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Mickael Jou And The 365 Portrait Project

Dancer and amateur photographer Mickael Jou is embarking on a one of a kind 365 photo project.

| Photographer

Mickael Jou is currently in the middle of an ongoing 365 photography project with a twist. 

Usually, the brief is left quite open as to what the photos can be of. Mickael has chosen for the project to be solely portraits. And not portraits of anyone... only portraits of himself. The images he has taken are set up by him, remotely triggered by him and include - well - him.

Mickael is an extremely talented dancer and his images show off his immense flexibility and passion for both the dance medium and creating great images. Having only picked up a camera to be able to complete this project, he has gone from being a complete novice to being able to compose, expose and achieve breathtaking images in an extremely short length of time. We spoke to him to find out more about how he takes these inspiring pictures. 

All images © Mickael Jou

Mickael Jou And The 365 Portrait Project : Mickael Jou

Tell us a bit about yourself - how did you get into photography?

I was dancing in the streets of Paris and tourists would always photograph me. I saw some of the pictures and thought that they were nice, but that I could do better with more 'artistic control'. So I bought myself a camera, read the instruction manual and started shooting. I had no idea what I was doing. I took my first picture with 10000 ISO (Oups!). I guess I was just lucky that I figured out how to take off the lens cover.

Is it a job or a passionate hobby?

It's just a hobby. It makes me feel better, relieves boredom, can give pretty results, feeds my 'artistic' soul. 

Why does self portraiture appeal to you?

Because I can just focus on how I feel. I think everyone has moods where they just want to be alone. Some people like to eat chocolate and watch movies. I sometimes do that too, but sometimes I just go and take a picture of myself to help express how I feel.

Mickael Jou And The 365 Portrait Project : Mickeal Jou

How did the idea for a 365 self portrait project come about?

A lot of photographers begin with 365 photo projects. And the self-portraits because I wanted to capture my dancing.

What did you aim to achieve through the project?

In the beginning I wanted something to be able to look back on in 20 years, so that I could say to myself, "That's how I was when I was still young enough to dance." I'm currently aiming on improving my composition and retouching. A never-ending journey! I'd probably eventually like to go into commercial photography, either advertisement or fashion.


Mickael Jou And The 365 Portrait Project : Mickeal Jou


A lot of your images feature you appearing to fly or float - will you share the secret of how this is achieved?

I jump! And jump! And jump! I have a remote control, and the camera is set on a tripod. I frame the picture, and then jump until I get the shot I want. The effortless part of the pictures comes from good facial control. Sometimes at the end of a photo shooting, I feel like I've just been to a Zumba class, due to all the jumping and running back and forth between the camera.

Why is flying such a prominent theme in your work?

Because it conveys emotions so well. I think there is something about emotions that are quite heavy, and burdensome. And with the flying, it's as if my emotions are just being taken away. There's something about catching that lightness.

Mickael Jou And The 365 Portrait Project : Mickeal Jou


Is it difficult to keep coming up with new and original ideas for photos?

When I had reached 50 pictures I was worried about running out of ideas. At 100 pictures I was still worried, but I'm at about 180 and I don't really think about it anymore. Locations, linked to the emotions I want to portray and my background in dance, provide me with endless possibilities. I've taken a picture in a cellar (51), a women's bathroom (145), a school gymnasium (116), several construction sites (176, 114, 88, 55), a wedding reception (84), a bonzai exhibition (65), a ferry in London (23) and my attic (156). (The numbers refer to the order in which the images were taken, and they can all be viewed on Mickael's website.)

How do you set up an image for a shoot? Do you have assistance or are you working completely on your own?

I find a location that 'inspires' me. It's almost impossible to shoot without a good location. And once I find the location, I spend a few minutes (sometimes up to 15) looking for a good angle. I work by myself. I don't think anyone is crazy enough to want to follow me while I take pictures of myself!


Mickael Jou And The 365 Portrait Project : Mickeal Jou

What equipment do you use and why do you like it?

I have a Canon EOS 5D Mark III which I like because the ISO is great, and since I take photos at night with high shutter speed, it really helps me take pictures that don't have too much noise.

I mostly photograph myself with the 50mm f/1.2. It's a good focal length for the remote control. Not too close, but not too far so that the remote control signal is lost between the remote control and the camera.

When I photograph other things (yes, that does happen too!) I also have a 24-70mm f/2.8 and a 70-200mm f/2.8. The 24-70mm is great as it's very versatile and the 70-200mm just produces images that are so clear. I would actually only shoot with my 70-200mm if it weren't so heavy. It is also very unpractical for my self-portraits since then I would have to be about 7 meters away from the camera.

You photographed in a lot of locations - do you have a favourite one and why?

The location from photo 98, which is actually Place de la République in Paris. There is this new fountain-type installation which allows for about 2cm of water to be running on the ground. I used to street dance there in the water all the time, that's probably why it is my favorite. The location is pretty, a lot of people walking by so sometimes people would also give me money while I was dancing. 

For more information on Mickael's images, take a look at his website

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