Finding a photography voice with the X100F

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Jean-Mathieu Saponaro

Born and raised in Provence, southern France, and now living between Paris and New York, Jean-Mathieu Saponaro brings his Fujifilm X100F when wandering in their streets or on the road across the world. Passionate about the power of photography to turn what’s around into art, he searches for fragments of aesthetics around simple life moments and objects. He uses his website, List of Wanders, to share his work, the magic hidden places he encounters, and his carefully crafted road trip plans.

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I am Jean-Mathieu Saponaro but everyone calls me JM.

Born and raised in Provence, southern France, I moved to Paris to study engineering. Today I am a software engineer. Thanks to my studies and first internships, I had the chance to live in San Francisco for half a year, and later to leave Paris once again to start my career in the magic city of New York, where I lived for 3 years in Brooklyn. And that’s where it all begins.

Want to talk about photography?
What I know is that I have always preferred the photography section in museums – when there is one – because I liked the fact that you can create art with things that already exist or are happening in front of your eyes.

During my years in New York, I got more and more interested in diving into photography thanks to one of my best friends, whom I met there, Arnaud Montagard. He happens to be one of the most talented photographers I have seen, and together we wandered around almost all the neighborhoods of New York. I love to walk in this city. We also went on road trips across the US. I have always admired his talent and especially his ability to catch the right millisecond of a moment or the perfect ray of light.

I discovered that wandering with a camera makes you “look” and not only “see”. And that is when your eyes start stealing more and more wonderful details around you that most people wouldn’t even notice. I like that you can jealously keep these pieces of life for yourself, and I like even more the fact that photography allows you to expose them to others if you want to.

Given all that, I think two things convinced me to get a proper camera. First, thanks to my job, I was traveling more and more and crossing the path with beautiful things that didn’t get enough of my love and patience with photos simply taken with my phone, which created a certain frustration. Secondly, I wanted to try to also share those slices of moments that I was starting to notice more and more.

After hesitations and countless discussions with my friend Arnaud, I decided to jump into it.

At first, I have been mainly exposed to street photographers such as Fred Herzog, Stephen Shores, or Joel Meyerowitz.

Later, exhibitions in Paris and New York, as well as social media like Instagram allowed me to discover other types and styles of photography, and enlarge a bit my search of a personal style (still a work in progress) out of only street photography. I particularly love Dan Tom work. Each one of his photos looks like a painting of a landscape: the colors, the grain, the light. It’s almost hard to believe that it is from the real world! I also like photographers that can find art in simple objects and colors around them. I think that George Byrne is really good in this style.

I started using Fujifilm cameras a bit more than a year ago, with a X-E2s that I bought for a trip in Panama. But I quickly realized that I needed a more compact camera since I was mainly carrying it while traveling or wandering in the street. I also didn’t like the fact that tuning the zoom required a short moment of reflexion for each photo. Moreover, I was already wondering about which lens I should buy next. That’s when I knew that a fixed lens was a better fit for my usage. Something I didn’t know at first is that it would also teach me how to get better at photography. With a fixed lens, your framing is limited, so you have to better think about your photo and use your feet to zoom.

I quickly found that the X100F, which is my main camera today, was the best fit for me. It has, of course, its limitations compared to bigger cameras, may be more fragile and is not weather sealed. But I’m careful and, again, being able to carry it easily everywhere is a real asset for me. It’s also very discrete, which can be a real advantage when shooting in the street or in some situations while you travel. I also like Fujifilm photos quality and unique tones. Finally, nobody can deny the aesthetic of the camera itself.

For now, I present my photos in three categories on my portfolio:

Moments:
Strangely, when I look at my photos from the past few months, I realize that I shoot less and less people, and more and more objects or scenes. Like I mentioned above, I’m fascinated by the power given by photography to capture slices of moments, scenes of everyday life that can be seen as real art.

People:
It’s not that I don’t like people! I take a few photos of the cool souls I meet. But I still try to find an aesthetic about them and around them. I want to keep improving my skills around this style, but the hard part is to find the right human in the right place.

Places:
I also like to bring back souvenirs from my travels which may not always be as artistic but still count a lot for me because they enchanted my eyes and I want to share them.

I have the opportunity to travel quite often. I used my few years in the US to travel across the country which is unbelievably rich and diverse. My favorite souvenir was driving along the Mississippi River on the Road of Blues from New Orleans to Nashville, two amazing cities for the fan of blues, bluegrass, and country music that I am.

New Orleans is probably the most amazing place I’ve been to in the United States. The atmosphere, the people, the music at each corner, the humidity, the food, its heavy history, the mysterious tales about it… Everything makes it unique.

After having been asked ten times about my recommendations for cities I had the chance to visit like New Orleans, I decided to write about it so it would be easier to share with friends. That is when I decided to create List Of Wanders to share the magic hidden gems I’ve discovered and that travel guides don’t necessarily talk about. The other purpose is to give away the details of road trips it took me days or weeks to plan. I provide the maps and logistical details that I had to figure out by myself. If it can help anyone make the most out of their next trip, that would be my greatest pleasure.

One last thing. You asked me if I enjoyed more traveling or photography. Can I give you a politician answer and say that no matter where I am, even in my hometown, photography makes me travel anyway?  🙂

 


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