Spotlight on a photographer: Juliette Fradin
Letting moments unfold organically.
Photographer: Juliette Fradin, USA (sometimes France)
Tell us a little about yourself? How did you get into photography?
My name is Juliette. I am originally from France. I grew up on the west coast in the countryside but lived in Paris before moving to the U. S. where my husband and I settled in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. 10 years ago. We watch our 2 kids growing up too quickly and try to instill some french-ness into their sweet little minds so they don’t forget there is a bigger world out there. I come from a family of painters, photographers, and dreamers where art is a serious matter and creativity is the epicenter of family life. I dabbled in photography throughout high school and college but it really took a more professional turn when my daughter was born in 2011. Before that, I joined an online photography community (clickin moms), kept reading, shooting, learning, and improving.
What do you love about being a photographer?
Being a photographer lets me freeze time and slow down. I am an introvert and a contemplative so taking photographs allows me to be part of what is going on but a step away, which I love. I usually try not to disrupt the moment either with my kids or with clients and let things unfold organically. I don’t want to lie or force anything (which is hard in the family photo industry right now). There are lots of emotions embedded in photos. It comes from the subjects of course but also from the moment, and this particular stage in their life they are in. With a good picture, you will remember the sounds, the smells, the laughs, the things your kids used to do or say. It is a precious little time capsule.
How would you describe your approach to photography?
Time moves quickly. Beauty, love and sacred moments are intertwined with pain, change, and loss. It is undeniably hard but this imperfect woven tapestry of instants and emotions empower us to savor life at its fullest. I believe in telling honest stories to pass down to our kids, as a legacy. It grounds them and hopefully, give them a sense of belonging. My hope is to stay true to my clients’ story. I want them to have a safe place to embrace every beautiful piece of who they are as a family, and to slow down so they can enjoy the simple fact of being together in their familiar space. I truly believe that even if life is busy, the most meaningful things are the simplest and need to be recorded.
Has this evolved overtime or have you always had this approach?
I think that the hardest thing about being a photographer is to find your own voice and style. This is something very intimate as your personality shapes what you are drawn to. I knew from the beginning I wanted to photograph families so I started doing what everybody else was doing: picking up a location, dressing up my clients, buying props, suggesting activities, bringing a blanket to the park… Even though it was pleasant, my heart was not into it and I wanted more. Something was missing. I wanted connections and raw moments and found they were easier to catch when I was not in the way. I had to let go of the control I had on my clients in order to photograph them as truly as possible.
I think that a series of pictures that tell a unique story of a perfectly imperfect life is far more engaging than a posed portrait where my clients may look like any other family. It won't bring up the same memories. The ability to freeze time on a particular day will transport you back to that year and show your unique personalities and lifestyle that are evolving throughout time. The walk to your neighborhood playground might seem ordinary today but will become a treasured memory in a while.
You have such a gift at capturing emotions and moments in such a natural way - how do you ensure the people you subject are so relaxed?
It starts way before I physically meet with my clients. The portfolio and the images I share on social medias already set the tone. I would say that 90% of my images are of people who don’t look straight at the camera. They are caught in their everyday life as parents while nursing babies, bathing, playing legos, setting limits… This documentary approach is not everyone’s taste but prospective clients will know if this kind of photography is for them or not. I also paid attention to my “About me” page in order to build trust. I know it is not easy to have someone coming to your home so I want them to feel comfortable hanging out with me for a little while. I send them a questionnaire to know what their aspirations for the session are. On the day of the shoot, it is a mix of chatting and photographing. I am genuinely interested in their life and we often talk about parenting, travels, raising bilingual kids… I am unobtrusive and non-judgmental so after the first 30 minutes everybody relaxes.
Why do you think it is so important for families to document their lives in this way?
A storytelling or documentary session puts back LIFE into the images: from the place we shoot at to the emotions, to the clothing they pick. Life with kids is beautiful and funny but also challenging and sometimes not as easy as we would have thought. I want to create meaningful photos that will strike conversations 10, 20 and 30 years from now.
What advice would you have for someone when they are looking for a family photographer?
Do not pick a photographer out of a hat. Do not pick the cheapest. DO PICK one because you feel that there is a connection, because you like the philosophy and style, because you know someone who loved her experience with her/ him. DO PICK one because the photographer is willing to accommodate your family's needs and tailor your session to your demands. Depending on what stage in your life you are at, you might need different photographic styles. Sometimes a quick headshot at the mall is all you need, another day, you might want to capture your eldest welcoming the new baby during a longer session…
What tips would you have for someone wanting to photograph their family following a similar style to yours?
Be the photojournalist of the family! Try not to interrupt what is going on and just tag along. Don’t ask your kid to “cheese-smile” but instead focus on the little things, like the way your daughter holds a crayon or when your son is trying hard to lace his shoe. Those are tiny milestones that you will cherish later on. You can photograph a whole “day in your life” or capture the highlights of your day. In order to do that, you need to have your camera close by at all times, like on a shelf or your mantle, and ready to be fired. I have a big and heavy camera but this don’t stop me from bringing it everywhere: the park, the restaurant, the beach… The more you shoot the easier it will get, even in public spaces. You realize quickly that people don’t pay much attention anyway. And you will have captured the memory for your family! It is worth the minute of discomfort.
You are an eco-friendly business, what does this mean?
In September 2018, my husband, kids and I have decided to start this journey towards zero waste, for a more sustainable lifestyle, free of plastic. With that new way of living, I needed to change things in my business as well. Every order is mindfully packaged using eco-friendly materials in an ongoing effort to support sustainability. I encourage my clients to reuse, repurpose or recycle their packaging. And I source products that are as environmentally-friendly as possible for the planet. I love to do crafts so I often sew little pouches or wrap goods in fabric using a traditional japanese way called Furoshiki. Moreover, I partnered with One Tree Planted to support their amazing work around the globe, one tree at a time. Every time my clients purchase something in my shop, a tree is planted (or several!). By choosing me as their photographer, they choose to celebrate their family life... while helping with reforestation.
You often create photo books for your clients - what tips would you have for someone creating their own photo book?
I love for my clients to hold something tangible in their hands after our time together. Pixels look better in prints and it is always nice to pass by your photos everyday and be reminded of the good times! From my experience, a book is the best way to tell your family’s story: kids love to go through the pages, they often ask lots of questions about them being little, and it helps them to know themselves better. When our memory fades with time, you will hold a good reminder of the things you have done, the places you have been and the people near and dear to your heart. You can make year books or one for every season, or for that special vacation. We often take series of pictures of the same scene, so pick the best, the one that make you feel something. Write down the date, the names, an anecdote. Don’t aim for perfection or you will never finish the project (and I speak from experience here!). Think of the end result and dedicate a few hours to work on it to get it done.
What do you love most about the books you make with MILK?
I ordered many Moleskine books with MILK because it perfectly fits my branding and my clients love them! It is a beautiful way to mix the iconic notebook with meaningful pictures. I love that MILK kept all the features: rounded corners, ivory pages, the envelope at the end, the black band. Every time I receive one in the mail I am blown away by the quality of the pictures and I cannot wait to send it to the family. I made some for myself as well and they look good on my shelves!