Guy Le Baube: "Behind the scenes" at Avant Gallery
Interview by Federica Belli.
Federica Belli: With this project “Behind the scenes” you partly separated yourself from the commercial nature of your earlier work. What made you shift towards a more personal exploration of photography?
Guy Le Baube: It has never been a project. It is basically built around pictures I took right before and after shootings. All the pictures here were never meant to be art, but rather outtakes of commercial jobs. I’m a young artist, as I only started to show my work as art in 2004: for around 50 years I just focused on portraits and commissions. I would be sent by magazines to shoot people for editorials, usually they were celebrities. Here, on the other hand, I made a point not to have too many celebrities and to dig in my archive in order to only feature people that I actually like. I’m just living out of my past.
Federica: How come you’re not active anymore as a photographer? I’m curious about how you see contemporary photography.
Guy: I’m old. My job doesn’t exist anymore. It’s finished. Regarding contemporary photography, I don’t even want to see it. I only see my work, focus on that in order to eventually extract what has been buried or lost. I am almost an archaeologist. When I’m confronted with art as it is now, I can’t relate. It’s completely different, all about computers and instant gratification. There clearly are beautiful photographs, but most of it… Mine is not even a lack of judgement, I just don’t understand it. People do everything with their phone.
Federica: I assume you don’t think that the progress of technology can actually make photography more expressive and complex.
Guy: I don’t know, I don’t have any point of view about it. Sometimes it’s good not to have one, because everybody has an opinion about everything. It’s already hard to go on like this. Evolving from my old job as an editorial photographer it took me more than a decade to wash my eyes, my brain, my soul from the cruelty of fashion.
Federica: What do you mean with “cruelty”?
Guy: Being a fashion photographer is like being a slave, at some point you detest your master. And so you are under the dictatorship of magazines, of the art, of people already having an opinion. You carry tons of stuff, equipment, dresses…
Federica: Did the models often collaborate in creating the picture?
Guy: Not always, but that’s okay. Sometimes it’s better if they don’t. They don’t have the necessary baggage to walk on the stage. Obviously I like women, I like dancers, personalities, knees, feet, the strength of forearms, the gesture of rocking a baby, the Italian accent… I still like the models of the old time, when they felt human, before becoming sort of robotic. And modelling is a very narcissistic thing. I always try to detect in the models, in young women, something more. The word personality does not even fully embody what I mean, it’s more like I want them to be habitée par une âme.
Federica: In your pictures there is a direct quest for beauty, but it goes somehow beyond that. You look for elegance and some kind of vulnerability.
Guy: When you click, the obturator opens and captures the subject when it is lusting, luring to be taken. You just press the button and get somehow lucky. What passes in front of you is the truth, photography is the truth. But you see, 24 images per second is 24 times the truth. And photography is just a way to lie truthfully: that’s the movie, the novel behind the picture. Le roman de la vie has to be altered. To speak is already an exaggeration of your thoughts, and photography never existed just for the purpose of capturing the truth.
Federica: When did you realise that photography could be your career? Was it like a specific moment when you said “Wow. This is going to be me”?
Guy: I was just frustrated because my great-grandparents were famous painters, my father was a broadly recognised artist and painter, so I grew in the midst of conventional-classical art. Still, I turned out to be so bad at painting. I can draw very well, I get a sense of the architecture. But painting was too hard for me, so I chose photography. It’s not music, not writing, not painting. Just taking advantage of whatever the subjects give you.
Federica: How do you feel that photography has changed you as a person? Some photographers begin to get over their shyness, some want to get more social, others…
Guy: Well, maybe it helped on a sentimental level. It brought me to love people by putting me in contact with them. I was sort of a shy character, on the weak side. I was lucky enough that one of my grandfather was the conductor of an orchestra, he was always busy. My father was a sailor, I never saw him as well. I was raised by women, by dancers. You could say I was an extra, in the backstage when I was 6 years old already. I smelled the wool, the sweat, the makeup. That’s when I found the mystery of girls: my aunts were young and pretty, I used to go try and see them nude. But the secret under the skirt… I never pierced that.
Federica: You never managed to get that secret? Not even later on, through photography?
Guy: No, I just showed off. I played the fanfarone character.
Federica: To that regard, do you feel that having a strong sense of humour somehow helped you make your way in the industry?
Guy: For sure. You see, in some way it’s pretty sad, narcissism, to be around these people. They make a carrier out of their being Mister Sexy and Miss Beautiful, it’s so superficial. Humour makes it more human and understandable. And when you face something you don’t like, you forget it faster. It makes people want to have you around.