Jack Michele (@eljacker_) is the man behind some of the most beautiful and haunting portrait work we’ve stumbled across on Instagram. Each of his portraits write a narrative of sorts for the viewer to uncover. Mystery, beauty, pensiveness, freedom, fear, joy and sadness are all woven together in his intricate and thoughtful photographs. The tones he creates in his editing process using Mextures and other tools create a color-tinted and faded lens, adding to the underlying chronicle told with each photograph. We caught up with Jack over the Easter holiday to learn more about his life, his current photography project and his motivation behind all of it. Read along!
They call me Jack. I’m a 34-year-old Italian who recently moved to Zurich even if i keep forgetting to speak Deutsch. I’ve been working in the Information Technology field for several years and doing freelance web design as well. I studied Telecommunication Engineering, although I’ve always been attracted to photography and creative fields. I’m currently passing through a long learning process of observing Art. I see myself sometimes as more of an editor than a photographer. I’m not a typical nerd even if sometimes I could spend a whole day between coffee, emails, more emails, Photoshop, Photoshop and Illustrator. I live with that gorgeous chaos girl Mya (@__myalive__) with whom I share my newest photography project with as well. She physically assists me at times, she constantly supports my madness and we both eat too much popcorn.
What is it that attracted you to photography?
I think at the beginning I was attracted more to the technical process and less to the artistic side of photography. I was always interested in how cinematography could create a sense of something and could manipulate the viewer in certain ways. I was so amazed when watching the intro of movies - they would inspire ideas for images, but I don’t draw and I’m not artistic enough to be good with a video camera. It was there that my love for post-processing started. To me, shooting is easy but seeing is the hard part.
What led you to begin your current portrait project with Mya?
Well, I restarted my Instagram account after taking a year off. When I did this, I decided to go in a new direction and I already had the idea to focus this project on Mya. I think she fits perfectly into what I do and not simply because she is my partner. My intent was to create something that would go beyond our private story. For us it’s important to improve and test our techniques with more patience, creativity and constructive critique. My idea was to consistently show the same subject but without it feeling repetitive - letting the viewers see beyond the subject of the photo to focus on the structure of it instead. With this project the subject is used purely for color and tone. The beauty and the technique of the picture is what should grab you and make you feel excited about what may come next.
What does your editing process typically look like?
Well, obviously it depends on the picture and what kind of edit I want to create. I often start with Lightroom where I have created my own presets for image tones, fade and colors. Then I move the image to my iPhone to complete the process of overlaying and blending. Most of the time I start with the formulas that I’ve created in Mextures. I also use VSCO, ArtStudio and Superimpose, but I’m always experimenting with layers and textures. So far, Mextures is still my favorite app to use for the final touch of my editing process where I add multiple layers of colors.
How exactly do you use Mextures in your editing process?
My favorite layer to use to created faded tones is Neutral Density from the Landscape Enhance Pack. With a double layer of it you can create an amazing, dark scene by making the right adjustments. For more texture I use Franklin from the Emulsion Pack blended in Screen Mode - it’s quite perfect to change the mood of a photo. I also use the Radiance and Grit and Grain overlays often and usually blend them in Multiply mode. For my final touch I use the sharpness adjustment, which in Mextures is really great.
Would you care to share any of your Mextures formulas?
Sure! Here are four:
DARKLEY - Formula Code - SSSCXJA
JACKER - Formula Code - BSJXGIH
BROWN FADE - Formula Code - PECNENU
SHADOWS - Formula Code - HGSWPJK
Your portraits are all colored and faded in such a way that they create for the viewer a beautiful and mysterious feel. How much of that is captured in the original shot and how much of that is created by you in post-processing?
Well, I actually like the way my images come out of my DSLR and iPhone because the pictures are based on an idea or concept that I already have in mind. I love to see that mood - mysterious with deep tones - so all I do is apply my camera settings and shoot knowing where I want to aim! I keep it simple and I don’t blame my camera for bad pictures.
Lately, most of my portraits are taken with my DSLR so my post-processing is focused on things like exposure, color balance, vibration saturation, altering the HSL and then making blending and grain overlays in addition to fixing details like fade and sharpness. But I feel that it’s so easy to switch from Lightroom to Photoshop and to Mextures as well as other apps for my editing because all I’m doing is making basic adjustments with a few tweaks to color and brightness. I don’t use much gear or equipment. I always rely on the natural light.
What first got you in to Instagram?
I discovered Instagram in 2011. I wasn’t a big social media fan (I don’t use Facebook or Twitter) but I found Instagram to be a pretty cool way to share my old pictures without talking much. Through Instagram I discovered mobile photography. My old account was all iPhone shots and iPhone edits. I started with street photography and black & white perspectives and a lot of collabs. I became addicted to apps but it also introduced me to some really talented photographers. It really encouraged me to take pictures but it also took up all of my free time. So I ended up deleting my Instagram account, taking a year off, and now I’m back with version 2.0!
Who are the people that inspire you the most when it comes to your particular shooting and editing style?
The feeds that I always look for usually display a combination of a passion for photography and an extra personal touch that creates a strong style. People like @franz_ven, @ana.mar, @nghbrs, @bobbbimac and, of course, @leahminium. Their work leaves you with something more.
Be sure to see more of Jack’s insanely beautiful work at @eljacker_!