José Jeuland is an ex-professional triathlete turned commercial and documentary photographer based in Singapore. Born and raised in Brittany, France - José has traversed the world and seeks to photograph diverse subjects that tell a compelling story. His photography expeditions have resulted in successful exhibitions such as Haenyeo: Women Divers of the Sea and Longevity Okinawa: Centenarian’s Secrets.
Currently, José hopes to move more towards the direction of directing and producing his own short films and commercial videos. Here he takes us through some of his most memorable photos from his extraordinary adventures.
While preparing for an ultra-trail running race in Jeju Island, I chanced upon the culture of the Haneyeo Women. Embodying the spirit of independence and strength, these women free-dive the sea to fish for a living, some of them up to the age of 80 years old. I just knew I had to capture them in action.
These women are the last of their generation. In every photograph I shot of them, I tried my best to capture the essence of these strong-willed ladies and connect the audience to the actual life and work that the Haenyeo experience every day. Some of the women are portrayed in monotone for the audience to understand more in depth of the feelings and emotions the Haenyeo women divers go through.
The seafood I got to try was absolutely delicious. The courage of these women willing to brave the treacherous depths of the sea for their community’s livelihood amazes me. I am very honoured to have documented this part of their lives.
As you can see, the results were beyond my initial expectations. With the pictures I documented of the Haenyeo, I managed to produce and execute a successful international photography exhibition at The Fullerton Hotel Singapore which generated over S$500,000 in PR media value. It was also featured in the media such as The New York Times, Lonely Planet and Spiegel.
In person, Ogido Tsuru is a small-sized and affable 97 year old lady. I was privileged to be able to witness she and her 98-year old husband’s cute and endearing relationship. Not many married couples manage to live to this ripe old age together. They have been married for 76 years! The people of Okinawa seem to have indeed mastered the secret of happiness to life.
In order to create the best portraits, I know my subjects have to feel comfortable under the scrutiny of my lens. I feel I have a natural affinity towards people and can adjust my personal interactions with them to suit their various comfort levels.
The elderly Okinawans were very excited to be photographed, which made it much easier for me to shoot their portraits. After one or two shots, I would show them how they looked like on the display screen and they usually responded with a smile or laugh.
That tactic seemed to work as they started to ease up and get more comfortable in front of the camera as they were assured they were in good hands.
The elderly I shot were all very grateful and touched that a stranger would want to shoot them professionally. Little do they know that the gratefulness and lessons I have learnt from them far outweigh their feelings towards me. It was indeed a very emotional journey for myself.
I don’t just shoot people, I love to capture the motion in life too. And where better to find action than in India, a country rich in culture and tradition? At the 2019 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Prasdesh, India - 150 million pilgrims gathered over a period of 48 days in a celebration of peace and harmony.
The scene depicted here is from the Wall of Death. Part of the festivities, this carnival sideshow intertwines science and heart as stuntmen on motorcycles and cars ride around the vertical wall of a barrel-shaped wooden cylinder, defying gravity through the manipulation of friction and centrifugal force.
To capture this shot, my shutter speed was set at 1/1000. To catch a good action shot - you have to anticipate the subject’s next move. Furthermore I was shooting with a medium-format camera, which shoots at a lower frame per second (FPS) rate and is not capable of burst mode.
My experience at Kumbh Mela was something out of this world. The day I was there, Feburary 4th 2019, it was reported that there were 40-50 million people present. I have never witnessed so many human beings concentrated in a single space at any one time. Pushing through the thronging crowd, I felt like I was in a movie. Definitely an experience that will be clearly etched in my mind for this lifetime!
Back in Singapore, I also love shooting Portrait and Headshots. One of my favourite backdrops I love using is Gravity Backdrops. These are canvases which are hand-painted by master artists, and add so much depth and feel to the shot I am creating.
As an aside, my humble opinion is that photographers usually are good in one or another setting - some are better in the natural environment, and some in the studio. I love challenges and I like to think that I am a versatile photographer who can manage both settings very well. Natural light is beautiful, but I also enjoy using studio lights to bring out the best side of the people I photograph.
The model depicted in this photograph is Dr. Ironshini Chua. Born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, she studied medicine in Ireland and together with her husband Dr. Kevin Chua, own a medical practice in Singapore. They have 2 beautiful children. A remarkable example for the cosmopolitan modern woman of this day, I was happy to shoot her in traditional costume to highlight her heritage and roots.
I feel that the techniques used in shooting Portrait Studio Photography can be extremely powerful. You have the ability to accurately create the image you desire. One can never stop learning in Studio Photography and the opportunities to play with your creativity are endless.
The people behind Gravity Backdrops are experienced photographers themselves, and with their photographic knowledge of the interplay of light and color, they are able to create amazing backdrops with different textures and colors that will elevate your shot to another stylistic plane. I am very pleased to be collaborating with them.
On a corporate shoot I did with JW Marriott, I was tasked to shoot corporate headshots for their staff. The man featured in this photo is Stefano Di Salvo, their Executive Chef. I enjoy experimenting and always try to create lively and engaging headshots for my client.
All photographers have different approaches and we all have different personalities. To get the best out of my model, I am my usual natural and polite self. I know my place and do not overstep personal boundaries. When shooting commercial photography, it is not always easy as the subject might be there on orders and not willingly.
They might be in a good mood, or an unpleasant mood - it could be based on a wide variety of reasons. The subject might not enjoy being photographed, or they might have had a bad day. So, as a commercial photographer, the challenge you face is finding the perfect solution on getting your subject to cooperate, to create the best shot that lives up to the client’s expectations.
For this particular shot of Stefano, I was given a creative brief but it was my own initiative to ask him to pose with the fish. I directed him to play with the fish’s eye and had the vision of using a strong black and white contrast for the final image. Stefano has a great and generous personality, he is very photogenic and I enjoyed every second of the shoot.
Sometimes it will take a longer while to get the perfect shot you envision. How I overcome this challenge is to try to tweak the pose, or change the environment the subject is in. Most importantly, I do my utmost to see what will look best for the person I photograph.
My recent trip to the Tibetan Autonomous region was awe-inspiring. The people carry themselves with a grace and independence that can only come with living a life self-governed. They have to be disciplined in order to survive.
For this trip - I traveled alone with no itinerary. I met a young lady during a 15 hour bus ride (at times we were at 5000m above sea level). We got to chatting and she invited me to stay at her home with her family. I was ecstatic at the opportunity to live the authentic Tibetan life!
I stayed there for 8 days, living like them. There was no water supply, toilet nor shower facilities available. It wasn’t an easy experience because it was very cold. However, it was absolutely my best travel experience. The family I stayed with spoke only Chinese or Tibetan, not a single word of English - strangely it did not matter much as we managed to communicate and understand each other well. It proves to me that language should not be a barrier for communication. I really miss this family a lot.
The photographs I managed to capture for my Tibet Series are very strong and I have received lots of great feedback about them and they have been published in a few media platforms. Many have asked if I plan to exhibit or publish a Photography Book for my Tibet Series. Some have also purchased my Fine Art Photography Prints of this series.
I know I have enough material to make an exhibition or book happen. I might also consider traveling back to Tibet to document more of their beautiful country. I hope to have the exhibition ready for next year, the prints from this series are absolutely outstanding in their resolution and details - it was shot with a medium format camera.
The Vedda. An indigenous tribe in Sri Lanka who are in danger of becoming extinct, it was my privilege and honour to have the opportunity to shoot them.
It was interesting how I heard of the Vedda for the first time. It was during a meeting with the Sri Lankan tourism board in Colombo and I was looking at some of their books and documents on display. I saw a photograph of an indigenous Vedda and it caught my full attention.
After my meeting, I returned to the home of my close friend Uncle Abbey where I was staying and asked him about the Vedda. Uncle Abbey is a very educated man with a great open mind and he shared with me all he knew about them.
A few days later, I was on my way to go on some safaris and explore parts of Sri Lanka that I’d never been to. This is where I met the Vedda and managed to photograph them.
Whenever I document a subject or photograph people, I always remain neutral and do not enjoy taking sides - I see things in a positive way. Perhaps one day it might be different if I were to document heavier subjects like war or ecology. However for now, I enjoy my thought process behind the way I shoot and believe very strongly that the relationship between photographer and subject away from the lens is just as important, if not even more, than the actual act of taking the photo itself.
I have had the great opportunity and privilege to collaborate with some terrific brands that have helped me along my photography journey. These are a few of them:
Having to travel a lot for work, and oftentimes through tough terrain, I absolutely need bags and gear I know I can count on. Manfrotto is a brand I wholeheartedly put my trust in. With just my Manfrotto backpack, Manfrotto messenger bag and Manfrotto tripod, I feel very secure and ready-equipped to take on any photo project in any sort of environment.
I also never travel without my The North Face gear. It has been many years that I have been using The North Face for my sporting activities and travel adventures. They have amazing gear which always fit my needs perfectly. My travel experiences range from extreme cold to very warm weather conditions, and my attire from casual to more serious and technical needs. The North Face gears are high end products with great technology and features. Their apparel and products are also very stylish. I am sure anyone reading this will find it hard to disagree.
Only till late last year was I given the amazing opportunity to collaborate with BenQ. This BenQ calibrated monitor has given my photography skills and post-production process a huge leap in improvement and execution of skill.
Previously, I did not own a calibrated monitor at all and the stark difference between owning one and not owning one is very obvious to me, because the exposure and editing is always accurate now. This gives me great confidence when I deliver my images for commercially. There is no doubt that everything I see on screen is edited exactly to the way I wish it to be.
My love for photography books and looking at exhibitions of photography prints is what kickstarted my desire to be a photographer. I see the printing as one of the final stages of the full editing process, from start to finish. Epson is a brand I have collaborated with for the past 2 years. Without them, I would not be able to produce quality prints for my exhibitions. There is so much more I wish to learn regarding printing.
Printing my own work inspires me to be a better photographer. Shooting with medium-format, your images are ultra-defined and your entire work is left to be scrutinized by the audience. Epson, with its advanced printing technology - is definitely the leader in Fine Art Printing. Some do not believe me when I tell them that Epson purposefully develops its paper and media to work best with the Epson inks. I make sure I only use Epson media in order to get the best quality print.
If stored and kept in the right conditions, an Epson print could last you up to 70 years.
Lastly, I would like to show you a behind-the-scenes video I did in collaboration with The North Face as I shot my Okinawa Project. It will give you some sense of my light set-up and how I try to interact with the photo subjects to make them comfortable in front of the lens.
The North Face - Behind-The-Scenes “Okinawa Longevity Project” By José Jeuland
For more Projects, Exhibitions and Products, visit José’s website.
To see more of his stunning travel photography, follow him on Instagram or head over to Facebook.