APIECE APART WOMAN
“There is always another place, another perspective, another way to look at life,” explains photographer Laure Joliet. Travel, home, and the sense of place that exists in the in-between are ideas that have been at the forefront of Joliet’s life (and, subsequently her work), raised between her father’s hometown of Paris, and her mother’s in Los Angeles. Today her photography focuses on spaces and the way people live and interact in them, which she documents for publications like The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and Afar. We visited her in East Los Angeles to discuss these ideas.
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Can you share more about your upbringing and childhood?
We traveled a lot when I was little. Until I was five we lived in Paris and went back to California all the time. And then we moved to California and went back to France all the time. So there was lots of movement and because of that, homes really took on tremendous meaning for me. I wanted familiar things, routines. And in each place I had a grandmother who seriously imprinted on me: in LA, Ana Lou lived in the ranch house she and my grandfather had built in the 40’s. I grew up in the tropical garden she had spent 50 years cultivating. I was barefoot, watering plants, weeding, and taking baths in tubs outside. In Paris, Genevieve was a weaver and an artist and lived in the apartment she and her architect husband had built in Place des Vosges with an indoor pond, a ceiling made of waves and an endless parade of things she loved. There I played with her collections of things, her piles of yarns, her love affair with ephemera.
Moving around made me aware that there is always another place, another perspective, another way to look at life. That really, life can be so many different things, look so many different ways, and be built around so many different ideas. This can be inspiring or paralyzing depending on the day. Moving back and forth so much also made me very attuned to changes in environment and gave me a sensitivity that I hope you can see in the work I make. I also don’t think it’s an accident that as an adult I’ve never moved away from LA. I love to travel around and go on adventures but I also love the consistency of coming home.
As someone who photographs a lot of interiors, how do you avoid inspiration fatigue?
The thing I’m really interested in is how people live. I grew up around artists and eccentrics who delighted in the color of a plastic bag in the street or an old chair, a wonderful meal on a beautiful plate. I have always loved being invited into someone’s space, into the world they have created for themselves. There’s a certain magic to that kind of privacy that has nothing to do with things being impressive or perfect. These days a lot of what I see online are spaces that seem to have been designed with the intent of sharing them. So much is sponsored, so many tags… It’s no longer about how a space feels, it’s about how it looks and what it can sell by being ‘inspirational.’ My favorite jobs are the ones when I get to go into someone’s space and nothing is adjusted. Instead, I just get to explore and document. I like feeling a little bit like I’m sneaking around and photographing things I’m not supposed to. As for the inspirations I take in, I keep my focus on publications like World of Interiors and Apartamento and love watching films with amazing set design.
What are some ways you incorporate experiences gleaned from travel and/or work into your own life?
I love that when I’m traveling I’m so much more up for things; there’s more urgency to experience the place. I try to remember that spirit when I’m home, try to make use of the time I have, and to rediscover my home and city by taking the time to go to a new restaurant, a museum, the flower mart. It can be really simple stuff.
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There is a lot of current focus on art/photography/creative output inspired by “the everyday.” What’s your perspective on this?
I think if you’d asked me six months ago I would have said that that is what inspires me. But I’ve had a series of small moments that have changed my perspective, the last of which was when we went to the LA Art Book Fair and book after book after book after zine after zine after book was about irreverently framed casual portraits of the everyday. And it was depressing. And that same feeling applies to a lot of my own work. Which is also depressing. But I think that’s how we grow. I often grapple with the sheer number of images we are all generating in a day. What is the point? And so it comes down to the unspeakable. A spark of connection, an image generating a feeling.
What does it mean to you to have a self-made career and to work independently? Have you ever doubted yourself or felt unsure of what you were doing?
I’m convinced that being creative means having doubt. It’s the thing that pushes you, that makes you question (in a good way) what you’re actually doing. I made a career shift about 10 years ago into photography because I decided that I could always go back to a more traditional path and that while I was still young with very few responsibilities I owed it to myself to take a risk. It was a great time and an awful time to go for it. There was a really beautiful and sincere movement of so many people striking out on their own that I felt very connected and inspired.
But now that I’m squarely in my career it feels great to know that I can weather the storms, put the hours in, rally when I need to, and that I can legitimately feel really proud of myself because I did this! Now I’m about finding some balance, risking saying no sometimes so that I can say yes other times. That freedom is priceless and terrifying.
Do you have trouble turning off work?
I just moved my studio back into our house after keeping a separate space for two years. Here’s what I learned: I love working from home because I can work whenever I want. I like working on Sunday evenings instead of dreading Monday mornings. Sometimes I get sent on shoots where I travel and I come home and I work on images and emails in a robe and it feels fantastic. I used to think that I needed to keep a ‘normal’ schedule but the amazing thing about working for myself is that I can take a Tuesday off or I can work for 2 weeks straight and then go somewhere on a trip for a week.
In terms of turning off, if it’s just been a stressful day in front of the computer then going for a walk is a great palette cleanser, making dinner with my boyfriend is a nice transition, too. If I’m coming off of a big traveling/shooting/exciting time then I go and get a massage. It always feels ridiculous and indulgent but it helps me so much to really relax and rest before gearing up for the next thing.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
The idea of HALT: basically if you’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired you need to take care of those things before you can approach anything else. I have found this to be immensely helpful and it cuts through a lot of the bullshit that starts to happen in my head when I am experiencing any of those things.
What are some of the cultural touchstones of your life: songs, artists, books, films that played a part in shaping who you are today?
Broadly—The films of Agnes Varda and Johan van der Keuken, the work of Sophie Calle, Cathy Opie, Wolfgang Tillmans, Uta Barth, Julius Shulman. The writings of Susan Sontag. I’ve always been a big reader, I think reading in general has kept my inner life and imagination alive (Currently I am loving the books of Karl Ove Knausgaard and also Heidi Julavits’ The Folded Clock). I also love pop culture and pop music, the more embarrassing the better. I cannot get enough Justin Bieber at the moment.
What do you make for dinner by yourself?
Pasta! I saute asparagus, snap peas and artichoke hearts with garlic and olive oil and lemon juice. And I put it over lemon pepper pappardelle with a generous sprinkling of parmesan. It’s simple and fresh and such a comfort.
Describe a personal daily ritual.
I take the time to wash my face at night and put all the creams on! It’s such a small thing, but makes a huge difference in winding down and also makes me feel cared for.
Please recommend something to us.
I recommend always having a book that you’re reading and to read at night before bed! I don’t have the discipline to do it all the time, but it is so satisfying when I do.
Photography by YE RIN MOK | Video by CLAIRE COTTRELL | Interview by LEIGH PATTERSON