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Behind the Lens—Chelsea Jeheber

California is well-known as the hub for creativity and innovation. This state is filled with people that are passionate by the sea and the great outdoors while also being concerned by environmental issues. We’re constantly seeking new minds to dwell into and that’s how we’ve discovered the photographer and writer, Chelsea Jeheber.

It’s hard not to get lost into Chelsea’s Instagram’s feed, allowing us to peek at the youth of today through skateboarding, surfing and travelling shots. She is showing us her life in all its rawness. Her photographs are powerful and honest, allowing us to feel the moments through the little details.

Legs running into the sea. The shadow of a skateboarder. The stillness before the hit of a wave. A moment of a joy in a flower field.

So, of course, we’ve decided to go explore her website to then contact her. In a matter of minutes, we understood that Chelsea was not only talented, but she was also extremely sweet.

Here is a small conversation we had with her to talk about her work and her upcoming projects.  

Chelsea, where are you from and how did you get involved with photography? 

I am from Costa Mesa, California. 

I grew up with my mother constantly taking photos of my sister and I. She loved to shoot as a hobby and turned our garage into a sort of photo studio. She was our version of Sally Mann. So, I was introduced to the world of photography at a very young age and started shooting when I was pretty young as well. And it was my sister who encouraged me to study photography in school. Most of my family is an artist of some sort, so it felt very natural for me to go down this path as a photographer.

There is something about your pictures that easily capture our attention; it may be the rawness, the colours or even the representation of the culture surrounding California’s streets. Do you have a specific purpose when shooting? 

Color has become a big aspect of when and what I shoot. I try to stay aware of the colours that are being used, and find I am very drawn to warmer colours in contrast with blue hues. Foggy days are great shooting days for me. This pattern happened naturally at first, I noticed there was this sort of primary color palette found within my body of work and stuck with it.  I think California culture will always be a huge aspect of my work, it’s what I know the best. I remember reading a quote from Ryan McGinley saying to use what is uniquely yours. Use your life experiences that no one else has access to and create art from that place. That really stuck with me as an artist and photographer and I think that shows in my photos. 

You also go through the expensive cost of films and shoot with 35mm cameras! What is your interest in films? Do you prefer it to digital or it’s a different kind of love? 

Digital is great for the obvious reasons, but no matter what you do, It can never seem to have the same look or feeling as when you shoot film. I think that’s why I love it so much, there’s a different kind of emotion that comes out of the image. Shooting film also makes me a better photographer, especially when shooting in the water. I have to be so aware of my surroundings and what’s going on with my camera to get the image I want. You don’t have the luxury of endless shots. But shooting film can be rough, you can shoot a whole roll and maybe get one useful image. Or you get no images. Or you loaded the film wrong and the entire thing is blank. It’s so brutal when you get a blank roll back, and just want to cry in public with no shame. 

The best way to define someone’s style is to pretend we were blind (seriously). How would you describe your photos? 

Simply put, my photographs portray the youth, surf culture and adventures of the west coast. There is this playful and carefree aspect to them, but also a calmness that is shown through the use of color. This is always a hard question. My boyfriend said he read somewhere that the best way to describe your work would be to act as if you’re describing it to an eight year old. I think that’s a great way to do it. Keep it simple. 

Nowadays, finding inspiration is quite easy because of all the ressources we have. Do you get inspired by other’s people work? Any name in particular? 

The people that inspire me the most are the ones who go out there every day and do exactly what they love. That task is not as easy as it sounds. It’s hard to wake up every day and do exactly what needs to be done. Some days I have zero energy or the ocean is freezing and it’s raining and I think of a million excuses to not shoot. But there are people out there Like Chris Burkard, who shoots in freezing water all the time. Or Jeff Johnson, who has faced crazy elements while hanging off the side of a mountain, but he still gets out there. I think people are really good at making up excuses to not do something, I know I am, so I try to stay inspired by the people who do what they love despite their excuses. 

You have an endless list of things to shoot in California, from adventures to skateboarding, lifestyle to surfing. What is your favourite subject to shoot? 

I love getting in the water. I started surfing about 4 years ago, I’m seriously like a wet cat drowning out there, but It’s always the best time of my life. It just felt really natural to bring my camera out there and combine the two. 

As everything in life, nothing has ever worked according to plans. Any crazy story to tell us that happened to you while trying to take a specific photo? Getting crushed by a wave, maybe? 

Nothing too crazy, just the typical board to the face scenario. I think a dolphin winked at me once. Maybe I’m playing it too safe? Now I feel the need to really get out there and test my limits. 

What is the most challenging aspect of photography? 

It’s challenging when you have to rely on someone else and their schedule to shoot. I’ve had a lot of cancellations because someone is hungover or forgot we were getting in the water that day. 

Are you working on anything specific at the moment or you’re simply shooting your everyday life? 

I have plans for a series I’m going to start shooting in the spring, I’m thinking a big solo surf/road trip. Also, my boyfriend and I are working on a photo collaboration together called The Unstuck Club. We plan on taking a few road trips and looking for people and places that promote the idea of getting unstuck. It’s been really great working on a project together and is sort of a first taste for many more things to come. 

Does California help you achieve a creative mindset or you would rather be somewhere else? 

I think home is the hardest place to achieve inspiration because you know it so well.  It’s so much more exciting to be in new places, traveling around and shooting. But I think a big focus for me is to see home with new eyes and be able to feel inspired no matter where I am. 

Is photography something you are seeking as a career or is it just a hobby you’re crazy talented at? 

Photography for me is a career choice, it’s not an easy career choice but I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love taking photos, I love documenting, and sometimes I struggle, but it’s always well worth it. If it were easy I probably wouldn’t do it.

See more from Chelsea Jeheber and read some of her articles

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