I love the night. Night is not about darkness, on the contrary, it is about light and about contrasts. The lights in the city shine as if they were stars. This otherworldy atmosphere is proper to dreams.
Manhattan night view from Brooklyn . 2010
Life seems more intense at night. A dull landscape during the day might be full of drama during the night.
Brassaï, one of my favourite photographers who was active in the 1930s in Paris, protrayed the city of light during the night.
A famous French saying about the night is “During the night, all cats are grey”. The night is perfect to do things that need discretion and you would not do during the day. He actually spent two years and then many nights to tame the nocturnal animals of Paris.
From left to right: Gang . 1932 | Avenue de l'Observatoire . 1932 | Prostitute . 1930
As Diane Arbus said
"Recently I was amazed how much I like what we do not see in a picture. Darkness has a physical presence of its own."
The night in Paris keeps on inspiring artists and brands, like Van Cleef & Arpels which launched a male fragrance called Midnight in Paris pour homme and of course, we cannot forget the movie Midnight in Paris from director Woody Allen.
Let's experience the night any time in the future with an artistic eye. Another world is expecting you!
A storyteller is how I like to define myself whatever the medium I use: photography, fragrances or marketing.
Recently I made a significant discovery surfing on the web that pushed me to the next level when I first read the word storylogue. Storylogue, I could not imagine such a word existed until I got to know Robert McKee. He is the kind of person you listen to carefully since each and every one of his words have such a deep meaning.
Why do I write stories? Why do we all love stories? To my first question his answer is:
“A storyteller is a life poet”
We tell stories about real life, or dreamt life. I personally stage an idealised life in my pictures, but many brands tell stories today too.
So, what do we learn from this fictional version? To comprehend the present, maybe.
“We are not taught to live (…)”
For artists, life is a clue we try to understand. Art is our means of expression and a learning tool about who we are. It is a way to balance the inner chaos and to restore harmony. The philosopher Nietszche said:
“No artist tolerates reality”
Reality does not attract me as an artist. I stage it. I transform it to absorb it into my dreamy world, to control it.
Life is a question mark for all of us. “Why we are here? What is the sense of life?”. Robert McKee analyses that philosophy, art, science and theology, the four wisdoms, they have tried since ancient times to give answers to these existential questions. But what is the situation today?
Let’s start with philosophy. We can say that today philosophy is not at its best. There are less and less people reading books, and reading philosophy books, even less. In Paris, I recently attended The Creative Journey conference organised by Nelly Rodi, a renowned trend agency. The first speaker of the day was the philosopher Gaspard Koenig. His allocution was about luxury, and I must say, it was very interesting to put some perspective to the short-term vision, the instantaneity of our society.
The second wisdom Art questions reality, puts it upside down, rejects it, transforms it, and reinvents it. Art is freedom. You put limits if you wish to. You are the one to decide. Until recently, I believed that it was a means for me to escape from reality, but after listening to Robert McKee, maybe it is totally the contrary, and maybe it is to live more intensely.
And what about Science? Everyday we learn more about our species thanks to science. Recently I read an article on a Chinese investigation about Alpha men. Yes, science has the answer. They actually found that in mice Alpha male characteristics have to do with genetics. The myth of Prince Charming is falling apart! Science is also staged in marketing campaigns to connect deeply with the audience. There is a wonderful example with Momondo, a travel search website as the company describes itself, in which they use science to sell more trips.
Do you really know yourself? Momondo campaign revealing ancestry DNA to volonteers . 2016
And finally, Theology. Less and less people believe today, this is a fact. It seems this is no longer the space where we look for answers. But despite the fact, we see more and more brands using mysticism and spirituality to market products and particularly in the beauty and fragrance markets. The most recent example is a campaign by Paco Rabanne to promote the latest male fragrance release Pure XS. It presents a modernised version of Adam, the original Alpha male. When the video ends, we imagine each and every Eve will eat the apple at a moment or another.
Pure XS by Paco Rabanne . New campaign released in July 2017
To summarise, in our daily routine, we hardly open a book however we read a lot through social media, less and less people practice religion, and science is still seen as elitist, with no immediate answer to our questions.
In the entertainment way of life we are immersed today, Art and its storytelling character seem to be the medium where the most of us try to get answers to our questions. As Robert McKee says:
“Stories equip us for living”
Today we go to the cinema, or watch a movie at home to understand our story and ourselves. They make us experience alternative lives by proxy.
But stories are everywhere, not only in movies. They are in photography too, and they are in brands. What consumers are looking for today are brands that deliver meaning and not only products.
What is the story you are going to tell to engage your customers tomorrow?
Belle Epoque is the name of an ongoing Art Nouveau photo series I started in 2015.
This project has brought me so far to photograph houses, apartments and even museums in Paris (France), in Cartagena and Murcia (Spain) and La Habana (Cuba).
When I started with the series, it was not really clear to me how I would express the emotions I feel about The Belle Epoque and Art Nouveau in pictures. The more I got access to places, the more I realised I was actually attracted to the details.
Being in these buildings was like going back in time.
“The premises of Art Nouveau, also considered as a new form of romanticism, were the search of beauty and of a certain spirituality. (…) Art Nouveau poets and painters evoked remote worlds, fairytales, velvety sceneries where everything happens in a musical atmosphere and where nature is immersed in mystery. Art Nouveau is the territory of the line, the curve and the straight line. A calligraphic sense inherited from Japonism that shrouds with lines, pieces of furniture and buildings” (1)
And this is exactly what I was looking for when taking a closer look at the intricate designs of staircases, doors, windows, etc. I was trying to recreate beauty and mystery, and to reach a certain abstraction of the curves and lines.
In Cuba, I had the opportunity to stay in a colonial house built in 1895 by a Spaniard who migrated to La Habana. And in Paris, I was given access to photograph the Art Nouveau museum of designer Pierre Cardin, which is open to the public in Rue Royale, and housed in Maxim’s building.
The pictures of the series is now on sale at my Etsy shop Images with a story. They are available in open and limited editions.
(1) Extract from the book “Cartagena 1874-1936 (Transformación urbana y arquitectura)” by F. Javier Pérez Rojas . 1986
Maria Grazia Chiuri is the first woman to be the creative director at Dior. And we have seen the impact of her feminine vision of women since her first collection in which she included messages on the clothes like “We shall all be feminists”.
For Fall-Winter 2017-18, she continues with women empowerment, with an entire collection of blue designs that seems to be inspired from army uniforms of the early 1920s, when many nations changed the black colour of their attires to navy blue.
Christian Dior . Fall-Winter 2017-18 Campaign . Photographer: Brigitte Lacombe
Dior has released a video of Professor Michel Pastoureau, a renowned symbolist, who speaks about the meaning of blue colour through the ages.
I actually red the book “Blue” a few years ago. I remember I enjoyed very much the experience. It was fantastic to realise how the religion and society have influenced the perception of the colour from “hate” to “love”.
"[During Roman times], blue eyes were almost a physical disgrace. It was the sign of little virtue for women, while it was considered as effeminate, barbaric or ridiculous for men." (1)
I love colours. Well, it might seem strange since I have played with a very narrow chromatic palette in my pictures for quite a few years now. But I get to learn about them and their symbolism.
I discovered the book « L’Etonnant pouvoir des couleurs » by Jean-Gabriel Causse, a colour designer. This is where I first red about Feng Shui. I did not know anything about the Chinese philosophy. I investigated further and literally fell in love with the philosophy based on observation. It is now part of my daily life.
Apart from the virtue of blue in Feng Shui, the colour has been qualified as the colour of creativity by scientific studies. Many artists have been inspired by the colour. Here I present a few of my favourite blue paintings.
1 . Picasso . Blue Nude . 1902 | 2 . Antoine-Jean Gros . Sappho at Leucate . 1801 | 3 . Léon Bonnat . Le Barbier de Suez . 1876 | 4 . Joan Miro . Blue III . 1961 | 5 . Ingres . La Grande Odalisque . 1814 | 6 . Van Gogh . Almond Blossom . 1890 | 7 . Edward Poynter . Andromeda . 1869 | 8 . Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer . Harmony in blue . 1906 | 9 . Gustav Klimt . Allegory of scultpture . 1896
To conclude with niche fragrances, painter Yves Klein who gave his name to the Klein blue hue, as well as René Magritte who painted “This is not a pipe”, seemed to have actually inspired the brand Histoires de Parfums, which created a Collection of fragrances called “This is not a blue bottle”.
"This is not a blue bottle” is the allegory of a fragrant big bang, a journey from the abstract to the most fiery of emotions in the infinite realm of blue." (2)
1. Yves Klein . Reliefs Eponges Bleues . 1957 | 2 & 3. Histoires de Parfums . This is not a blue bottle | 4. René Magritte . This is not a pipe . 1927
Art, fragrances, storytelling and marketing converging here to make our lives smell beautifully.
Chanel has just paid a tribute to the Belle Epoque by replicating the Eiffel Tower in Le Grand Palais, two of the most emblematic Art Nouveau buildings of Paris, to ornament its Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2017-18 collection.
Built for the 1889 Universal exhibition of Paris, and commemorating 100 years of the French Revolution, the Eiffel tower was the symbol of modernity and of the beginning of the industrial era.
From left ot right: Chanel Haute Couture Collection . Fall-Winter 2017-18 | The Eiffel Tower was the entrance gate to the 1889 Universal Exhibition in Paris
“With the discovery of metals for construction materials, engineers challenged themselves. A worldwide competition was launched to build a 1,000 feet tower. The country that would succeed in realising such technical prowess would be considered as the most technically advanced country”. (1)
France eventually won the technical race, but:
“As a symbol of modernity and avant-garde, the Eiffel Tower has always been a source of inspiration for artists”. (2)
And amongst which, Karl Lagerfeld himself, in fashion but also in photography with his Eiffel tower series. In the same year of the Universal exhibition, the famous perfumer Aimé Guerlain created Jicky, the first French perfume incorporating synthetic ingredients such as vanillin.
From left to right: Jicky, 1889 and its modern interpretation, Mon Guerlain, 2017, housed in a very similar bottle
As it usually happens with disrupting novelties, women who were used to floral bouquets first rejected the unusual smell of the fragrance, but English dandies adopted it.
Such scent was made possible, thanks to advances in organic chemistry that revolutionised perfumery by isolating and then synthesising molecules of plants. Laboratories in Europe and in the United States enabled new combinations that changed deeply the way perfumers worked until then. Ingredients from the new industrial technology entered into the pallet of perfumers, next to the traditional ingredients of artisanal origins.
If perfumery initiated an evolution from figurative perfumery to abstract perfumery with Jicky, the same happened in photography in that same period.
But while Aimé Guerlain was using synthetic ingredients to reach abstraction, the objective of the pictorialism movement was to reach artistry by erasing the mechanical nature of photography.
“Works of art start where you recognise the hand of the artist. (…) While subject is nothing, interpretation is all. (…) Photography can only be considered as an art expression if it is capable of creating beauty regardless of the beauty of the subject.”
Art has no imaginary boundaries. I personally blend past and present to deliver my own vision. I love Art Nouveau style I capture it with my modern camera. Maybe I can say that I am quite obsessed with the up close detail of curves and lines. The intention is to feel the movements of the hands of the artists that made these works of art. The abstraction I reach makes me disconnect from reality and enter into my dreamy and emotional world.
I cannot agree more with the vision of Constant Puyo, one of the photographers that founded the Pictorialism movement:
“Since his main idea was beauty, it seems Puyo tried to reproduce as much as possible of the plastic equivalent of the emotion he felt in front of beauty (of a landscape, of a woman or of a rural scene), instead of the idea itself."
After a childhood and an adolescence during which I learnt how to escape from reality, having the opportunity to work in the mysterious perfumery sector was very exciting to me.
Fragrances eventually came into my professional life seventeen years ago.
I remember being impressed the first time I spoke with a perfumer on his art. How could he recall so many ingredients? How could he detect all of them in one fragrance? Is there a secret behind it all? No, no secret but a lot of hard work and many years of experience. The more I got to learn about the sector, the more fascinated I was.
Music and perfumery are usually compared as both sectors use notes to create a piece of music or a fragrance. And what about the similarities of perfumery and photography? Working in both spheres, I can tell you there are many!
A smell is invisible; it is a sort of spirituality. We do not see it, but there it is. No need to question it. It will make such an unconscious impression on you that you might remember it forever. Photography has also some sort of mysticism. It captures fleeting moments to make them last forever.
While in the process of creating a fragrance, a perfumer plays on the different ingredients in the formula to get the perfect balance to suit the story he wishes to tell, highlighting some notes while leaving others in the dark, just like a photographer does with light.
The evocative power of a fragrance is similar to that of a picture. The smell reminds you of a place or a situation. The place or situation depicted in a picture might remind you how it smelt during that moment.
While a fragrance metamorphoses the person that wears it, an image metamorphoses the world we live in through the vision of the photographer.
In Japan, they listen to fragrances. The ritual is known as Kodo. Fragrances have something to tell, like pictures do. They tell us a lot about the world around us, and about ourselves.
Both photography and perfumery, in their artistic forms, speak to the heart. They are connected directly to our emotions. They are wonderful vehicles to tell stories.
It is no surprise that perfumery and photography go hand in hand to tell us emotional stories. Day after day, this is what I am, a raconteur, whatever the medium I use: photography, perfumery or marketing.
As I usually say to customers I assess:
“Which story are you going to tell to your customers tomorrow?”
Let’s imagine it together, structure it and create it.
Pictures from left to right: Alaïa by Alaïa Paris, perfume campaign shot by photographer Paolo Roversi, 2015 . Lolou by Cacharel, perfume campaign shot by photographer Sarah Moon, 1987
The seventeenth century has gone down in history among other things as the golden age of Holland. The Low Countries became the epicentre of Europe, the great hegemony of the Old Continent which in later times would pass into French and eventually English hands.
Dutch science, trade, culture and politics were at the zenith. Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Leyden and Utrecht were the birthplaces of great thinkers and artists and the cities where they were nurtured or sheltered. Baroque painting was being developed at the same time during the century and, in contrast to the Italian school, it was more concerned with detail than with colour. Rembrandt, together with others such as Jan Lievens, Gerrit Dou or Jacob Adriaensz Backer, was one of its most representative artists.
Rembrandt . An old man asleep . 1629
His full name was Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn and he was considered as “one of the greatest prophets of civilization” as he portrayed, as no-one else could, the human condition and the passions of the soul using his paint-brushes: joy, sadness, fear, wrath, amazement, etc. The themes of his paintings are not usually religious in character, but they have an air of mysticism and his figures often remind us of biblical subjects or seem to be endowed with moral attributes. An enfolding aura, replete with chiaroscuro, carries us into the very depths of his works, making us “live within” them, not just admiring them. Once again, it is the dramatic factor that particularly fascinates me.
Talking of Rembrandt is like talking of shadows. “The Night Watch” or “The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Tulp” are major examples which show the influence of Caravaggio. Feelings of extreme excitement or movement weigh more heavily than formal precision. Rembrandt is a narrator, a storyteller who sweeps away everything superfluous to get right down to the heart of his tales. In a long story, he shows the exact moment when a complete change of mind takes place in his characters. Just like a cinema director, the painter focuses on what seems to be scenes from a film, not the flat canvas of a painting. And this factor inevitably influences a photo. In fact Rembrandt's legacy dug itself deep into the art of photography when Cecil B. DeMille christened a new technique: “Rembrandt” lighting.
Rembrandt . The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Tulp . 1632
For me personally, he was a magician of light and shade, a teller of endless living stories, crammed with emotion, and of course the master of an artistic movement, the baroque. After him, the eighteenth century made its triumphal entry and the shades of mystery were dispelled with a breath of fresh air: light illuminated the whole of Europe.
Recently I got to know about the fabulous collages of Andrey Sokolov, a young Ukrainian artist, who uses early-20th-century fashion & ballet photography to make unique collages full of mystery and beauty.
To see more art pieces from the author, click here.
I recently read a book from Junichiro Tanizaki, a Japanese writer born in 1886. It is called In Praise of Shadows. What a wonderful find! I am feeling so comfortable and almost familiar with his Oriental way of seeing and interpreting shadows even though I was brough up in the “West”.
In his vision,
“Darkness is key to appreciate beauty. It is not a substance in itself but a play with shadows and chiaroscuro”.
Beauty is not limited to a “good-looking” concept. No superficiality here. Beauty is to be found in our complexity, our contradictions, our values and in our life force. When shooting, my interest lies in catching that specific light coming from within. A shady atmosphere helps to capture such intimacy.
We’ll imagine a small room, rather bare, with walls and furniture which give an overall impression of whiteness. Now we have to imagine who lives there.
Now let’s start over.
No: let’s think about the same small room, but with a great glossy wooden wardrobe, a fire burning in the fireplace and an armchair upholstered in satin. If we were to think about whoever lives there now, it wouldn’t be the same person, now would it?
Photos tell stories, and stories are not only contained within the characters who embody them; the atmosphere, space, buildings… they all bring in information and allow us to perceive what lies behind it all and means that a picture makes sense. Atmosphere is a living entity. Atmosphere is one more character in our story.
My claim is that I am a photographer with a real passion for locations. I love to stroll, come upon hidden nooks which in themselves tell the tale of their adventures, enchanting places which just have to be seen and heard because of everything that they have to tell.
My latest discovery is this Art Nouveau mansion, which you can find in Cartagena (Murcia): just look at these photos:
It caught my attention right from the start. The state it is in – inhabited but dilapidated – evokes a feeling of deep melancholy, memories of times of elegance and splendour which are now mere shadows of what once was. This is proof of what Jorge Manrique once said, any time which is over and done was inevitably better. But at the same time it is a place which is tremendously alive, welcoming us into the particular atmosphere which makes it the perfect setting for stories to be told.
If you are fascinated by places, if you know of original backgrounds which are full of life and history – especially if they are thick with nostalgia – I would love to hear about them. It would be a tremendous help to enable me to go on doing what I like to do most: tell stories with the aid of my camera.
I am very pleased to present my new website & blog! I hope you will enjoy the ride! I will regularly share with you my vision of photography, perfumery and marketing. I will inform you in the blog about my shoots, my inspirations, about exhibitions, movies I liked. Anything I might find interesting to share.
Nothing can come from nothing. Art inspires art. So however many virtues an artist may possess, curiosity will probably be one of the most important. In order to express his or her own take on the world, the presence of muses, that is to say the metaphors for inspiration, is vital. And as they don’t always pop up as if by magic, part of the artist’s work is to seek them out, track them down. And as a photographer, I am always lying in wait for mine. It could be a word, an image, a colour, a fleeting thought... even a moment of silence can do the trick and stir up my inspiration.
Gustave Doré . Idylls of the King . 1868
Every artist is nourished by art which already exists when creating his or her own, even the greatest among them: Leonardo, Picasso, Baudelaire… In their biographies there is always some reference to “influences”, which not only explains the heritage which they have passed on to us but also the influence which other artists had on them. Donatello, for example, inspired Leonardo, Toulouse-Lautrec’s work inspired Picasso and Baudelaire’s reading and translating texts by Edgar Allan Poe contributed to a great extent to his own poetry.
We are like the demiurge which Plato spoke of, creative beings which, by means of the realm of ideas, make “inspiration” come to life within the material world: a photograph, for example. And so here I am, searching for my “muses” as usual, which I often find in classical films and the graphic arts: painting, illustration, engravings, prints… and of course photography. Light, colours and detail are very important to me, but what I find most fascinating are symbols and stories: the dramatic element which underlies every piece of work.
In forthcoming “posts” I’ll be talking about the twentieth century, the Renaissance, the Middle East, Africa and Japan; about Van Gogh, Tissot and Rembrandt… In fact, about the art that inspires me, the “mystery of my creation”.