So, I love Pierre et Gilles’s photography. I’ve known their work since February of 2006 and it resonated with my own overly stylised aesthetic.
This beautiful book was a gift from my boyfriend in 2009, I think he ordered it online for me, they can be found on Amazon and a bunch of other online similar platforms.
Amazon’s apt description of the book reads:
Kings of cult and pop
Pierre et Gilles create dreamy portraits that transport their subjects–as well as the viewers–into an alternate world where camp, pop, burlesque, religion, and eroticism mingle in perfect harmony. Creating the sets themselves, and with Pierre as photographer and Gilles as painter/elaborator, they create one-of-a-kind artworks of an unmistakably original style. A host of stars has passed before their lens, such as Iggy Pop, Madonna, Marc Almond, Nina Hagen, Catherine Deneuve, Laetitia Casta, Marilyn Manson, Mireille Mathieu… though many of their portraits also feature unknowns.
I’ve photographed some of my favourite images from the book and added them here.
The above is one of their classic self portraits.
Marking the 30th anniversary of their collaboration, the Jeu de Paume in Paris is hosting a retrospective of their work from June to September, 2007.
Much more than just an exhibition catalog, this book brings together all of the 130 works included in the exhibition as well as an additional 170 pieces focusing on the past ten years. Also included is a tribute text by the artist Jeff Koons. What better way to (re)discover the work of Pierre et Gilles?
Much of their work incorporates a fabricated border made in studio by the creative couple (image below) and its very much this kind of production which I enjoy about their work, as well as their love of kitsch and play on mythological and religious themes.
Above image of Laetitia Casta (2000) has such beautiful Dutch painterly style lighting. And below image of slashed up burlesque diva Dita Von Teese.
From a 2015 article on the duo in Galore:
When we create an image it’s always an adventure, we never know beforehand if it will succeed or not. It’s the public who decides, artists create their works and it is the public who turn it into a masterpiece.
Each photo shoot is done in our studio which is also our house, there is a pleasant ambiance and the models discover the universe in which we live, it allows them to truly enter into our world. We also love to discover and it is imperative that the model finds themself in the image. It’s an exchange.
More from their interview in Galore:
We always work together and we each have a role, we complement one another. We work at home in our studio, we construct a specific decor for the model. It’s like in the theater, the subject poses amongst ornaments in lighting that Pierre had specially prepared in advance, but it is always part improvisation. Once the shoot is over, we choose the best image to make a print on which Gilles paints to make it more ideal. In the end, it’s like a picture with a specially made frame. It’s a long process that takes many weeks.
The world is like art, in constant evolution, it’s always changing. We like it and we don’t like it and that is what pleases us. It’s an eternal spectacle and we will never tire of it.
Above image of Claudia Schiffer as Venus, 1997.
The creation of each image must be such an undertaking. I remember how much time, effort and preparation went into my (much more simplified in comparison to Pierre & Gilles) graduate body of work which was all studio work with a very dramatised and stylised play on erotic female stereotypes. In fact not just the time but also the spend,- one of the reasons I’ve ended up which such a vast collection of women’s attire, backdrops and the likes.
Pierre & Gilles are one of my top handful of inspirational photographers.
And I loved this little paragraph from Wikipedia…
Pierre et Gilles have sometimes attracted controversy. For example, in 2012 there was a public outcry in Austria when their work entitled Vive la France was displayed on large street posters to advertise the Nackte Männer (English: Naked Men) exhibition created by Ilse Haider at the Leopold Museum in Vienna. It depicts three naked French footballers with their genitals fully revealed: the first black, the second Arab/Muslim and the third white, to represent the multi-ethnic composition of modern French society. The ensuing controversy led to an act of self-censorship by the artists, who decided that the largest street posters should be changed, and instead use coloured ribbons to hide the players’ genitals.