Jens Juul grew up in a suburb of Copenhagen living with his sister and mother. He was trained as a painter at Billedskolen in Copenhagen and New York Arts Students League. He transitioned from painting to pursue formal photographic training at Copenhagen’s Technical College where he graduated from in 2012 and acquired a range of technical skills. Below, Jens shares his Hair portfolio that was featured in the 05/2014 issue of LFI.
Q: Can you describe your photographic approach?
A: Photography is a way of capturing everyday life. To me, it is a way of experiencing people. It allows me to get close to many kinds of people – people that I would never have a chance to get close to, if it wasn’t for my camera. I have taken pictures at both high society parties and high security prisons, places that would normally have been closed to me. And, simply put: I love telling stories with my camera!
Q: Do you find that your photographs fall into a particular genre?
A: What I do is that I portray people, mainly in everyday situations. It is not the kind of portraits that you have taken as a family where everyone is dressed up and nicely combed. Instead I try to get behind the façade, to get so close to people that they eventually let their guard down.
Q: How would you describe your photography?
A: They are quite raw and honest. Intimate.
Q: Can you provide some background information about your Hair project? What inspired it?
A: It actually all started with my morning bike ride to take the kids to school. Every day we pass this little very old fashioned hair salon. The kind of place where old ladies go to have their hair curled and colored, the kind of place that is a social fixture to many people in the neighborhood. And then one day I just showed up with my camera and asked if I could shoot some pictures. Since then I have taken pictures in many different kind of salons. I find it quite fascinating the way you, at the hairdresser, let someone you don’t really know that well get really close to you, and shape the way you present yourself to the world.
Q: You note that this project developed out of your daily life experience and you started shooting pictures of people at the local hair salon. At what point did you decide to expand your coverage and turn it into a thematic document?
A: I find that all projects grows like that. I often happen to come across a motive I find interesting, then I try it out, and if it grows on me it slowly develops into a project.
Q: What camera and equipment did you shoot your these images with?
A: It was shot with a Monochrom and M9.
Q: All your Hair images are presented in black-and-white. What is it about black-and-white capture and presentation that you find so compelling for your kind of work?
A: I find that black-and-white images concentrate the images where colors can be disturbing to the story I’m trying to tell.
Q: All the pictures in this portfolio are crisp, high-contrast images with impressive detail. Some at least appear to have been taken with flash. Can you tell us how you lit these pictures and what general effect your were striving to achieve?
A: Half of the images are taken using a flash spot on.I do this to be more in control of the lighting. During winter, Denmark is also marked by having few hours of natural light.
Q: The image of a client whose face is largely obscured by an array of black hair is a powerful graphic statement that’s a real stopper. What is your feeling about this image and can you provide the technical data?
A: Hair can be a veil, something to hide behind. So I found that appealing. I also like the graphicness of it, and the resemblance to rain running down a window. I used a 35 mm and a flash.
Q: All of your Hair images except one show a single subject, but this image shows a hairdresser and his client. The two faces play off each other in an engaging way, enhancing the visual interest. Do you agree, and what were you thinking when you composed this picture?
A: Going to the hairdressers is a lot about dialogue. Showing that interaction where one person is changing the looks of another person is a natural part of Hair.
Q: Taken as a whole what is the story you think you told with the Hair portfolio, and do you see it as a collection of small individual stories or is there a larger theme relating to humans and the way we live our lives?
A: Simply put, I’m just fascinated by the whole scenario in hair salons!
Q: How do you see your photography evolving over, say, the next three years, and do you have any other projects in the works that you can talk about?
A: I hope to keep a playful attitude to taking pictures. I have a few projects in the works but nothing I can talk about at this point.
Thank you for your time, Jens!
– Leica Internet Team
Learn more about Jens on his website and Instagram.