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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

Musée Talks to Emerging Artist Olivier Valsecchi

How did you get your start in photography? I've been taking self-portraits for more than ten years. When I was a teenager, I used to record songs and would use my photography for the album sleeves. It turns out that the pictures were better than the songs. As a result, I got more and more interested in using photography as a language. I went to school to learn technical skills and to find my own style. I started with portraits, but it wasn't enough. I needed to go deeper into the intimacy and story of a photograph. I help people unlock fear or resistance. I've also studied psychology for a few years and one of the most important things I remember is that 70% of language comes from the body, and words are only 30% of our communication.

What interests you most about photographing the human body?

It is like a moving, monochromatic, expressive landscape to me. The body tells a personal story. The body is the only thing that we have for life. We can change our names, lose a dear friend, move to another country, etc, but we can't leave our bodies until we're dead. That makes them precious. It's always an honor when someone shares a precious thing with you.

When did you start the Klecksography project?

In February 2012, I received a phone call from Paul Waterworth, the Global Photographers Relations Manager at Hasselblad, who told me that I won the Hasselblad Masters Award in the Fine Art Category. As a result, I worked on a special project from March to May called "Evoke" to be published in the Hasselblad Masters Book 2012.

What was the inspiration for this project?

There was the Kate Bush song called, "The Dreaming", that I couldn't get out of my head. It's very unusual, about Australian Aborigines being invaded by the Occidental, with ethereal voices. This is a story of conflict, which inspired me to create something about one entity fighting against another. Since the two people I'm closest to hate each other, as a result this allowed my inner enemy to speak his own voice and take control of this work. I was inspired by the Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach's tests, which are used to detect mental illness. I saw those tests, and that's when I decided to make my own photographic tests. I wanted to tell the idea of how your inner enemy can have an impact on your body, and how you have to tame that vice so that it does you know harm. Stress, fear, lack of self-confidence, and other psychological monsters which modify your gestures and expressions. Depression can make you fat, anxiety can make you thin, etc. Each photo of the series over-exaggerates a devouring feeling of incapacity or self-centeredness as well. Maybe that was also a prelude to Time of War, because of its focus on conflict and fighting.

Why do you choose to photograph your subjects all in camera? Where does Photoshop play a role in your process?

Photoshop is the modern "camera obscura". It allows me to digitally do what I used to in the dark room: contrasts, density, etc....It's true, that In the end my photos are exactly what I saw, on that brief moment. I'm creating my own parallel reality, from the reality we have access to. That's why post-production is not a very important part of my work. I want to push the boundaries of what I can do. This is more interesting to me than creating something virtual, alone, in front of my computer. I share something with people, and it's hard work. We laugh, we fight, we share the effort, it's a unique experience. Models may become friends, especially in the Klecksography series because we worked like a community for two months.

When I say nude what do you think? When I say naked what do you think?

Nude is body, aesthetics. Naked is raw material for emotion.

Where do you find your subjects? In the street, on Facebook, in parties. Models are everywhere, you just have to open your eyes and ask. Most of the time they do want to be part of your work.

How do you make people feel comfortable nude in front of the camera? I tell everyone it will be awkward for three seconds, and then we have to work. This is so natural and spontaneous, you know. Plus it's not what you say that makes the model feel at ease, it's how you look at them. I always look them in the eyes. I only see their body through the camera.

Talk to me more about your upcoming show at Cutlog. My gallerist Céline Moine will present a group show of some of her artists whose works that can be considered as a tribute to New York. She will show some pieces from my last series "Time of War". New York has experienced tragedies in the last decade, whether it was terrorism or natural catastrophes then they had to rebuild, it's part of their story. That's exactly the theme I've been working on for the past three years : the will to survive and reinvent yourself.

Where do you see your photography going in the future? That all depends on where my life goes in the future, and that I'm afraid I cannot answer. Somewhere bizarre I hope.

 

The Making Of Klecksography

Olivier Valsecchi "Klecksography - Behind the scenes" from Olivier Valsecchi on Vimeo.

 

See more of Olivier's photography HERE

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