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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

  • Why I love Art Nouveau?

    Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Modernismo, Liberty, many names but the same artistic movement I love.

    What I like most is its open-mindedness. No strict aesthetic rules to follow. Art Nouveau is freedom of expression.

    Apart from the aesthetic, the idea behind it is really powerful. The movement started at the end of the 19th century in a period of big change in society.

    England was the first country to transform itself into an industrialised nation.  Populations were impacted in their lives. Many fears arose. Will machines replace men? It was the end of a world and the beginning of a new one with no idea to where it would lead.

    Meanwhile voices spoke up to condemn the domination of machines, others such as artist William Morris went into action to protect and promote craftsmanship.

    He was convinced that an object could be enjoyed only if it was made in good working conditions. Somehow he believed that items have a soul, the soul of the person who made it for us. I must say I totally share this view. In an affluent society, we consume less and less because we have a specific need. We are ingulfed in impulse spending. We buy from the heart. We wish to acquire products that are manufactured responsibly. Just imagine how you would feel about your favourite sneakers if you get to know that they were made by exploited workers. Well, not so cool actually! I would personally not like to be part of it and would not buy anymore for this brand. This is exactly what the core of Art & Crafts movement is all about seen from a modern point of view.

    The soulless machine vs the intention of the artist. This deeply resounded into me.

    During the past two years I have been given access to art nouveau buildings in Spain, France and England.  Being in such buildings was really moving for me. Some were transmitting very good vibrations. I soon realised that I was not really interested to document the building itself but was rather attracted by the details. Being close to the hands of the sculptors, the blacksmiths, the glassmakers. Being close to the movement of their hands, hearing them breath and being part of their intentions.

    As a photographer, I use a machine to take pictures. Of course, I dominate it. It does what I intend it to. I choose every technical aspect of my pictures like I choose the aesthetic. But what about adding some extra craft into the process?

    While taking pictures I realised I was searching for a certain mood, an atmosphere that would draw me closer to the purpose of Margaret Cameron, my favourite photographer. When she initiated photography at the age of 46 in the 1850s, she was using the wet collodion process, an antique technique that added extra drama to her pictures.


    Diaz Cassou house, Murcia (Spain) . Wet Collodion tintotype

    Imagining myself in the footsteps of Margaret Cameron just filled me with imagination. I then searched workshops to learn the process. The first picture I developed using this vintage technique has left a lasting impression on me. This moody effect was actually what I have been searching for all these years. Here it was. Here was my mysterious hallmark.