Do you remember the first shoot you did for Dwell?
I believe I do, but wow, it feels like another lifetime ago. It was a City Guide that I shot of Vancouver, British Columbia. I was incredibly excited when I got the call to travel to Vancouver, because I lived there for ten years and to return after so long was very special. Every picture I took and every place I went to was imbued with memories. Plus I got to shoot and hang out with one of the nicest and talented designers I’ve met: Omer Arbel. Years later, we did an exchange: a print of mine for one of his cool lamps. I finally got the chance to install it in my dining room last week.
How do you usually prepare going into a Dwell shoot?
Other than the City Guides that I’ve shot for Dwell, which are a little bit more straightforward, I like to scout the home a little bit before I’m shooting, keeping in mind the shot list and the conversation that I’ve had with the photo editor regarding the location. But then, after that, it is an organic and fluid process of moving through the spaces with my camera, being aware of the how the natural light is interacting with the space. I’ve learned to always respond to good opportunities as I’m shooting, and will sometimes interrupt myself for a good shot. For example, I may be shooting the kitchen but then I notice how the light is falling so awesomely in the playroom while the kids are playing, so then we move the camera right away to shoot that and revisit the kitchen later.
Do you have any favorite moments from a shoot?
Shooting people in their homes has always been a unique experience. As a photographer you’re fortunate to be granted unrestricted access to the private space of the people that live there, and more often than not they will treat you as a very special guest or friend. While shooting a home outside of Quito, Ecuador, the owner told my assistant and I that it was time for lunch, and he cracked open some beers and started cooking for us in front of us, as we sat on the kitchen table enjoying the beers. It’s really the simple pleasures.
This can also be the answer to the question above. It was while shooting in Phoenix, I met this very nice and attractive young couple at the tiniest diner I’ve been to (Welcome Diner; great burgers as well). So I asked if I could shoot them. I can’t quite remember, but I think because they didn’t have that much time right then, we agreed to meet again the following day. I got to shoot their house, and then both of them in the diner. They’ve been some of my favorite images for a while. In fact, that whole trip was very fruitful. I got many amazing images from that trip… Who knew? Phoenix.
Do you have a favorite house or location that you have shot for us?
Probably shooting Ray Kappe’s home in Los Angeles. Not only because he’s a legend in the architecture world, but also because it was such a joy to be in that house. The harmony with the structure, the materials, the wood, and how the natural light spilled into the interiors. I have a weakness for that era… My grandparents house in Lima was one of the first modernist houses there, and so many details of the Kappe house reminded me of that, at least in spirit. I felt very much at home.
What is it like seeing your images in print when the issue comes out?
It’s an incredible feeling! It’s nice to see your pictures online or on your computer monitor. It’s even better to have them printed and published, they feel validated, approved.
If you could choose one modern element to add to your home what would you choose?
I’m gradually (and very slowly) making my home a little bit nicer and more comfortable, and I suppose modern in that sense too. So as I mentioned above, I finally got to hang this beautiful lamp designed by Omer Arbel, called the Bocci 28.7 lamp. But I also installed these other beautiful pendants for my kitchen from Michele Varian in New York, I painted a wall, and a couple other little things like that. Ha! And actually, when I first moved here I did a portrait of a film producer at her home in Tribeca for the now defunct Cookie magazine. I loved her sofa so much that she actually sold it to me because she was moving to L.A. It’s a Cassina sofa designed by Piero Lissoni.
A little more about you:
Where are you from? How long have you been shooting?
I’m from Lima, Peru, by way of Vancouver, Canada, and then Los Angeles. But now I’m completing my time to become a New Yorker (I think it takes 10 years ;-)
I’ve been shooting officially since 2003… Unofficially (or as a hobby) since I was 15.
What type of assignments are you shooting these days?
These past few months have been incredible, and I have been loving every minute of it. I’ve been bouncing around between Latin America, North America, and Europe. Among the highlights: shooting an ad campaign for Microsoft, then shooting portraits of soccer kids for a sports brand (I can’t mention for whom as the ads are not out yet), and then shooting an interesting story on a liquor produced in my home country.
Type of camera?
I’ve been shooting with a range of cameras over the years: Mamiya RZ II, Toyo AII 4x5, Canon 5D Mark II, and Hasselblad H4D.
Film or Digital?
Both. Lately, mostly digital. Every so often, and particularly for personal projects, I shoot film with the 4x5.
Julia Sabot is passionate about everything photography related, and is a lover of the outdoors.