After graduating with a degree in business administration, Jean Therese Maingat’s internal journey began, which two years later saw her falling in love with photography. The desire to capture the spirit and beauty of the things that surrounded her found her boarding a plane and travelling 7,000 km to a foreign city as an employee in the hospitality industry. In Dubai, she relied on photography to keep herself busy so as not to sulk over her departure and the things she missed most about home. There, she also came to discover her true passion, which ever since, has fuelled her into an entirely different world of marvels.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: What was your career path?
I like to document life, which started when I documented myself but as time went by it blossomed into documenting the world I live in, capturing the soul of the place and the people. Photography is all about preserving the moment. It also lets me see the world differently. I became more observant than ever. Most importantly, I learned how to see beauty in things and in people. It’s finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.
What’s the best part of being a photographer?
You get to preserve a moment and share it with others.
The hardest part of your job?
For me it’s chasing the light and failing to capture a moment that is gone forever.
If not a photographer who you would have been?
I honestly don’t know. But I’ll probably still be in the creative world. Maybe a writer or a stylist?
How would you describe your style and how did you develop it?
People say that most of my photographs are bright, lively and colourful. But I think, I don’t have a specific style. It changes depending on my subject and goal. I can go from vivid and crisp to dreamy to bright to dark. Indie to modern. It really depends. I adjust my style depending on the theme of the shoot.
Which photographers inspired you most, and how did they influence your thinking, style, and career path?
If you take a look at my Instagram feed, I post random stuff, basically photographs that show my life in a nutshell. I don’t like to limit myself when it comes to photography. I do portraits, street, lifestyle, editorial, fashion, and travel photography. For street photography, I look up to Vivian Maier. Her photos from the 60s are my favourite. They are nothing but short of amazing. Each photo has a story to tell and very captivating. For lifestyle, editorial, fashion, and travel, it would be Margaret Zhang. At the age of 21, she has accomplished a lot. I like how sophisticated her works are. I always check her blog for inspiration. These great artists serve as a motivation for me to do better in my craft and to pursue my passions in life.
How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
I don’t put too much pressure on myself. I just go out and take photos. Real learning comes through experience.
One of today’s main discussion points amongst photographers is about the use of digital photography; do you use digital cameras?
I do digital and mobile photography, but I am keen in trying film photography again. I love the whole strenuous process of film photography, but I also love the instant photo development digital photography gives you. I remember in my high school days, I used to own a Kodak film camera. I would bring it on school trips, loaded with a 36 roll film. The whole roll would be budgeted. It’s literally think-before-you-click-for- me. I don’t just take a shot. I study it first before clicking. That’s probably one of the things that I like about film, you don’t click unless you’re certain that it’s worth taking a shot. Today, on the other hand, photography can be everyone’s thing. People take photos of everything because it won’t cost them a dime (apart from a memory card and a camera battery, of course). I, myself, take photos of almost everything as I want to capture all angles, for fear of missing a moment. Out of 100 shots, I’ll probably end up with just 10 good shots. However, I am now trying to take lesser shots and live the moment too. Moving forward, for me, it’s not about which medium I am using-- it’s all about the photograph; the message and composition.
One last thing... Everyone can take a picture, but not everyone can capture a soul.
What kind of mode do you go into when photographing a concept or idea you are passionate about?
When I’m taking pictures, I’m stepping into a different world where it’s just me, my camera and my big canvas—the world. I create stories in my head and I take pictures accordingly. I observe my surroundings carefully, I watch the people, I listen to the buzzing, I live in the moment. I become one with my subject. We know that each of us has someone or something, which inspires our life and work. Tell us the true basis of your inspiration. My family will always be my main source of inspiration. But work wise, I usually browse through the works of other artists and then critique my work – we are our worst critiques. When it comes to photoshoots, it’s always two way. A clear understanding between the client and the photographer must be established. Next would be communication between the photographer and the model.
What is the favourite image you have shot recently?
It’s from my recent travel to Egypt. It’s a panorama shot of the pyramids and the Sphinx using my mobile. To be able to get a good photograph, you have to consider light and angle. So, I climbed into a rock for the best view. I like the perspective of capturing the whole place from above, putting everything into my frame.
What makes a good picture stand out from the average?
A photograph with a heart and soul. A photograph that speaks to you.
Exactly what it is that you want to say with your photographs?
I want my photographs to show life. I do that by connecting with my subject, by being in that moment.
What has been your most memorable session/assignment or maybe you can tell us about a project you’ve felt really connected to and why?
It would be the recent Instagram’s Worldwide Instameet. I joined the Dubai and Sharjah meet as I wanted to cover two things; new and old. In Dubai, it was held in BoxPark where I captured urban life and people depicted by modern structures and the busy city life. In Sharjah, we went to Kalba where we explored the old and abandoned Ice Factory that was turned into an art installation about life and the Kalba Mangroves, which brought us closer to nature.
Do you get to work with ad agencies on specific assignments?
No, though I was able to collaborate with bloggers and start-up brands for some photography requirements. I also take my own photos for my blog. In addition, I am part of a creative team that does photography and film, The BLCK Creatives Co. – and we were able to work on several projects. Moving forward, I am always up for fun and challenging experiences. So, working on an advertising campaign would be awesome!
Do you see yourself as a photographer many years down the road?
Yes. I fell in love with photography so much that I want to do this forever.
What advice do you have for photographers just starting out?
Just go shoot. It’s a big world out there, go out, explore and take photographs. “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” - Henri Cartier-Bresson.
On the technical front...
Nikon or Canon, other? Nikon (I am currently using a Nikon d3100 and Nikon 1J2)
Favourite lens? Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G
Favourite photographic accessory? I am currently using a lens UV filter + hood; it’s not really a favourite, I think it’s a necessity. It filters the light and protects your lens. I want to get a remote and a flash, soon. And oh, I love my 55- 200mm lens; perfect for traveling.
Favourite computer/editing accessory other than your computer? Lightroom + VSCO
A Mac or PC lover? Mac