Currently showing posts tagged art

  • Storytelling for a better living

    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 Series: Beauty and Mystery

    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

  • Blue, the colour of creativity

    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.

    (1) Extract from the book "Blue" by Michel Pastoureau
    (2) Extract from Histoires de Parfums website

  • The impact of the Eiffel Tower on Art

    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.

    Belle Epoque photo serie . La Habana (Cuba) & Cartagena (Spain)

    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."

    (1) Extract from Eiffel Tower website
    (2) Extract from Chanel news website

  • Rembrandt and the Dutch masters

    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.

  • Picasso Black and White

    I was lucky enough in my last trip to New York to visit an exhibition about Picasso at Guggenhein Modern Art Museum. I was surprised by the exhibition. It focused on presenting only Picasso black & white paintings.

    I was amazed by the play with lights and shades enhanced by the lack of colours. A fabulous and inspirational visit.

    Woman ironing . Paris . Spring 1904

    Man, Woman and Child . Paris . Fall 1906

    My favourite of the exhibition (left): Little Girl Standing . Paris . Winter 1945

  • The delicate collage of Andrey Sokolov

    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.

  • Our wandering quest digs our area of freedom

    There are books that are of great help to light up our path to creativity. I have extracted some sentences from the book  “L’Ombre et le Temps” by French art curator, art critic and essayist Jean-Claude Lemagny about photography as art. It seems it is not available in English so far.

    “On the path to discovery, photographers do not progress aimlessly.  There are numerous paths but they are paths and not wasteland. Creation is at the end or– we will realise it sooner or later – is rather all along the way. Among the “truth of what we see”, just illusions, and the truth of unattainable reality, we are not wedged without solutions. The very movement of our wandering quest digs our proper area of freedom.”

  • Art that inspires me

    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”.