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Magazine Article: Marie Claire, December 2018 Featuring Francesca Cesari

I was shooting a newborn portrait series at a clients house and she showed me this magazine she’d stolen from her GP’s office. She loved the article so much that she took it with her!

The feature about the work by Francesca Cesari is in the December issue of Marie Claire South Africa, 2018 (cover below).

“With her intimate series of portraits of women, Italian photographer Francesca Cesari captures the undeniable bond between mother and child during breastfeeding. The images look like Renaissance paintings, and portray a combination of vulnerability and strength”

-Words by Emilie Gambade

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A Book: Pierre et Gilles, Double Je 1976 – 2007

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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.

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The above is one of their classic self portraits.

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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?

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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.

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Above image of Laetitia Casta (2000) has such beautiful Dutch painterly style lighting. And below image of slashed up burlesque diva Dita Von Teese.

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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.

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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.

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Above image of Claudia Schiffer as Venus, 1997.

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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.

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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.

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A Book: Chambre Close
by Bettina Rheims & Serge Bramly

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This beautiful book was gifted to me by my partner. He knows me well.

Chambre-Close-by-Bettina-Rheims-&-Serge-Bramly--002- The inside-cover dust jacket reads and explains the contents of the book:

Bettina Rheims / Serge Bramly
Chambre Close
A Fiction
152 pages, 85 color plates

It was snowing on Paris when a well-dressed, gaunt old gentleman with pale skin entered a photography studio in the sixth arrondissement…

Monsieur X., the said gentleman, hands the manager his legacy that is to remain anonymous for all times- erotic nude photographs of women taken in hotel rooms, unequivocal evidence of the secret double life he leads behind closed doors. Monsieur X. is a perfectly discrete voyeur, an old school seducer, an amateur in the original sense. Not only does he have a good education and money, but a professional photographer’s equipment- and an obsessive curiosity for the female body.

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 The artistic collaboration of photographer Bettina Rheims and author and art critic Serge Bramly began in 1991 with Chambre Close and continues until today. Every one of their joint projects caused a stir and provoked heated debates, like I.N.R.I (1997/98). This edition of Chambre Close, in which we are publishing the complete series of photographs for the first time, is particularly interesting because of the contrast between text and pictures. Juxtaposed to the cultivated literary tone of Monsieur X.’s fictitious “avowal” are photographs which speak a much clearer language. Bettina Rheims, who produced her first photo series in color with Chambre Close, is fluent in this language, telling stories of female eroticism and female exhibitionism unlike anyone else.

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Apart from my love of strongly composed square images, the tone of Rheims’s work is kind of decadent in its color saturation and in the (effortless) tension/ harmony play in her photographs.

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She works with a mix of body language and props to weave the compositional tone of her images. In both the below and above images (if not in them all) one can really see how she works with space, form and sexuality.

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From the first pages of the book:

It could go either way. In real life our dreams turn out to be two-sided and contradictory. While one part of us aspires to tranquility, another thirsts for torment. There are two voices speaking at the same time, and the fainter one has just as much of a hold. When one has drowned out the other, and its dominance seems assured, the other is cunningly biding its time, ready to spit venom.

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 In my case, it all began with a moment of desperation, midway through my life, when I was least expecting it. I had worked so hard and well to eliminate friction in the belief that I was acting for the common good, for the benefit of my friends, my family and myself- and, insofar to the best of my ability, for the cause of social progress- and that my days would follow a perfectly smooth course to what was already looking like happiness.

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Such a belief made it easy to bear the bumps still strewn across my path, the uncertainties that occasionally snagged my comfort. I considered them ephemeral. I waited. For me, the present was like a transit lounge. Soon, a hostess would be announcing the flight that was going to whisk me to the islands of felicity, as the fulfillment of a moderate and hard-working life. I was staking the best part of my days on a winning tomorrow. Even if the future was slow in coming, the word dissatisfaction never entered my vocabulary.
But then the other voice whispered in my ear.

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The book reads like a memoir of fictitious author Monsieur X., who invites and pays women to undress for him in hotel rooms. Bettina’s accompanying images illustrate his supposed experiences and resulting photoshoots.

The models cast for the project are so varied, not just for body type but also for age and race, this makes them even more believably part of his storyline.

There are elements of her work which remind me of Helmut Newton’s approach to photographing women. I think its in the strength their models exude and the way they both obtain alluring body language and poses.

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Found Images:
Women Before 10am by Veronique Vial

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I think I came across these images while I was doing research in the Michaelis/UCT library during my graduate year in 2005. I photocopied them and stuck them into my visual diary of the time, here they appear re-photographed from my diary as well as a few more lower down which I grabbed from google image search.

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I can’t exactly put my finger on what it is about them which draws me so much,- maybe its the graininess of both the film and those first moments of the day? I wonder also how she approached her subjects- did she ask them to stay as they were when they had awoken? Did she style them or ask her subjects to just be naturally reactive to the concept and moment?

Sarah Jane Wylde by Veronique Vial

Editorial reviews I found and liked about the book:

“Imagine being let into the bedrooms and bathrooms of 96 of the world’s most beautiful actresses and models to photograph them while they’re still sleepily themselves, without makeup, defenses or clothes. These heavenly creatures loll in expensive sheets, smoke, drink coffee, play with their dogs and children and let it all hang out.” – Paper

“Intimate, messy, revealing – photos of fabulous females in their precaffeinated state.” – Elle

I love the description “females in their pre-caffeinated state”!

There is a strange parallel I find between the intimacy of the captured scenes and  the element of the staged (who wants to look unattractive in a portrait sitting after all? Did they adjust their hair? The light? The room? Makeup?)

Women Before 10am by Veronique Vial

I previously knew nothing about French-born-living -in-America photographer Veronique Vial and went to her website to find out a bit more about her work.
I was a little disappointed sadly- I had expected her work to be a bit more content rich, more conceptual, but her work has much more of a lifestyle/stock photography feel for me.The book and the theme and the style in which she shot it was much more atmospheric, and I also loved the incorporation of her own handwriting. The images I kept all those years ago are still inspiring, so much so that along with my Polaroid project I’m considering shooting a new series in B&W film on my old cameras.

Women Before 10am by Veronique Vial
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