#Sheheartsfilm Female in Focus: Joy Celine Asto
By Emily Jackson and Emma Lloyd
This blog interviews our second #sheheartsfilm star, Joy Celine Asto, as chosen by our very own Emily Jackson (@traveloptical). Joy's work shows so much talent, she covers so many photographic styles yet portrays such strong emotion and a striking moody atmosphere in them all.
It has been a pleasure to look through so many stunning bodies of work from those who submitted to us earlier in the year, and we hope these blogs provide some inspiration to you all.
Polaroid of Joy
Hello I’m Emily aka @TravelOptical and I have chosen out of all the people who submitted to #sheheartsfilm, Joy Celine Asto also know as @TheCaffienated on Instagram. I chose her because I loved her portraits both of herself and her friends. They portray a great range of emotion and are shot in such a great variety of ways! Here’s my interview with her to give you a view into her and her photography!
Where are you based?
When did you begin shooting film and what influenced you to start?
I belong to possibly the last generation who grew up with shooting film cameras in the late 1990s. I rediscovered film in 2009 after learning about Lomography and cross-processing slide film. I was super interested in the vibrant colors and the fun vibe they add to photos. I decided to get a Holga 120 CFN, then a Nikon FE2, then a Yashica Electro 35 GSN. Learning about each of these cameras and what they could do further fuelled my interest in film photography.
Below are some of Joy's cross processed photos
Nikon FE2 - Agfa CT Precisa 100
Horizon Perfekt - Kodak Elitechrome 100
Why do you work with film and analogue processes?
Film is more aligned with the visual style and emotive quality that I aspire to see in my own personal work. I love how the process is almost like a ritual from the moment I load film in my camera(s) of choice to when I get the scans from the film lab. It also gets me to slow down and focus on the moment I'm shooting instead of spending so much time previewing photos and editing digital files.
Tell us about your photography practice...
I am mostly a portrait photographer, squeezing some conceptual elements to my practice. I want to tell visual stories that can make my audience feel. I shoot with a variety of cameras, but my go to are my Nikon FE2, Pentax ME F, and Pentax Espio 115. I use whatever colour negative film I find, but for special projects, I also experiment with films like Kodak Double-X 5222 and CineStill 800T.
Vivitar UWS - Fuji Provia 100
Nikon FE2 - Fuji Velvia 100F
Nikon FE2 - Fuji Velvia 100F
Could you give us some back story on the photos you submitted to the #sheheartsfilm project?
I decided to submit photos that would best give an idea about what I do, my visual style, and the message/emotions that I usually want to see in my photos. I think a lot has changed in the way I tell visual stories but the photos I chose to share point to the creative direction I have been working on.
Canon EOS 620 - Kodak Ultima 100 (expired)
Tell us more about the people in the photographs... are they self portraits and if so why is this important to you?
Only one of the photos — the colour double exposure — is a self-portrait. The rest are people who have graciously modelled for me through the years. One of them is a good friend turned muse, who I worked with for many of my projects.
These photos are all important to me because they helped me manifest some of the stories and ideas I had marinating in my head. Today, they remind me that I can always be creative with how I see the world if I set my mind and heart to it.
Are these photos from a particular series or project?
The majority of these photos are from three projects: Hair is a visual exploration of hair as the main element. Fugue is a collection of black and white photos that eventually became one part of my Fugue States zine. Phobetor is another black and white portrait series inspired by my love for Greek Mythology since childhood and two nightmares that made the most impact on me.
All three projects are my attempts at conceptual portraiture, which is a direction I’ve been working on for my film photography.
Photograph from Joy's Fugue series
Nikon FE2 - Kodak XX (exposed at 400 ISO)
What is your favourite photograph from this project?
It’s hard to pick a favourite from all my projects so far. But out of all these photos I submitted, the black and white double exposure from my Fugue series has to be it. It’s one of my most successful photos to date, and the first double exposure I was truly happy and proud with the result. It was the first time I got great results with a film like Kodak Double-X 5222 and using double exposure to boot. I also received lots of positive responses to this photo, and it was even included in a Flickr-curated gallery (Your Best Shot 2016 - Analog).
Joy's favourite photo from her Fugue series
Nikon FE2 - Kodak XX (exposed at 400 ISO)
I can see you have used some double exposure in your photographs? Do you enjoy this technique and what do you feel it adds to your pictures?
I very much enjoy double exposures! It’s the reason I always bring a camera that has a double or multiple exposure switch. It lets me layer my thoughts and create more impactful visual stories. Although I’m not always successful with it and I still have a long way before I really master it, double exposure is one of the creative techniques that I strive to incorporate in my film photography.
Do you have any tips for double exposure or any general film photography advice?
One of the things about double exposure that I learned through the years is to be mindful of how we combine the dark and bright elements in the frame. Always have a dark subject or underexposed layer where the bright elements can show through. It can take some practice, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to better plan your double exposures!
Pentax Espio 115 - Kodak Ultima 100 (expired)
I can see you have heavily featured hair in some of your photos. I know this can be very symbolic and important to women’s identity, what does it mean to you in these photographs/ your Hair series?
The story and inspiration behind the Hair series are very personal. Growing up, I was always conscious and sometimes bitter about my big, curly hair. In the Philippines, as in many Asian countries, long, straight hair is a symbol of beauty and femininity. So, being a curly-haired girl often made me different to the point of being an outcast even. I was bullied because of it. I hated myself because of it. It was only a few years ago when I finally made peace with my curly hair and accepted it as a part of my identity. I made the Hair series as a creative reminder of that.
Photographs from Hair series
Pentax ME F - Lomography CN 400
Could you describe the relevance of the mask in one of the photos and tell us more about this image/ how it came about?
One of the inspirations behind Phobetor is the recurring dream I had about a faceless man. He would either be backlit so I couldn't see his face, or I would wake up just as he would turn his face towards me. The mask is a symbol or reference to that dream.
I paired this with my idea of Phobetor, the god of nightmares and one of the personifications of dreaming. Traditionally, it's his brother Morpheus who specializes in appearing in human form. While Phobetor is an expert in appearing as various animals in dreams, he's also in charge of nightmares and nighttime fears. In my series, I imagine him "borrowing" Morpheus' craft for a night, appearing less menacing but still unsettling.
Image from Phobetor series
Nikon FE Kodak Double-X 5222
What is something photography related that thinking back on makes you laugh or smile at the thought of it. For example, funny details or interesting things that might have happened during shoot?
I always feel happy or inspired when I shoot with people who I align with and share my creative vision. A good example was an impromptu portrait/photo diary shoot I did a few months ago with a good friend who I share a birthday with.
We planned it just a few days before the shoot, bought props on the day of the shoot, and just had fun with point-and-shoot film cameras. It was meant to be just a simple, snapshot style shoot where we pretended that our friends ditched our birthday party. It was really fun and it helped inspire me to be creative again after months of lockdown and not meeting with friends due to the pandemic.
Photograph's from Joy's (Un)Happy Birthday series
What’s your next film photography goal/ project?
The pandemic kept me from continuing with my “Hair” series, so I really want to find a way to get back to it. I’m determined to make it a long-term photography project that I can eventually turn into a photobook or even an exhibit.
Describe your experiences as a female in the film community
I honestly feel happy that across the globe, more and more female photographers are being recognized in the film photography community. It makes me feel inspired to keep doing what I love to do and exploring my potential as a creative.
What would you like to see more of in the film community?
I would love to see more film photographers getting paid jobs, published works, and project grants. In an increasingly digital world, many people/clients in different parts of the world still refuse to acknowledge film photography as a legitimate medium for paid creative work.
Photograph from Joy's Masasa Beach series
Nikon FE2 - Agfa CT Precisa 100 (cross-processed)
What advice would you give to women starting out in the film community?
The film community, and even the photography industry in general, needs more of women’s voice and creative vision. So, if there’s anything that sparks an idea or passion in you when it comes to shooting film, by all means, go for it. Also, don’t be afraid to draw inspiration from your own personal experiences. This is one of the ways to achieve authenticity in your work.
Photograph from Joy's (Un)Happy Birthday series
Do you have any female photographers that inspire your work? Or just a particular favourite on instagram that you would like to shoutout?
I've always been inspired by the stories and emotions in the works of Maya Beano (@mayabeano), Dara Scully (@darascully), Birdee (@bird.ee), Nadia Maria (#nadiamariaphoto), Tuane Eggers (@tuane.eggers), Hanna Varela (@hannashootsfilm), and Marta Huguet Cuadrado (@marta1901).
Joy takes such a creative and playful approach to her photography and it was such a pleasure to speak to her. Her series of photographs and the way she works is so inspiring. It is incredible how many photographic styles she has ventured, and even more impressive is how she pulled them all off beautifully. You can see more of Joy's work via her instagram @thecaffeinated, flickr account and website!
It is incredible that the #sheheartsfilm movement has reached photographers all the way over in the Philippines, Emily and I are so pleased at the momentum the project has gained and hope it is inspiring more women to pick up a camera and give film photography a go!
Make sure you check out our recently published list of female photographers to follow for more film inspiration.
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