French-born photographer Jonathan Moyal’s world contains dark and foggy scenes, women with long hair and a longing for a time he can not return to. Travel plays an important part in his work but it is not the main story, it is more about finding what was lost, a sense of freedom we only seem to experience as a child, without mortgages and bills hovering over our heads. Jonathan takes us back to the time where he and his brother roamed islands and immersed themselves in the beauty of mother nature. Curious about these journeys, we spoke to the young photographer.
Bonjour Jonathan, how have you been? What have you been up to lately?
Hello Sunday Mornings, I’m fine thanks! (and you?) I have just returned from a trip to Scotland.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? Who is Jonathan Moyal? Where did you grow up, favourite childhood memory etc?
I was born in France. When I was six years old my parents moved out to Ivory Coast in Africa, I grew up there and lived there until I was twelve years old. Civil unrest broke out at that time and I had to return to France with my mum and brother. My father couldn’t come with us because of his work commitments. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years later because of a heart attack during the civil war. The mix of these events allowed me to go through very differents experiments : I lived in different cultures, fraternising with people coming from all over the world, immersing in the heart of beautiful nature. I have known a deep sense of freedom and at the same time I’ve been separated from my beloved father and I witnessed the damage which can be caused by the human insanity. All these experiences have contributed to opening my mind to the variety and beauty of the world but they also instilled a kind of damage inside of me, that makes me believe nothing good or bad could last forever. One of my best memories was of Africa. We used to go to a beautiful place called “La passe,” which is a place where the laguna meets the sea. I used to fish there with my brother. We were on our own on the beach with our fishing rods. No adults around. We were alone like two Robinson Crusoe’s on an island and it was such a great feeling of freedom and being able to be reckless. I feel that this is this feeling I’m trying to return to when I travel when I’m shooting.
How did you start photography? Do you remember the first time you held a camera in your hands?
I started photography very during my travels in Australia. I bought my first digital camera just to keep memories of my travel, and the first thing I remember is that I understood nothing about the mechanism of this stupid tool.
How would you describe your work?
The main part of my work consists of trying to capture man’s insignificance and vulnerability when he is surrounded by the almighty beauty of nature. The wild has always aroused a deep sense of respect and a sense of hidden mystery in me.
Your work seems nostalgic, do you agree with this? If yes, where does this longing for the past come from?
Like I explained earlier, some events in my life, great or painful, have moulded me in two ways. I am in awe of the beauty of life but I also fear its cruelty. It’s an ambiguous feeling really, I am very curious about the future and all the new experiments it holds for me, but at the same time, I am nostalgic for the feeling of freedom I felt in my childhood though I foresee that I will never live that again. I think the reason that makes me travel that much is because I’m in an endless quest for this feeling of exhilarating freedom. My life in Africa also gave me a taste for the discovering the unknown.
Who are your subjects?
My first subject is nature. I introduce people in my photography to illustrate how small we are are in front of Mother Nature. It looks like you are on the road a lot, we try to inspire people with the wish to leave to pack their bags and walk out the door. What kind of advice do you have for them? How do you manage to be on the road so often? I wish I could travel more! I spend my time working in France where I run an events and portraits photography business. Whenever I have saved enough money, I leave for a new destination. My advice would be: don’t be afraid to get lost in the country you are visiting, do not follow the well-paved roads.
If you could go anywhere in the world to take pictures, where would it be and why?
I wish I could go everywhere because every place has its own story to tell.
What excites you about photography?
For me, photography is just a tool. A camera to me is what a guitar or a violin is for someone else, it is like paint and canvas. You learn their techniques but the real goal is to forget the technical aspects in order to express an emotion that maybe will touch somebody else’s heart. Photography allows revealing things that eyes have not noticed.
What or who inspires you as an artist?
Nature inspires me as well as the mystery of creation. People inspire me; especially my girlfriend’s touching fragility and grace. Love is a very good medium to enhance a picture! There are a lot of tremendous good artists I admire, like Gregory Colbert for his work about the relationship between humans and animals.
What’s the best advice you ever had as a photographer?
“Even if something has already been done by somebody else, don’t hesitate to make it your own because you are different from that somebody else.”
How would you like to grow as an artist?
I would like to make a photo reportage about the existing links between nature and mankind. I would like to show how by threatening nature’s beauty we might destroy the beauty within mankind as well. I think I would like to be more involved in nature’s preservation.
Any famous last words?
“What is essential is invisible to the eyes.” Saint-Exupery
Who should we interview next?
I invite you to take a look at the great work of Carmen Marchena.