Josephine Cardin’s Comfort in Chaos is Inspired By Music

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All images by Josephine Cardin. Used with permission.

Music is usually an inspiration to lots of artists and folks who are busy working. But Josephine Cardin uses it in a different way while combining it with emotions and a beautiful ethereal look. Josephine is a New York based photographer that shot architecture, took a break and came back with a heavy art focus. She tells us that her work is inspired by dance, music, and the human themes of loneliness, isolation, fear, and transformation.

She has been exhibited in many galleries across the world and also published in many places. Her Comfort in Chaos series really grabbed us, and we just needed to talk to her about it.

Phoblographer: How did you get into portraiture and surreal work?

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Josephine: It came out of a need. In fact, I never thought I’d work in a studio. Prior to my figurative work I was primarily an architectural photographer. After taking a break from the art and having two children, I felt like I had a million excuses not to return to it. But, those same life events were also the catalyst for making a change in my life. When I decided to return to the art I made the promise that I wouldn’t allow myself to come up with any excuse not to pursue this. So I began by working with what I had…myself, a camera, and a cheap lightning kit. What started as an experiment and a way to practice ended up becoming my focus and love in art.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about where the creative inspiration for this came about. The images are very ghostly and almost playful with the way that the figures are interacting.

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Josephine: It was, as many of my projects are, inspired by music. In this case the song St. Jude by Florence + The Machine. I’m currently working on an ongoing project that explores the connection between music and art. In the case of my work I tend to get inspired by lyrics, which usually sparks an image in my mind, which I then build a greater series from. I was taken by the words “comfortable in chaos,” which is what ultimately inspired this series. A lot of my work has that ghostly look to it, which I purposely do in order to blur the line between reality and fiction. I want there to be a sense of realism, while at the same time having a dreamlike feel. I sometimes describe my work as a glimpse into someone’s dreams.

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Phoblographer: Every photographer and artist tries to express themselves creatively through their work. How are you expressing yourself and what are you trying to get across.

Josephine: Much of my work explores the theme of human emotion and transformation. Though sometimes dark or sad at first glance my work is really about change and freeing oneself from the things that hold us back. There are a myriad of reasons we imprison ourselves from being who we are meant to be, so we go on in our lives harboring the weight of it all. I hope my work can spark a feeling of connection to one another. Though most of my work uses the female form (because it’s self-portraiture), the themes are universal. Anyone can relate to loss, heartbreak, melancholy, and feeling imprisoned.

Phoblographer: What about the lighting? What was the intention behind the lighting and making the images look this way?

Josephine: I keep lighting simple and dimly lit. I don’t tend to use elaborate sets or costumes, so the emphasis is on a mood and emotion. In order to achieve that, I like to focus on the subject with a soft spotlight kind of feel. I describe it as being lit by the light of the moon. There’s something dreamlike and magical to it, which I keep going back to.

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Phoblographer: What gear did you use?

Josephine: I use a Canon 6D and Canon 24-105mm lens. For post processing I use Lightroom and Photoshop.

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Phoblographer: Was all of this done in camera? If not, how much of it is done in Photoshop?

Josephine: I try to do as much in camera as possible and take each shoot as an opportunity to experiment. A lot of my blur comes from the camera and trying out different exposures, but for the conceptual work it’s all Photoshop.

Phoblographer: How do you go about explaining these ideas to models? Do you storyboard your sets?

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Josephine: Most of my work is self-portraiture, so a lot of it is just in my mind as I shoot, but I do tend to write ideas down and often sketch scenes in several journals I keep for inspiration. When I work with models I will usually prep them beforehand with the story or idea I’m going for. Sometimes I share images for inspiration, but usually it’s written out for them. For my models, it’s much more of a performance than it is a modeling shoot.

Phoblographer: Would you say that some of your work is inspired by fairy tales or stuff like Tim Burton’s artwork and animation? It seems a bit like that.

Josephine: Thank you. I love Burton’s work, so maybe there is a subconscious connection. But more than anything, visually I’m greatly inspired by paintings. Especially classical works by Caravaggio, Raphael, Rembrandt, and Titian. There’s a magic to old paintings that I’ve always connected to and been inspired by.