1987, between Christmas and New Year's Day. I'm locked alone in my room, with my first camera: a Polaroid that my boyfriend just gave me as a gift. I know nothing about lighting ; I have no concept of pictorial composition. But I'm intrigued by this little machine that revolutionizes the way to create an image. No need to take the film to the counter of a Photo Centre and wait for days for the development of negatives and enlargement of photographs. The popularity of the Polaroid lies essentially in its immediacy. The image appears as soon as it is taken, spit out of the camera with a futuristic noise, a kind of joyful robotic slide.
I press the shutter, the timer allows me to pose and the flash goes off in a blinding bluish light. I can tear up the result and make my self-portrait disappear immediately after the shot — which I do, with most of my photographic attempts. Very quickly, I realize that I don't like my image. Yet, I'm not complexed by my appearance. When I look at myself in a mirror, I perceive the shapes of my face from the position of my eyes; my gaze makes a slight dive on all my features and, then, I recognize myself. Without being able to explain why, this viewpoint on my own physiognomy reassures me. It's my face. That's how I would like to be seen. However, most portraits of me appear to me as pretenses. I do not recognize myself. I may not be photogenic.
When I start my photographic journey, a few years later, I turn my camera towards the other. I like to reduce my presence to being nothing more than an eye that composes a visual equation. It's a form of meditation, a way to re-appropriate reality, to choose what is perceived. Photography is a writing of light that reveals the intricacies of matter and the forms of the living. When I transform myself into a photographic pupil, I manage to find networks of harmony by adjusting my point of view.
Sometimes, the desire to make myself the subject resurfaces; I then spend a few hours trying to find a way to reveal myself, and, with the exception of a few rare black and white images, with extremely contrasted lighting to the point of making the details of my anatomy disappear, the practice of self-portraiture has never satisfied me.
In photography, the absence of inversion of my reflection bothers me. My face seems deformed. It appears even more horrifying to me when someone else photographs me ; I will discover it fifteen years after my first self-portrait session, when I will have to pose for the media promotion of my first novel. If I have had the chance to meet talented portraitists who knew how to find the key to unlock my face, most of the time the press photographers work in a hurry. And, each time, even before the first triggering of the shutter, I already know what will be captured : my anxiety about being photographed. As if I were becoming prey in front of a predator.
I don't know how to pose. I can't feign the desire to be photographed. I can't forget that I'm in front of a lens, that it isn't situated where it should be to reveal the person I see in the mirror ; knowing in advance the failure of the operation, my anxiety increases exponentially as the ordeal progresses.
For a few years now, it has been fashionable to post photographs on social media with a "no filter" mention, as if there existed a pure image, one that reveals its subject in all its truth, with its exact textures and proportions. Filters indeed alter the photograph, but this operation adds to an initial stage of imaging that is not at all objective.
Photography always presents a viewpoint under a particular lighting that accentuates or softens certain facial lines. An overhead shot elongates the forehead; a low angle shot makes the lips appear fuller, but the detailing of the nasal cavities can horrify. A perfectly frontal shot, at eye level, hides a double chin. And that's without considering the facial posture. The emotional state is the most powerful of photographic filters. A smile lifts the features like a facelift; a serious expression weighs them down.
Every photographic perspective distorts, enhances, or uglifies its subject ; each type of lighting illuminates it differently, to the point of radically transforming its appearance.
In quantum physics, it has long been known : the observer changes the observed subject. The art of portraiture is one that amalgamates the perspective of a photographer, the physiognomy of their subject, and their state of being at the moment the shutter is released. The portrait results from an emotional and physical encounter.
A "no filter" photo is thus primarily a combination of moods that modulate facial features, a play of light that alters the appearance of the lines of matter, a choice of point of view that determines the perspective on the subject.
To successfully capture a human presence with perfect neutrality, without any filter or optical illusion, one would need to isolate the model, standing, devoid of any emotion, in a room lit evenly, with a white glow that eliminates all shadows, then model the entirety of the subject in 3D in order to restore their full physiognomy, without flattening or elongating them, without choosing their best or worst profile. Soon, the portrait will no longer be a two-dimensional pictorial composition revealing more the talent of the photographer than the physiological truth of the model, but rather a recomposition of the true features of the person photographed. Even then, what will be captured, beyond the design of the physiognomy, will primarily be the state of being of the model. In my case, you will most likely find the full extent of my photographic anxiety, perfectly distributed throughout my entire physical presence, in very high resolution.
Unless I learn to have fun with my image... as is the case with the series of synthetic photographs scattered on this page.
My creative process is detailed in the AUTOS section.
digital images | text :