“Follow Your Gut” – Sophie Ebrard’s Advice On Capturing The Perfect Shot
Last month at the Adobe Photography Jam, the hugely talented and hilarious Sophie Ebrard talked about the importance of breaking away from the constricts of society and following your dreams in order to capture that perfect shot.
Here she discusses her career as a photographer and director, the inspiration behind her genial campaigns and what the future holds.
Describe your path to becoming a photographer.
On the 6th January 2010, I became a photographer. From that day, whenever people asked me what I did, I would say, “I am a photographer.” Even though at the beginning it was not entirely true. But I thought I had to believe in myself first if I wanted other people to believe in me.
I was raised in a tiny village right at the base of the Alps. Growing up, the arts weren’t something I was exposed to; both my parents were pilots and the Internet didn’t exist. But my dad was a keen photographer, which influenced me. I spent a lot of my time drawing and constantly had a point-and-shoot camera in my hands.
As much as I loved art, it didn’t seem right to go to art school. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I went to business school. Shortly after graduation, I went into advertising and worked at some of the top agencies in Europe. It was great at the beginning. as it seemed to partly fulfill me creatively. Over the years though, the work evolved, the industry changed, and projects became more global or political, and less creative. The work became so far removed from the reasons why I had started working in the industry.
I realised at that point that I needed a big change. That’s when I decided to become a photographer full time.
What project are you most proud of?
I would say ‘It’s Just Love’ is the project I am the proudest of, a study of the porn industry. To humanise the individuals in front of the lens and show a lighter side to the industry, I followed porn director Gazzman for four years on his sets around the world.
The results are no ordinary erotic images, in fact there’s very little sexual gratification in them. ‘It’s Just Love’ is both a study of composition and of the human relationship with the sex industry. It is porn turned on its head in a blaze of long shots, private moments and elegant compositions.
I used medium-format analogue film to catch those unguarded and human moments. An interaction between a number of like-minded people; a means to making a living and an enjoyable profession just like any other.
I exhibited ‘It’s Just Love’ at last year’s Unseen Photo Fair, the international photography festival held in Amsterdam. I decided to hold the exhibition in my own home to emphasize the duality of personal intimacy and external presentation. Porn never leaves the house – it is mostly consumed at home, which made it the ideal location for the exhibition.
The series was curated by Roderick van der Lee, co-founder and board member of the Unseen Photo Fair.
What advice would you give to those looking to get into professional photography?
The best advice I have been given is to see yourself as a company or brand, not as an individual; and know the price of what you’re making.
When you are fresh out of art school, no one tells you that when you earn money on a project, it doesn’t all go into your bank account. You have to pay the people who have helped you on the project, not to mention tax. If there is anything left, that money should be spent on a new computer or invested in making a new series of photos that you will send to a magazine to hopefully be seen by someone who will commission you for another project.
Give us your top tips to capturing the perfect shot?
Follow your heart and your gut. Don’t do work because you think it is going to appeal to a particular person or market; do work that you think is great. I try not to think, “Is this magazine going to like my photo?”
It’s more about what I feel when I take a picture. Even when I shoot client work, I try to remember that if I press the shutter and feel something, there’s a good chance that the person seeing the picture will feel something, too.
You have to follow what’s inside you and put the best of yourself into your work.
What’s next for you?
I am always working on personal projects.
Most recently, I spent a week hanging out with 5 basketball players in an Airbnb in Harlem, New York. Some of the images were released as a preview on WeTransfer this summer.
I love immersing myself creatively in worlds I know nothing about and having to earn the trust of my subjects. I love being a chameleon, adapting to my surroundings. This is what I love doing the most.
What’s next? A new series where I can immerse myself again in a world I know nothing about and try to capture the beauty in it.
It’s quite therapeutic in a way because you forget about your own world and see things very differently. The more remote it is from me, the more pleasure I take; and the better I am at capturing the beauty in what I see.