An Exclusive Interview with Valérie Jardin

Two boys jumping off a platform into water.

Valérie Jardin is a self-taught photographer with a passion for street photography that shines through in her captivating images. Her minimalist style, focus on light and shadows, and ability to capture fleeting moments make her work stand out.

But what inspires and motivates her to create? What makes a street photograph truly compelling? And how has her photography evolved over the years?

In this interview with ComposeClick, Valérie shares her thoughts on these questions and more, offering insights into her approach to street photography and her experiences as a photography workshop instructor. Read on to discover what makes Valérie Jardin one of the most exciting photography educators and street photographers of our time.

Brandon Ballweg: How did you get started in photography in general, and what made you gravitate to street photography?

Valérie Jardin: I am a self-taught photographer with experience working for clients across various genres, including portrait, food, and interior photography. While traveling, I consistently incorporated people into my shots, and only later realized that I had been practicing ‘street photography’ without being aware of the terminology.

A jockey riding a horse.

BB: Who are your biggest influences in photography?

VJ: I wouldn’t say that any particular photographer has influenced my style, although growing up in France, I was surrounded by prints and calendars of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau on my walls, so perhaps they have had some impact on me. However, I find that my biggest source of inspiration comes from everyday life rather than other photographers.

BB: What are some of your favorite photography books?

VJ: I really enjoy David DuChemin’s books. ‘Within the frame’ remains one of my favorite books related to photography.

A silhouette of a man wearing a hat going down stairs.

BB: How would you describe your photographic style?

VJ: I consider myself a minimalist photographer. Overall, I don’t like busy scenes. My compositions are usually quite minimalist and clean. I work a lot with light, shadows, lines and patterns.

A woman from behind with blonde hair and large hoop earrings.

BB: What inspires and motivates you to create?

VJ: I love seeing moments of everyday life unfold through my lens. It’s a privilege to witness these moments and to be able to immortalize them through photography. Preserving these moments is a truly beautiful thing.

Streaks of light with a person walking.

BB: What do you think makes a street photograph stand out?

VJ: A compelling photograph is the result of various elements working in harmony. As a photographer, I respond quickly to the narrative that unfolds before me, capturing a fleeting moment in time. For me, elements such as composition, lighting, and gesture are not just technical aspects of photography, but a way of perceiving the world emotionally.

A young Hasidic man walking with a black umbrella in front of a white brick building.

BB: What would you like viewers to feel when they see your work?

VJ: My hope is that viewers feel something when they see my work, and from there, allow their own imagination to interpret the narrative.

A young man walking behind an old woman on a street.

BB: What have you struggled with in your photography, and was there anything that helped you overcome it?

VJ: There is no struggle as I am the only person I need to please with my work. I think that the key to being a happy photographer is to follow your heart.

People walking doing a sidewalk next to a brick building.

BB: What do you think the point of street photography is?

VJ: I hope that someday my photographs will hold historical significance, as we can learn so much from the documentary images of past photographers.

Additionally, street photography has taught me to be present in the moment and to appreciate the beauty of everyday life.

An old man reading a book through a shop window.

BB: In what ways has your photography evolved over the years, and is there a particular style that you’re gravitating towards?

VJ: While my photography has evolved over time, it has never been driven by a desire to follow a particular style or trend. I simply capture what moves me in the moment. My personal style has developed organically through a combination of technical expertise and life experiences.

A man working on a building display that has a hand pointing.

BB: Are there any big differences that stick out to you between doing street photography in the U.S. and France?

VJ: While French people tend to be more private than Americans, I approach my street photography subjects with the same level of respect regardless of the country.

A woman walking in shadow with her face in light.

BB: What are your photography workshops like, and what do you want photographers to take away from them?

VJ: As a street photography instructor, my goal is to teach people how to see and approach the world through their lens, regardless of their technical expertise or level. Prior to the workshop, I expect participants to have a basic understanding of how to use their camera. However, the ability to truly “see” is a different skill altogether and that’s why they attend my workshop.

I strive to provide a variety of techniques to help participants step out of their comfort zone and find their own voice in street photography. When providing feedback on photographs, I believe in a gentle approach that focuses on constructive criticism rather than negativity. By offering specific suggestions and areas for improvement, I aim to help individuals grow and develop their skills in a positive and supportive way.

A person being dragged in a carriage by a horse.

BB: Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you’d like to share?

VJ: I would like to add one important thing. I believe that street photography deserves to be respected, and shortcuts should not be taken. By definition, street photography is 100% candid, and staging shots not only violates ethical codes but also deprives photographers of the challenge and joy of capturing the decisive moment. It’s important to embrace the unpredictability of street photography and to develop the skill and patience required to capture authentic, candid moments.

A woman's legs walking down a stone staircase.
A young blonde woman riding a bicycle.
Two women from above walking under an umbrella.
A girl jumping off a tall platform into water.
An old woman's reflection in glass.
A man in a nice suit drinking espresso in a cafe.
A man wearing a hat walking from shadow to light.

Thanks to Valérie for doing this interview. She’s a wealth of knowledge on street photography, so definitely check out her work:

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