Lens Crafters with Julien "Perly" Petry
A handful of years ago, I started seeing Julien's name pop up in the captions of some amazing snowboard photographs shot in Europe. And when I see a new name appear in a mag that I don't recognize, I definitely take note. Maybe it's the photo nerd in me, but I try to find out more info on the photog, where their from, who they've shot with, and what their style is like. Perly continued to have an interesting take on photos to me, and he also seemed like a pretty nice dude, as many of my friends started to shoot with him. From crews like Videograss to Brown Cinema, and now on to his newly landed Adidas Snowboarding gig, Julien has shot with the best of the best in the furthest corners of the globe. All the while he keeps a mellow demeanor, coupled with a fierce work ethic, that can produce epic imagery in spades. These days he can be seen shooting medium format, digi, polaroid and drone, all on one shoot. There's very few dudes out there that cover that large of a gamut of mediums. So without further adieu, I give you the Julien Petry Lens Crafters. – Mike Yoshida
Name: Julien PETRY a.k.a Perly
Camera/Lighting Setup: Canon 5DSR, 24mm 1.4, 50mm1.2, 15mm fisheye 2.8, 70-200mm 2.8, Hasselblad with a 80mm Plannar 2.8, Leica M6 with Summicron 35mm 2.0, Olympus Mju II & III Zoom, DJI Mavic Pro, Polaroid
Current Residence: Annecy, France
Years Shooting: 12
When did you first start getting into snowboarding, and when did photography come into the picture?
I started with my father when I was 14. I was only snowboarding two weeks per year when visiting my grandma, but I got hooked straight away. Bought " Tales of the Kryp " video by Jamie Mosberg, and watched it everyday after school. Then the year after, my father found a new job close to the mountain and we moved there with all my family. After that, I dragged my parents every weekend to the slopes. I remember one time, I asked my mum to drive me to the mountain on a stormy day, she couldn't make it because there was way too much snow on the road. So I walked 40 mins to the parking lot, but the resort was closed cause of the wind.
In France you can drink when you're 16 but you have to wait 18 to be able to drive a car. I started to go to Avoriaz, Nico Droz home resort. It was one of the only French resort with a descent snowpark at that time. I was looping in the park all day, made some friends and built a crew that we named Advita. I worked all summer at my father’s smoked salmon factory to buy a Sony VX 2000. Then we started to make some videos, spent many afternoon editing videos with my friends in my room. In 2006, I fucked up my knee, my shoulder and got hit by a girl on the slope who broke my nose. I was still sticking with the crew filming and building jumps or street spots but I was out for the winter. One day on the way back from the backcountry, we ended up on the other side of the mountain and got to take a bus to reach back the parking lot. When we arrived at the last stop, I was talking to my friend Paul and there was a bag right next to me, but the bus was empty. I would not do it today, but we decided to take it and see what was inside. I remember there was a Leatherman, some Porsche keys and a Canon EOS 20D, which was a really nice camera at that time. So Paul took the Leatherman, I took the camera, and we returned the key to the lift ticket cashier. So that’s how I really got into photography, I mean, I always had a feeling for it and was asking photographers tons of questions. But then I started to shoot my friends and that is how it all started.
Tales of the Kryp--Full Movie:
I noticed that you shoot a lot of film, polaroids… along with digital. What is your process when you shoot these mediums? What makes you choose to shoot film at certain times vs. digi? Do you get the digital shot first and then go in for a film photo, or vice versa?
I like how films look, it still has an amazing dynamic range that is far from the result you can have with a digital camera. It's also a complete different mindset when you shoot films. You concentrate way more than with the digi. And there is a ton of different creative processes when you proceed and scan your work.
Believe or not, this is film. Pragelato, Italy. p: Perly
My shooting film process really depends of the spot, how it looks, and the photo idea that I have in my mind. For example, my Hasselblad medium format, is my favorite. I have an in-between lens that’s got a total different look than my digital lens. First it's a square format, so the framing is different, but it's also a super cool wide angle. When the fish eye and the 50mm doesn't work on the digi, I know it will be the perfect compromise for the Blad. I try to shoot with digi and film, just switch to different cameras.
Recently you’ve done a lot of work with Adidas, and this season you signed on for the year with them. How did that relationship form?
It's pretty cool to work with them, the team is great. We had a real exchange of ideas before the winter started. So I had the guideline and knew what to do after that. You only see the tip of the iceberg of what these guys have to deal with every day, I try to be helpful regarding all the photos aspects, propose a lot of ideas and also take a few initiatives.
I also like the fact that they keep the core at the first place. There is no bullshit compromise, to my point of view, that is really what snowboarding needs these days. And most important thing of all, they all actually snowboard, skateboard, surf. They know what they are talking about. I know it can seems obvious, but it's not always the case.
I’ve been to the office in Portland mid-April. I went to a few rider feedback meetings, they are really considering what the riders have to say. They listened carefuly to every suggestion.
Who is your favorite rider to shoot on Adidas and why?
Ahaha, I want to say the whole team. Everyone has is own qualities and is own character.
Keegan is a true character, a really talented and passionate snowboarder. The first time I met him he did this incredible frontside wallride back 270 boardslide from his part in Absinthe movie, Eversince, that just blew my mind straight away. As Droz told me once after watching one of his video part, “He can do whatever he wants, it will always look cool.”
The young ones Tommy, Wiz, Ben, Craig, and Derrek, they have their own internal rules like trying to go all natural speed and sticking the most to the skateboard aspect of snowboarding. They are radical without compromise. I guess that is what you are when you're young and trying to find a way to express yourself trough snowboarding without doing any copycat of what have been done before. I spent most of the winter with them, they maybe gave me a few weird looks showing up with some maybe not that radical ideas… but we got along pretty well and have a lot of fun together. I can’t wait for Tommy's video to come out. I'm pretty sure it will blow minds away.
Louif is more methodic, everything is well prepared. Always got the right tool for the right spot. Does a ton of shaping just to be sure everything will go well. And he has his own vision, I really think his snowboarding is accomplished and ahead of his time. The man is really smart and pretty funny. I'm pretty sure I became a better snowboarder just by shredding the slope with him. We also speak french together (even if he has a weird accent and use word that nobody would use in France).
I didn't shoot much with Forest, but I guess we would get along pretty well. It’s really awesome to see him ride in person.
Tell us a little bit about growing up in France. Did you grow up near the mountains or ocean? How do you think growing up and living in Europe helped shape your photography?
I grew up in the north east of France where there is no mountains and no ocean, so I first started with skateboarding. Luckily, my family moved to the Alps when I was 15. France is great. We have some great mountains, the terrain is amazing, but still have a lack of infrastructure. They still don’t know how to build a snowpark. It's getting better and better in Europe in general, but you guys are ways ahead of us. It is more secure and playful in the US. Even if Laax is doing a great job, there is still no compare. Apart from snowboarding, life is great in France. There is a lot of history, culture, good food, wine, free will. Education and health care are free, that seems pretty normal for everyone here, but it makes a real difference. It's a great country you feel really free, even if not everything is perfect.
You’ve added a drone to your skill set recently. What is your take on these little toys?
That is a really nice question. I'm glad you asked because there is a lot of talk shit on this subject.. My point of view is I'm glad to have a new toy. No matter what people think, it's pretty nice to have a complete new point of view. And it's also really fun to play the “pilot”. Some of the riders and filmers gave me a lot of shit during the season, complaining about the noise or this or that. I'm down for any medium that helps you create. Just because some people are doing whack things with it doesn’t mean that you cannot create cool things. I would say the US riders were giving me more shit, seems like we are more open-minded in Europe ahah.
Please tell us all the things that are in your camera bag. What are some essentials that are in there that you have on a shoot?
Really depends if I'm on a street or backcountry mission. I feel more free when I'm in the street as I know I will not hike for hours with my backpack. So I put inside a lot of different cameras and my drone. Try to get as many mediums as possible.
I'm avoiding light this day. I used to… and maybe I will in the future. Just feeling that I don’t want to use it right now.
Then when I'm in the backcountry, I try to be more efficient and take less stuff. Regarding the spot or what we will do, I change it everyday. Some other things that I always have in my bag is food, extra gloves and beanies. Some pocket warmers too, I hate to be cold.
Instagram is a big topic amongst photographers and videographers. What’s your take on social media and the rapid rate of content ingestion?
I don’t mind social media much, things are moving pretty fast nowadays. I mean that is bigger than us so I just accept it and use it as a tool. Even if I am really bad at it when you look how many followers I have. What I don’t like is when brands or people are using your photos without asking you anything. It happens all the times… so many times. It is written in the Instagram status If you use a photo without any rights you are taking the responsibility to pay for it. So lets say it once for good… if a rider of your team posts a photo on Instagram, the web doesn’t own it and if you want to repost it, you can… but you will have to pay for it!
What is the value of a great photo to you, and where do you think it will live the longest between print, social and web?
A great photo… it's a feeling! I really try to put the focus on the action. I'm happy when the rider is hyped. I also like graphic stuff and lines.
For sure I prefer to see it printed, because it is more concrete and it will last forever. I like magazines, I also like when photographers make books or any exhibition. I always buy them or go to the show. I never did any book or any proper exhibition but I will try to make something happen by the end of the year. I have a few pretty cool ideas. But if not, I like to see it on the web or any social support. The worst for a photographer is to see great photos laying into a hard drive. You put a lot of effort and sacrifices creating all these images, so if nobody is seeing it... it's a shame.
What is a typical winter for you. I know a lot of it is weather dependent, but do you travel a lot, or stick closer to Europe?
Usually winter is starting pretty late in Europe, this year we have been lucky and started early December. But usually it's more like beginning of January. For sure, if I can stick to Europe I will. I like to organize trips and guide people. Show them the spots around. But if there is better condition somewhere else, I don’t hesitate for a second. The cool thing in Europe is that there is so many resorts that there is always a new place you want to go. There is countries like Italy, who are crazy and have always been underestimated.
I mean last year I was in Bachelor and Baker on a powder day, people are doing the line to be the first one on the lift. And one hour later every inch of snow is tracked down. In Italy, freeride is kind of forbidden so people don’t have that powder reflex, they stick to the slopes and you can find fresh snow even ten days after the last snow fall. And a day lift ticket is 45$.
Also there is no snowmobile in the backcountry, there is no rush. You don’t have to wake up at 4am to be the first on the parking lot or get your kick tracked by a sled neck. For sure, it is a bigger effort though.
Besides snowboarding, who are some of your favorite non action sports photographers and why? Where do you pull inspiration from outside of the snow scene?
I got inspiration from a lot of photographers in a lot of different domains like fashion, architecture, outdoor...
One of my fav is Bruce Gilden, a street photographer from New York that is shooting film and using a wide angle to snap photos right at peoples face. He did some crazy books about the Yakusa in japan and the Russian Mafia. I think that the subject does a lot too, if the people you take photos of are crazy or impress you, you push yourself trying to express their personality through your photography.
There is also Philippe Dudouit who is a war photographer. He has won 2 times at the world press. He's a good friend of Swiss Absinthe filmer David Vladyka, they went to school together. His photos are amazing, he’s spent the last 10 years of his life in crazy place like the Sahara, Afghanistan, etc... Shooting war with a full format camera from back in the days. It's heavy, the process is always complicated... Vlad always tells me that story that he tried to come shoot some snowboarding with Absinthe and gave up after one hour and went to the lodge.
Throughout your career, what trip have you gone on where everything went right? You just nailed every shot and had the best time doing it.
The Abunaï crew (means “dangerous” crew in Japanese) trip through Europe during Absinthe Eversince. It was filmer Brock Nielsen, Keegan Valaika, Brandon Cocard, Cale Zima, Austen Sweetin and Yusaku Hori, who they kidnapped in Japan and forced him to go on the trip with them. It was amazing conditions and a lot of fun. We started with the abandoned hospital over the city of Grenoble. They completely destroyed the spot. And Yusaku saw ghost inside the hospital and felt so bad that he had to wait for us outside. Also Keegan and Brandon jumped through a window seeing guys playing air soft guns and thought they were real. Then we met up with the whole Absinthe crew in Switzerland. We also went to Pragelato in Italy, it's a one lift resort and the way up is 5€. Once you reach the top, you have access to the craziest backcountry zone. We tried to go back this year but the resort was closed for an unlimited time. The only bad thing that happened to us was Austen getting his two front teeth knocked out by two rednecks at the carnival party in Switzerland.
If you could choose one camera to shoot with for the rest of your life, what would that be?
Definitely my Hasselblad film camera, I'm okay with giving away all the other ones... but not this one.
Do you have any advice for any up and coming photographers out there?
Persistence, and take some risk photography wise. You also need to know how to use your beeper in the Backcountry.
What sort of personal projects do you do for yourself to get stoked? What should we look out for?
As I told you earlier, I would love to do some personal book project and some exhibitions. After that, I really have one of the best jobs in the world. It's a real adventure. I would not exchange it for anything.