Currently showing posts tagged spain

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Coming across new locations: An Art Nouveau mansion in Cartagena

    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.