Hey, You’re Cool! Photographer Hélène Feuillebois

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The source of personal artistry can be difficult to define, but Parisian photographer Hélène Feuillebois simply strives to capture an intimate feeling—and not worry too much about whether others will connect. Her images are glimpses into globetrotting between music hubs New York, L.A., and London. She shoots off-kilter portraits of youth culture filtered through her Contax 35mm camera. A cursory glance into Hélène’s portfolio reveals candid snaps of musicians like Lauren Auder, as well as DJs Zora Jones and Betty Bensimon. Step into her world, and suddenly you’re friends with that emerging artist you’ve recently stumbled upon, or at the center of a spirited after party to which you were never invited.

Hélène built her career through the internet, starting with the relationships she cultivated via Myspace in the early 2000s that gave her guest list access to shoot at shows; today she does the same via Twitter and Instagram. Despite social media’s tendencies for what is instant and of-the-moment, Hélène’s strict use of film instead of digital photography is a reminder that while a memory may be fleeting, the process of remembering is always worth the extra investment.

MASS APPEAL sat down with Hélène Feuillebois to speak about her ties to the music community and why she’s now outgrown Paris as her creative playground.


Courtesy of Hélène Feuillebois


When did you start shooting photos?

Honestly, I don’t remember not shooting. My parents got pretty good film cameras to just shoot holiday photos and stuff and I started using them when I was little. My parents got a [digital] camera when they started being accessible to people, and I got my own for Christmas, but I got back to shooting film when I was 15 [or]16. Then I never shot digital again.

Is there something specific about film photography that appeals to you?

I like the results better. There’s something exciting about the process of shooting and not knowing what it’s going to look like. You [might] shoot a picture and just shoot 15,000 [digital] photos of the same thing until it looks perfect. But on my film camera, I shoot maybe five and then I will probably just forget about it for some time until I go to the lab. I have to wait. It’s kind of exciting, in some ways.


Courtesy of Hélène Feuillebois


What moments make you grab for your camera?

I’ve just been documenting everything I do for forever. It’s more of a thing now–I guess a lot of people do it, especially because people put photos on Instagram of whatever they’re doing that day or Snapchat or Instagram stories, but I’ve been doing that on film cameras for forever. It’s more about communicating moments to just remember later and just look back to.

You also happen to have a lot of candid images of artists. Can you speak about your involvement in the music scene?

I’ve been really into music since I was a little kid. I have memories of watching MTV since as young as 6 years old, and eventually I convinced my mom to let me go to shows when I was 13 and I was just taking pictures at shows all the time. I was on Myspace at the time, that’s how I connected with a lot of people that were into the same music I was into. Musicians were also really accessible—I was sending messages to a lot of people, asking them if they had extra spots on guest lists and I started going to shows almost every week. I remember I got a picture of this French band that was living in London and it got published in NME when I was 14. I think that’s my first link to music because this one band kept inviting me to their shows whenever they were in town and I would go and just mosh. All these super tall dudes and I was a 14-year-old kid. After that, I started getting more into nightlife.


Courtesy of Hélène Feuillebois


Is living in Paris still as inspiring a place for you as it was when you began your initial venture into music photography?

The first time I got something published was in NME and I had my first show in London. I decided not to do it in Paris because I always felt like the people in the UK were fucking with me more than here. I just feel like Paris is too small and limiting for me, so that’s why I’m planning to leave soon. I know that the place I end up with will probably be overcrowded with what I do, but it’s going to be more stimulating for me than here. First of all, things have changed a lot, but experiencing going out in New York or L.A. or London—I always feel nightlife is always more inclusive than it is here, and more exciting. It’s always more exciting when it’s not all white people [laughs].

What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?

I was going through some old negatives the other day and I realized at some point I was going to really shitty photo labs. I wish I didn’t do that just because it was convenient or cheap or fast, because not all photo labs are equal. I’d rather pay double the price and get all my stuff done right. It just gets ruined. I’d tell myself not to be cheap and just go to a good photo lab because that goes a long way. I don’t get my film processed when I travel anymore. I’ll end up going to the wrong place because I just don’t know.


Courtesy of Hélène Feuillebois


Are there photos that come to mind as particularly special moments for you?

It changes every year. I just rotated my website and pretty much deleted everything and posted pictures from all this year and last year, and kept some old ones that I felt really attached to but I just felt it wasn’t my life anymore. Since it’s just documenting my life, if it’s moments that no longer feel like who I am, it just doesn’t need to be shown anymore.

So what is a photo worth showing to others?

A photo worth posting to me is a photo I feel most emotionally attached to. Sometimes people won’t connect to it because they haven’t lived it and that’s OK. That can seem very selfish, but that’s how it is. I’m mostly trying to document feelings and be able to revisit moments later. For example, I remember when I was maybe 12; I was in the countryside with my parents taking pictures of my feet walking in the grass. I know it’s not that interesting to see. So sometimes, it’s not necessarily about what I’m taking, I just want to remember later how it felt.

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