Interview with Jean Marie Biele
The thing that caught my eye when digging through Jean's website wasn't her impressive 'Published In.." list, it was when she said "I make a mean banana bread". Aside from her bread baking abilities, Jean is an amazing photographer. I admire her colorful photos and powerful use of contrast! Take a look at what she has to say and then go say hello!
Cold brew with heavy cream has been my jam lately.
Favorite artistic mediums
Photography, music (something is always on), and large-scale paintings and street art. I like feeling small and all-encompassed by art when I can. Think Wynwood in Miami or the LA Arts District.
Gear of choice
Nikon D800 and Nikon D750
Where are you located
I recently relocated to Los Angeles, CA from Orlando, FL.
I LOVE your work. It’s so simple and clean but still super powerful. What is your creative process like when planning out shoots?
Thank you! It usually starts with a small idea loosely based on something I’ve seen on Instagram or elsewhere on the Internet or from a mix of things in my brain. My ideas usually evolve when I’m falling asleep and once the full idea comes to me, I hustle as fast as possible to make it happen immediately. My last in-studio shoot with Cabyus and Hayley was a tiny idea in my brain for about a year, but one night, all the details came to me and I organized to do the shoot the following week. I’m very instincts-driven and I create my art when the moment strikes. I have to do it then. I’m very all-or-nothing in most aspects of my life.
What inspired you to get into photography?
Traveling. I was always mildly into photography because of my parents, but it wasn’t until a trip to the UK and France when I was twenty that it really struck. I felt a strong desire to document what I saw and I realized then that I had something resembling talent. Or at least something that looked like it could evolve into talent. I wasn’t great, but it was really the only thing I ever enjoyed doing and felt that I was kind of okay at it. It took a long time to find the aspects of photography that I really enjoyed. Honestly, I’m still figuring it out, but I’m closer than I was ten years ago. I’ve tried it all: weddings, families, sports, concerts, portraits, etc., and it wasn’t until the past year when I started working with models that I found my niche. I’ve learned that I absolutely love shooting with competent models and creating artful pieces together as a team. I know I can’t create something beautiful without the talent of the model and moreso, with a full team.
How did you get started in wrestling photography?
I had done concert photography when I first started out and I truly loved it. There was a thrill in the challenge of working with low lighting and action; if you didn’t get the shots in the allotted time, you didn’t get them at all. I found it difficult to get into the field, but the love of it always stayed with me. Then, almost ten years later, I had taken portraits of my friend who was a wrestler for Impact Wrestling. He forwarded the images to his contact at Impact and they had me do a trial run at one of the tapings at Universal Studios in Orlando, where I was living at the time. I absolutely loved it and was immediately brought back to when I shot concerts. I was ringside and right in the action. I was literally dodging people flying out of the ring; it was great! Impact loved the shots (thank god!) and they brought me on the next few tapings in Orlando as a paid contractor. Shooting for Impact takes me back to those concert days where it’s all action and ever-changing light. It’s difficult and super challenging to get the shot, but it’s so fun. I’ve gotten to know the wrestlers and crew and it’s honestly a joy to shoot for them. It’s pretty cool getting to see my work on their social media and in wrestling magazines, too!
How did you reach this level of success as a photographer? When did you realize you ‘made it’.
I wouldn’t say I’ve “made it” just yet, but I do feel like I’ve come a VERY long way. I’ve had my ups and downs and I’ve definitely lost faith along the way. It wasn’t until last year that I truly put 100% in learning my craft and hustling to get paid work. I’ve learned so much in this past year and I know this is my real beginning. Just getting paid to take photos, no matter in what capacity, still blows my mind. It’s so humbling when people reach out to me to get their photo taken. I hope that feeling never fades. To reach this level, I actually just believed in myself and took what I wanted. It’s amazing how far believing in yourself can actually take you. I’ve struggled a lot with self-confidence and this past year has been one big life lesson that slapped me in the face. I had support and I started to believe I could actually do what I love. And guess what? I did! That blew my mind and it still does. It’s so simple, but really very effective. It only took me nearly thirty years to figure it out!
If you could photograph or collaborate with anyone - dead or alive - who would it be and what kind of shoot would you like to do?
Oh man, that’s a tough one. There are so many, but the first person that comes to mind is Mark Rothko. His paintings have always moved me in a very beautifully melancholy way. And as someone who has also struggled so much with depression, his own battle and how his art reflected that have always intrigued me. If I could, I would do a simple portrait in black and white and natural lighting after a conversation and a cup of coffee together. Preferably in his studio because I love capturing artists in their element. It’s usually where people are most comfortable and I’ve always wanted to do a series of photographing artists in their creative spaces.
Your photos are very contrasty and colorful. What is your editing process like? Do you like the editing process or try to keep things quick?
The editing process has always been a struggle for me. It’s taken me years to get a look I kind of dig. I mostly work in Lightroom. I start with a set of film-y presets I love and tweak them to my liking. I do basic universal edits in LR and all my retouching in Photoshop. For retouching, I do a mix of frequency separation and micro dodging and burning. My process is never really quick since I feel the need to retouch in many of my shoots. I find that retouching is that element that can take a photo from good to great. I’m still learning to keep things subtle, but to me, retouching makes all the difference, especially in the editorial-type shoots I’m doing now. As far as liking the editing process, I do like it, but I also need to be in just the right mood to get my edits accomplished and finish a set. It can be daunting, so I’m known to put off the process until I’m in the right mindset.
What is something unusual that you find inspiring?
As I mentioned above, I’ve struggled a lot with self-confidence and depression. In that, a lot of beauty can come from pain and that pain can be inspiring. So many artists I look up to have struggled to the point of being debilitated by their pain, as I have. The art they produce can be that much more beautiful because, sometimes, it’s literally all they have. There is so much beauty in that and so much that can evolve from that pain that it is never endingly inspiring. There is a light at the end of every tunnel; there has to be or else we’re hopeless. We need that hope to push forward in everything we do. That whole cycle never ceases to amaze me and never ceases to inspire me.
Any advice for beginning photographers?
Shoot. All the time. Meet other photographers. Reach out to creatives. Create weird stuff. Don’t be ashamed if you think your art is weird. Don’t be embarassed to get the shot. Gain confidence in your craft and learn to work with a team. If you have a vision and a confidence in that vision, your team will believe in you and want to make it happen, too. Seriously, just get out there, meet other creatives, and shoot. You will gain so much knowledge in experience and collaboration. Even if others don’t shoot the same way you do, learn their techniques and what drives them; it will never hurt, it can only help you get better.
What character on Friends would you be?
Haha I can honestly say I’ve never been asked that. I’d say I’m as weird as Phoebe and as neurotic as Monica. I hope that counts!
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