A beautifully shaped table, a perfectly cut block of wood, a minimal piece of jewellery or a flawless light point were some of the objects Jonathan used to design and then started to photograph. Today, we talk about his career shift and key advice when it comes to still life photography.
With an eye for materials, textures and shapes, Jonathan Mauloubier was first a product designer and only then a photographer. After years managing projects with several clients and a different range of products, he ended up producing his own shoots and eventually becoming a still life photographer himself.
In this interview, we talk to him about his unconventional journey, the love for objects and composed images, and what is coming next for the French photographer.
Tell us about yourself. Who is Jonathan Mauloubier?
I am French and moved to Germany about 10 years ago. The Munich way of life has seduced me and here I am today.
Originally educated as a product designer, I worked for over 7 years at the Diez Office, one of the most respected German studios in the field of industrial design. There, I developed an eye for materials, textures and shapes. I also got a good understanding of how things are made from scratch.
How did you get started with photography?
As a project manager, along with clients, I got involved in the process of strategising the concepts and products being introduced to the market. We had a very hands-on approach to the entire ideation and bring-to-life process of new products. I was deeply implicated in every step of the way, from the definition of a suitable concept to the prototyping, testing and ultimately presenting it to the public.
I understood the need for delivering high quality visual assets in line with the concept, right to the moment a product reaches a larger audience. Good communication is the key to good product acceptance.
With an in-house format, I started producing my own shoots for the benefit of the studio’s projects. After some years of doing that, I decided it was time for me to go my own way and established my studio for still and motion imagery.
You showcase light, textures, and materials in an interesting way. What is it that you like to concentrate on when doing still life photography?
The first thing I like to do is to get a good understanding of what needs to be depicted. The story behind the piece, the context, and how it came into my studio ends up in front of my lens. I try and initiate a dialog with the creator or the person in charge of communication. Only when I am sufficiently aware of the quality and singularities lying within the product, I create my images of interest.
I rely on the strengths of the things I capture. Once on set, I really like to experiment and try out different light effects in order to reveal the essence of the subjects and how much care has been invested in making them.
What do you think makes a good still life photograph?
I feel it is definitely the stage that does it. It is all about the elements in presence completing one another and creating a balanced scenery.
How important is composition to you? Do you follow some particular rules?
Composition is surely one of the main ingredients of the recipe of producing a good photograph. To me, this applies to all types of photography and videography.
This is where you first identify the eye of a photographer. Defining the frame and how much or where the main subject and its environment will find their place is the key. It maybe in a controlled situation, working with a tripod in a defined setup or even on-the-go in a more organic and intuitive way. I don’t really follow the rules of composition rigidly, but rather enjoy working on instinct and adjusting as the situation demands.
How do you then approach this kind of photography? Does it depend on the brief from the client or you choose the way to showcase the products?
It really depends on the context. Sometimes a client comes to me with a clear brief in mind and knows exactly what type of imagery needs to be produced to support a specific product. And on some occasions, it needs more suggestions from me in terms of story-telling or defining a proper set for the stage. This is what I like getting involved in, as it insures a pertinence through the process of communication, from the concept to the final visual.
How do you prepare to shoot? Do you prefer using some specific tech or lights?
Yes, I have my own gear when it comes to camera, lenses and lights in my small studio. But to make sure everything is on point when needed, I like to dig into the list of gears available at the local rental shop and adjust accordingly. I am a little nerdy with it. Sometimes, I even make a detailed sketch of the space we will be working in to make sure my assistant and I have all the equipment needed.
Usually, I work with Profoto flashlights and Elinchrom light formers. They are of great build quality and have never failed on me so far.
How would you describe your photography journey in one sentence?
Curious – especially about things and people who are driven by passion.
Is there something on your bucket list that you want to experiment with but haven’t?
Oh yes. I feel there are plenty of situations and locations I would love to confront. I would like to start applying my love for carefully made things to a more technical environment.
Documenting the new sports industry with hi-tech standards like the current sailing world for instance has intrigued me. I like assigning newer challenges to myself and learning in a trial-and-error way.
What’s next on the pipeline?
I am relocating to France with my family where I will have a studio in the house. My partner Charlotte and I work together on some industrial design commissions. So I have quite a challenge ahead combining all our activities and family. But a bigger studio space will definitely help and hopefully lead to new encounters too!
Jonathan Mauloubier is a French photographer who worked seven years as an industrial designer and project manager at DIEZ OFFICE. Together with Jean Besson and Lucas Uhlmann, he runs iiode, a creative collective aiming to sensitively connect technologies and common goods.
In 2017 and 2018, Jonathan was a visiting lecturer for photography at the University for Architecture, in Munich. Mauloubier’s recent collaborations include AKFB Studio, Burgbard, Bureau Mirko Borsche, Bureau Kilian Schindler, Sitzfeldt, Vitra, and many more.
To see more of the photographer’s work, visit his Cherrydeck profile or his website, here. For more inspirational and unconventional versions of Still Life Photography, see the series “Deconstructed Objects” by Studio Krokodil. 🍒