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From the American West to the Villages of Japan with One Road-Tripping Photographer (Sponsored)

You’ll often find the Portland-based photographer Jules Davies in someplace new or hidden, whether it’s close to home in the sprawling landscapes of the American West or a small village in Japan, famous for its huge chestnut trees. While others might prefer the luxuries of high-speed travel, she opts to take her time, exploring the road less traveled and encountering unforgettable faces along the way, each with a different story to tell. She has a moniker: Julesville. Maybe it’s an imaginary place or simply a state of mind, spanning all the magical, sunlit deserts, mountains, and lakes she’s trodden.

Julesville is also Davies’s Instagram handle and website domain name, and while she’s usually adventuring through the backroads of some secret and mysterious town, she’s also plugged-in to the digital world. More than an online presence, she’s built an online community of individuals of all backgrounds, all longing for the great unknown. In Julesville, every corner of the world, no matter how remote, has its time in the sun, and personal, human stories reign supreme. Take a look at her Squarespace website, a virtual tapestry of cultures and colors, and you’ll see what we mean. We spoke with the artist about her journeys around the world, the evolution of the fashion industry, and her one-of-a-kind website.

Why did you choose Squarespace as your website builder, and what template do you use?
“I chose Squarespace because the designs are simple and beautiful. They feel refined straight out of the box. The photography templates are delightfully minimal, allowing the imagery to be the hero. I’m currently using the Wexley template, and I like the way the grid-style photo gallery offers a lasting scrolling experience to get lost in, like a trance.”

You have a thriving Instagram presence (@julesville_). When did you decide it was time to create a website? What tools and resources does your website offer you that social media can’t?
“A website offers a place to show work in its full glory, big enough to see and FEEL what’s happening in the frame. It’s a more immersive experience. Instagram was a powerful tool for practicing the art of visual storytelling, but I didn’t take myself seriously as a photographer-for-hire until I had a portfolio to share. I had only about fifteen photos on there when it launched, but it was an important early step–a seed to grow a business from.”

Was it easy to build a website using Squarespace?
“Yes, it’s quite intuitive. I spent an hour clicking around and had the basic gist of it. For me, the process of building my website a few years ago was an important soul-searching activity, helping me discover my style and shape my photographic perspective. You upload a photo to a page that’s supposed to be the *essence* of you and your work, and it either sticks or it doesn’t. And then soon enough, you’re looking at a ‘finished’ site and you pee your pants a little because you feel like a real deal entrepreneur making a proper go at it!”

We love your homepage gallery! How do you curate and sequence those images?
“Thank you. I have a lot of fun playing with sequence and site composition. More than subject matter or composition, I find cohesion with colors, tones, and moods. It’s an intuitive process, moving things around until they sing.”

Your website design is all about the images, without any excessive text or clutter. Why did you choose this clean and minimalist approach?
“I want the work to speak for itself, without the distraction of a heavy-handed website and the noise of language. Not spelling everything out in plain language leaves room for a little mystery, treating the viewer like an intellectual who’s capable of connecting dots and having an imagination. The blank canvas nature of the template allows my work to be in a constant state of evolution without ever feeling incongruent. That, in turn, allows me to be in a constant state of evolution. Giddy up!”

What’s the most unique place you’ve visited during your travels?
“The first thing that comes to mind is a project I did with a Japanese travel and culture magazine called Papersky. Their focus is on telling genuine and off-the-beaten-path stories, so off we went to the rural northern prefecture of Akita, Japan to explore the mountainous region by bike. We pedaled past endless rice fields, and up into the hills to soak our bones in the onsens (hot springs).

“More and more, I’m learning that the most special travel moments are not grand and monumental. They’re softer, more subtle, ordinary in nature. They’re to be found in witnessing a shared humanity across cultures–watching parents teach their kids how to swim and listening to the grandmothers chit chat and laugh in the locker room, in no rush to put clothes on. It’s those rare moments of awareness that we’re all here together on this hunk of rock flying through space.”

You’ve traveled by car, by bike, and even by bullet train. What’s your preferred mode of traveling, and why does this mode of traveling help you to create stunning pictures?
“Road-tripping around the American West is pretty hard to beat. The dusty car becomes your home, your co-pilots become your family, and you feel nostalgia for places you’ve never been. When traveling by car, you get to see the in-between places, the sleepy towns leap-frogged by flight. You get to see how people live.

“You’re also on your own schedule, and that’s great for making pictures. When the sun is dipping and the light is hitting, we pull off, no matter where we are, to stretch our legs and breathe in the golden light. My lens loves this tradition.”

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve ever had on a photographic road trip?
“When I moved from Colorado to Oregon a few years ago, I took a leisurely three-week road trip across Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, my life consolidated into a four-door sedan. It was the end of a dry summer, and wildfires were seizing their moment, filling the West with smoke.

“I was visiting Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, watching international tourists gather and wait for the big show: a highly predictable geothermal geyser that erupts every 44 -125 minutes. Burning through a curtain of smoke, the sun was casting an apocalyptic red glow, shifting the colors and creating an eerie calm. I’ll never forget the strange beauty of that scene. There are still a few photos from that day on my portfolio site.”

In what ways does being outdoors inspire you? In an increasingly digital world, why do you think it’s important for us to take the time to explore nature?
“Spending time outside grounds me. It encourages me to slow down, listen, and take deeper breaths. Being outside taps you into the grand scheme of things and inspired a feeling of connectedness to all things, not just the computer in your pocket.

“When you step away from the hustle and bustle of humanity and into the calm natural world, your senses heighten. The low-stimulation environment creates a sharp focus on the sights, sounds, and smells around you. Pacific Crest Trail hikers, who walk from Mexico to Canada, joke about this phenomenon often. When they’re on the trail, moving through remote wilderness for days on end, they can smell a day hiker’s shampoo and laundry detergent from 100 yards out.

“The colors are brighter and the breeze more sensual. The sun moving across the sky becomes your clock, that weird flat-ish rock becomes your chair, and watching the light dance across the lake becomes your blockbuster entertainment. The mind finds stillness, and that’s an inspiring place to be.”

In what way has living in Portland influenced your work?
“The rumors are true: Portland is a place where kooks can let their kook flags fly. A place where individuality thrives and creativity is queen. Portland cares about bike lanes, vintage clothing, getting outside, dive bars, and really REALLY good food. For cheap. It’s a place where you can go swimming at a nudie beach in the Columbia River Gorge, and it’s the most normal thing to do. Portland marches to the beat of its own drum and attracts like-minded people like a magnet. The friends and collaborators I’ve met here have been game changers–brilliant, loving, and creative humans who have helped me embrace play and find my voice.”

What do you look for in a client?
“I like working with companies that are doing good things in the world, often with a social or environmental mission at the core of their business. I like working with companies that are bold and not afraid to shake up the status quo or have a perspective. I like working with companies who are interested in portraying real humans as they are, ‘flaws’ and all. Lately, I’ve been enjoying fashion, high art direction, and the process of dreaming things up that don’t have to make sense. I’d like to do more of that–playing with surrealism.

Fashion photography has undergone a shift towards more authentic, less airbrushed imagery in recent years. Why is it important to you to work on projects that celebrate individuality and diversity?
“YES, IT HAS and HALLELUJAH for that. A really cool thing about humans is that we come in all shapes and colors. We are a brilliantly diverse species, and that should be celebrated and showcased. I believe that media representation is an important component of big-picture equality, and it’s our responsibility as content creators to prioritize diversity in choosing our subjects. And selfishly, it’s far more interesting to photograph people outside the standard model archetypes. It’s more nourishing and dynamic to connect with different ages, races, and walks of life.

“And guess what? Humans have body hair, stretch marks, cellulite, and skin blemishes. We do. All of us. I push against heavy retouching because as individuals we’re strapped into the ongoing roller coaster ride of finding self-love and acceptance, and seeing unrealistic examples of ‘beauty’ is so damaging to that journey. Perfection is bullshit.”

Get started with your Squarespace website today and use the code FEATURESHOOT to get 10% off your first purchase.

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