One of the most widely published interior photographers working today, Laure Joliet has captured a plethora of aspirational homes and styled scenes. To us, she is a friend and close collaborator. Laure helped us capture the warmth and care that went into the Kalon Showroom, and several of her photographs hang on our walls. This month, in a first for us both, Kalon hosts Laure Joliet for an exhibition of her fine art photographs, curated across nearly a decade of unpublished archive material. ‘Invitations’ turns the lens on earthly and domestic observations and found vignettes marked by a striking intimacy. The photos in this show invite a softness with our surroundings — a quiet witnessing — as well as a keen sensitivity to the material and emotional world around us, a sensibility which resonates deeply with us. In these captured moments, we are struck by a tangible spirit of noticing. We sat down with Laure to explore the role of photography in her life, the creative and spiritual practice of noticing, and more.
Kalon: What has been (and continues to be) the purpose or role of photography in your life?
Laure Joliet: I am very lucky to have a very creative family. My grandparents were weavers, my great aunt and uncle sculptors, my mom was a painter and garden designer and my dad has always been an avid photographer. When my dad gave me a camera of my own in elementary school it opened up my imagination and offered me an outlet. Something about the process connected me to myself and the world around me and that thread has remained consistent throughout the many iterations of photography I have embraced in my life. I used that first camera to document the world around me and then share it. The sharing of the photo made the process very much about connection. A connection to my creative self and then a way to share that with others and connect to friends and family. It happens to be the way I make a living now, but I still use photography to connect to quiet, softer moments. I hope that makes it into my commissioned work. I love translating the world into a still image and trying to get emotion, depth, and humanity into a photo. It’s a way of looking that keeps me sensitive to my surroundings. It’s an outlet, a portal, a shift in the way I pay attention. It keeps me deeply in the moment.
K: The work selected for the show represents more than 10 years of images. How did you go about selecting the pieces for the show?
LJ: I make year end books of details and stolen moments that I send to clients (and my parents) and I’ve made various test prints over the years with the intention of starting to more formally sell prints. I came with those pieces as inspiration and [together with the Kalon team] we went through the space and picked out work that would live in specific areas based on how the rooms flowed, what furniture was already present, the kind of room it was. Each piece was custom printed for the space it was set to hang in, much like a home and we tried to keep a mix of wild landscapes and textures and interior details that felt moody and gave the viewer a chance to dream a bit. It was really the only way I could imagine showing work at this moment since I am so rooted in domestic spaces, much more than a traditional art gallery.
K: How do the photos in this show live within your broader body of work?
LJ: This show is about coming into a tighter focus on a fleeting moment that no one has set up specifically for a photo. It’s a chance encounter with something beautiful, raw, and specific that I am noticing. It’s about not being anchored in a specific space or time. It’s these floating color fields, textures, glows. It isn’t about an impressive house or trip or anything you might covet. It isn’t about ‘over there’. With Invitations, I’m bringing the moment and the space (especially through use of scale) to the now. These photos are very much about the liminal space between interior and exterior — personally, physically, emotionally.
So much of the interior work I’m known for hinges on the word ‘aspirational.’ I spend my days in absolutely stunning homes and spaces where every detail is considered and really quite close to ‘perfect.’ It’s a dream and I get to work with such incredibly talented people. The photos presented in in this show allow you to be immersed in one element and dimension of a space and moment in time and are invitations to let your mind wander to your own personal connections, recollections, and thoughts. Life has been confusing and complicated for the world the last couple of years and acutely dangerous for so many. I hope that these offer a reprieve and opportunity to notice subtleties and the quiet texture of everyday life.
K: What do you think is your relationship with noticing/witnessing vs. capturing?
LJ: I traveled back and forth between Los Angeles and France a lot when I was growing up. Going between spaces, adjusting myself to new contexts became very normal and one way I coped was by noticing and delighting in small details by myself. Having a camera to document and connect back to myself helped to ground me in the present to deal with so many changes. The noticing became seamless with the capturing. As I have gotten older and phones and cameras have become ubiquitous and I’ve amassed hard drives upon hard drives of images, I actually take fewer photos in my personal life. I prefer to set it all down and just see what is happening and try to either let it wash over me, or I take the mental picture just for myself.
K: When you do feel called to capture something, what is the feeling?
LJ: Freedom. Even if it is just fleeting. In the moment that I am taking the picture, I feel connected to all of the other moments I’ve had that spark of joy, which I think is the connection to our creative self. At the risk of embarrassing, it’s a spiritual connection to a deeper me that exists beyond a certain phase of life, job, or anything material. Everything I capture becomes a memory that brings me back to the time and place where I was, reminding me of the way the sun felt, the feeling I had, and the gentle spark of noticing.
K: Photos have the ability to suspend time and capture memories. Tell us about some of the photos or intimate moments represented in the show.
LJ: All of these photos were fleeting moments. Quick clicks of a seemingly inconsequential detail that caught my eye, made my heart turn, or made me pay attention. They didn’t require lighting or styling that froze them in place for an extended period. The pink curtains glowed a deeper shade of red on a shoot when we were facing the other direction, but I turned and needed to photograph them. Sitting on a boat in Maine while pregnant (so not jumping over the side to swim), I captured the moment that my friend Kate went underwater and left subtle ripples in such specific green water, the sun warm on my back. On a trip to Greece, the dusk light filtered perfectly through lace curtains while I tried to nap my jet lag away… but I still needed to get up to document that beautiful detail. At my aunt’s house, the little cutout with the lamp is always there with subtle changes to the tabletop below. Whether it’s been 6 months or 3 years since I have visited, it is consistent and I can never resist taking a picture.
K: How can we all become better at noticing?
LJ: I think it all starts with pausing. Being alone and going for a walk and noticing the wind and the light reflecting on a tree. Noticing is really a creative and spiritual practice.