Before we discuss this image, let’s briefly discuss your portrait work. How did it all start?
I started working for magazines and dailies like Libération
and Le Monde
. Things then kind of snowballed: one commission led to another, without me really needing to try to get work.
And then the music industry took an interest in my work and I started to do album covers. It was the heyday of Actuel
and Radio Nova
, there was a good “team” involved in these creative media. It was also at a time when rap music was on the rise, all of that was kicking off. I lived in the Bastille district of Paris, not far from where Actuel
was: it was almost like living in an anthill. It was a really exciting moment in time.
How would you describe the creative freedom enjoyed by portrait photographers back then, when working on commissions?
Actors and singers weren’t “sponsored” at the time, so the pressure was nothing like what it is today. I recently did a photo shoot with a fairly well-known actor who was chaperoned by four press officers from a perfume brand - and none representing the film in which he featured. It’s a growing trend that can be pretty annoying, because oppressive marketing smothers artists and what they have to say.
I was fortunate enough to start working when what prevailed was the relationship of trust between the photographer – and whoever commissioned him, record label or magazine – and the artist. You were called upon for the quality of your work, your expertise, and whatever weird tricks you could pull out of your hat. The wilder you were, the more they’d want you.
There is theatricality in your images. How would you define your method?
Some elements I use repeatedly, such as mirrors, smoke or a play of shadows. They make up the contours or frame; and central to this, what makes the photograph fall into place or not is the music that settles in, the vibrations, the silences, the sheet music that the subject and I improvise together.What about this Eye?
It’s an image I made for myself; it follows the same surrealist vein.
Some images have made a great impression on me, such as those in Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou
. I like to breathe strangeness into images, to produce strangeness, although I don’t nurture it for myself.
Limited edition, numbered and signed.