers?
[JL] I was nervous taking the first 20 portraits whether they were friends or not. Those first 20 were spread over 8 months, then I picked it back up and set a goal to take at least 2 a week, and after the first two weeks I was booking portraits back to back. after the first 20 all of my nerves went away. I only actually asked 1 person that was truly a stranger and he was my last portrait and he said yes! My friends were easy, I just set up a time and they would come and meet me, but most people found me and got in touch with me through social media, or through a friend. Only one person turned me down. I see her all the time because she works at Sam James Coffee Bar, my favourite coffee shop in the city and on two different occasions I stood there *nicely* bugging her to take her portrait for my series and after her denying me several times I ended up taking someone else’s portrait that overheard me bugging her and put them in my series instead. Hopefully she will let me photograph her one day.
[SF] Why use film for this project?
[JL] I just love film. I love the way it looks, I love that I can’t see the photos I’m taking right after I take it, I love loading a fresh roll into my camera, I love how excited I get when picking it up from the lab. Also, I think more about the shot when I’m shooting film.
[SF] Can you tell us about your workflow? Did you develop and scan yourself, or take it to a lab?
[JL] I take all of my film to be processed and scanned at a local place close to my house called Annex Photo. I have every single thing I need to make up a darkroom and hope to have a space as soon as possible. I’m looking forward to the day when I can do everything myself start to finish
[SF] What gear and film did you use? And why?
[JL] I used my Nikon F2 that my Father gave to me when I started shooting film again, its my favourite camera to use and I love it because it was his. I used Kodak Ektar 100, Kodak Portra 160 & 400 and Kodak Max 400. My favourite film out of all of those are the Portras; I love the tones in that film.
[SF] What kind of feedback have you received from this project?
[JL] Everyone has been super positive and supportive of my series, its been great to hear how much people enjoyed it. I’m sad that its over because I absolutely loved doing it.
[SF] Where do things lead from here? Are there any new projects coming down the pipeline?
[JL] I’m not sure at the moment, I have a few ideas that I’ve been going back and forth with but I haven’t been able to land on anything. I’d like to do another series that involves a lot of people…but we’ll just have to see!
I’d like to thank Jessica for her time and for helping me kick off this new series. And I’m glad to learn that she has great taste in coffee… I love Sam James Coffee Bar too. Please visit jessicalaforet.com to see her incredible work, and connect with her on social media to stay updated on her future projects.