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  • 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

  • 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

  • The aesthetics of shadows

    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.