Who is Jean-Mathieu Saponaro?
I was born and raised in Provence, Southern France. I’ve just turned 30 and am now living between Paris and New York thanks to my job. Being a software engineer, photography is my way to break my mind out of the lines of code outside of work. I find photography to be a pretty exciting process for an engineer, because it’s all about optimization: what is the best combination of speed, aperture, ISO, light, framing which will give me the photo that I want?
What are you doing, why do you do it?
I guess you can see it in my photos: I like colors! I like looking for interesting ones in what surrounds us and composing with them. A bit like how painters gradually create their own unique palette by mixing colors they’ve never mixed before and never after, I try to use photography to steal the colors that are around me: on people, on bricks, on nature. These colors can be found in a discreet ray of light, tones coming from winter’s sun, a shadow, common house objects, nature… I love to think how these fragments of life that I capture in space and time will never be the same again after the photo.
How do you create?
I like to wander the streets of a city, or the side roads of a region. I’m looking for aesthetic fragments that most people would pass by without noticing.
Over the past couple of years I’ve started working more and more with film. I like how it forces me to think twice before taking a photo since I don’t want to waste film, and I know I can’t see the result on a screen right after. Also, it naturally adds a magic tint to colors which limits the post-processing. My play on colors already begins when picking the film I’m going to shoot with.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
I started diving into photography a few years ago. I think the biggest challenge was to find my own signature, my own style. At first I only had other photographers as reference. And it’s easy to fall in the trap of simply trying to copy the ones you like. It takes a lot of time and practice to really be able to take a step back and ask yourself, “what are you trying to create? Why are you taking these photos? What do you like about them?” And to be honest, I think finding your own style is a never-ending process. So I’m still working on it.
Asking close friends and family for feedback and presenting my work to social media audiences and photographer communities also helped me find the style I wanted to convey.
What would you consider as a breakthrough point for you?
When my parents saw that photography was becoming more and more serious in my life, my step-father dug out his old film camera, a Canon AE-1 that he bought in Japan when he was navigating on commercial ships in the 1980’s. It took me a couple of months to take the plunge, learn how to properly use it, and finally test it out in the streets of Paris. It’s now my most loyal companion when wandering.
That is the moment when I decided to take my photography passion to the next step and start presenting my photos to magazines and galleries.
What are your plans for the future?
Over the past year, I got the honor to see my work presented in multiple exhibitions, including the “Salon de la Photo” in Paris (probably the biggest photo fair in France). In February, a gallery offered me the opportunity to have my first exhibition in my name, dedicated to my photo series called “The Photographer Palette”. Seeing my work entering this more professional world really made me want to continue.
My dream is to one day shoot on a movie set…