An Inspired Process | Kris LeBoeuf

An Inspired Process | Kris LeBoeuf

I first met Kris LeBoeuf while perusing my friend Sarah Van Raden's small shop, Notary Ceramics; wearing all linen and a bright smile from ear to ear, Kris burst through the door hauling a small box of photo props and a large hand painted background. Other than it's ceramics, Notary has always been known for its impeccable styling and branding, and Kris was undoubtedly one half of that artistic image.

It’s rare to find photographers in the Pacific North West that stray from industry standards, but Kris's contemporary and whimsical interpretations naturally draw you in. Her still life's are all at once beautiful and timeless, and I knew I’d be following her work for years to come.

After years of knowing one another and commenting on each others endeavors, I recently posted a photo of a new Tansu cabinet I added to my dining room and was surprised when Kris reached out. "Would love to photograph it!" she said. Turns out, Kris needed to make time for inspiring projects amongst her busy work schedule, and finally, after years of coveting an opportunity to work with her, this was it!

It was a late Wednesday morning when Kris came by; she wore the same wide-grinned smile and carried with her a similar box of photo props. We started the day drinking matcha, and from there it didn't take long for her to get inspired and begin pulling items, including the matcha bowl, to shoot. Seeing Kris in her element gave me a sense that her process was very organic, learning as much from her collaborators as she does from the materials she's shooting. An approach that considers all factors of a room and object, and results in truly inspiring images.

Opening up a small corner of my home to be featured in this shoot was both exciting and oddly personal. People always ask me what my home is like and although I speak about it a lot, I rarely reveal anything in photos. The number one question I get is “Does your home look like the store?” I used to think it was more diverse than the store, but as time goes on the answer is slowly becoming a firm “Yes”.

There are so many things by designers and artists that've been integrated into my home that I also carry in the shop. They serve as constant reminders of the amazing people I get to work with and I think it’s safe to say that those are the things I treasure the most.

This shoot was perfectly spur of the moment and intimate. During the couple of hours we spent together, Kris and I bonded over podcasts, stories, and lots of laughter. It was a collaboration I didn't know I needed, and was the perfect opportunity to showcase the work and process of a photographer, and friend, I truly admire.

Would you mind telling our readers a bit about how you got started with photography?
I got started in college, dabbling in film, shooting concerts and asking friends to model for me. Even in the beginning, I felt pulled to bring shape to certain ideas despite my lack of skill and experience. Over the years, it developed into something more substantial and I took the leap to go to photo school in Massachusetts in 2009. The school doesn’t exist anymore but it was a ten-month intensive program, teaching still life, portraiture, and retouching. It was in school that I also first met my friend and artist mentor, Lois Greenfield, whose work in movement deeply made an impression on me. After graduating, I went straight to NYC to work under her and for four years, I watched as people around me collaborated together to transform an idea, to bring a certain feeling to life through light and movement. I absorbed it all and said yes to everything— besides assisting on shoots, I did retouching, photographed weddings on weekends, did model test shoots etc. I still didn’t quite know what I wanted to do so when we decided to move, it was in moving to Portland that I found my path towards still life and product photography. When I first met my friend Sarah, of Notary Ceramics, I was a new mom, she had just opened her shop. I needed a way back to myself, creatively so we began working together, capturing her beautiful ceramics. It’s been 7 years since then and each year I find myself growing and learning with every client I work with.

What is your primary goal when you begin styling for a shoot? Share your process with us.
Intuitively, I try to bring focus to the product and try to honestly create images that allow the viewer to perceive how it looks in reality—I sometimes use objects to show scale or illustrate contrast and soft light to capture color, athough it can change depending on the material of the product. Glass likes to be lit from behind and metal reflects the light it can see. Props would also depend on the brand/business I’m working with… do they like neutrals or color? I start going through keys words like modern, minimal, nostalgic, romantic, warm, peaceful, happy, energetic, abstract etc. and that usually dictates the direction of something. If I can, I definitely like bringing bits if nature in, flowers or giant branches, rocks from the coast. I love all of that!

What influences play a role in your photography? How has it changed over the years?
I think nature plays a big role, the changing seasons and the changing light. I used to work in the studio more often when I first began— doing beauty shoots and attempting some fashion shoots and now I find myself working mostly with natural light. Another huge influence has been those first two years working alongside Sarah van Raden of Notary Ceramics. Watching her style things so quickly helped me develop a sense of balance and it definitely taught me an invaluable lesson in holding things loosely and learning to trust my intuition. A few photographers and stylists that I have had an impact on me/ continue to inspire me— Lois Greenfield, Zhang Jingna, Maureen M. Evans, Stephanie Stamatis, Colin King to name a few.
How do you want to influence people’s lives as a photographer? What feelings do you wish to illicit with your work? I don’t know if I ever go into it thinking about my influence on any one else but I have heard people say that they feel a certain peacefulness when they see my work.

What was it about the Tansu that made you want to photograph it? I'd love to get a sense of how you gain inspiration.
My childhood home is filled mainly with asian antique furniture. My parents collected majority of the pieces when they were living in Indonesia. I loved the look of the Tansu in your home because of its minimal lines and simplicity. I feel connected to vintage and antique objects, things that have a story, that have withstood time because of their craftsmanship.

What type of other passions and interests do you have beyond photography?
I recently got back into oil painting, which has felt like coming back alive again. The process is slow and allows me to get lost in the hours. I also enjoy cooking and baking.
How has living and working in Portland, OR influenced your work?
It’s been life-changing to be honest, getting to connect with so many small businesses, creatives, people who just want to focus and make something they love. I think Portland is so special in that way… our city is filled to the brim with incredibly talented people and yet still so accessible unlike being in a bigger city like LA or NYC. I love being so close to the Gorge/ the Coast and having access to so many incredible parks and hikes. Being able to leave the city and be in nature is something I don’t take for granted.

Name some of the current brands you shoot work for; I'd love to share them with our following!
I shoot for Notary Ceramics, Lightwell Co., Gary Bodker, The Yo Store, Sandbox Ceramics, Aesthete Tea, 1927 Smores, A Nod to Design, Tercette, and Elise Mclauchlan to name a handful!

Your heritage is very important to you; how do you feel your work fits within or is inspired by the Filipino design aesthetic?
I don’t think I’ve been able to actively pursue a unique enough style that invokes my Filipino heritage but I would love to work with more Filipino creatives in the future. I do tend towards using natural materials in my shoots like wood, stone, shells, etc but it isn’t always inspired by Filipino design. It definitely is something that I want to develop though! — for the things that I create to continue to reflect the deepest parts of myself.

What kind of impact do you want your work to make in today’s world?
I just want to encourage other creatives, especially moms, to continue pursuing their need for creativity, love for beauty, and self-expression.

Lastly, what can we expect from you next? Where do you see your work going in the future?
I hope to continue painting, enough to do a small release sometime in the next year or so. I am dreaming of someday creating a still-life book featuring Filipino artists/craftspeople and their products.

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