Issue 22: Exclusive Interview with Dominique Wildermann
Interview by Federica Belli.
The photographs in your series Identité(s) are striking in multiple ways. How did you come up with the concept of building a single picture out of multiple shots in such a cohesive way?
I must admit that I am an analog camera nerd ! Everytime I see an old camera I have to buy it and I start thinking of how I could disrupt it. That’s how my brain begins to create.
Among all my old cameras, I had this Polaroid Studio Express for quite some time. It was originally used to deliver passport photo sets. It was regularly teasing my imagination until I realized that there was an obvious link between its technology and the message I wanted to convey: using the camera everybody had been identified by in the seventies in order to interrogate today’s views on gender and identity.
In addition to that, I like challenges. Building something coherent out of a deconstructed form of material was a very exciting and inspiring part for my process of creation. The instantaneous prints were made with the Fujifilm FP100 which is now almost nowhere to be found. Because its production was stopped several years ago, these films are in outdated condition. Consequently, the clichés are recorded on a material that is literally disappearing and has been rendered randomly; thus supporting the idea of the fragility and volatility of identities.
While looking at the images there is a certain harmony in the way the bodies are fused together. Which is the rationale that guided you in choosing how to pair the subjects in each image?
This series has been made instinctively. On the one hand I had a certain mental image of the visual harmony I wanted to achieve on the final print; and on the other hand I was totally open to what I felt naturally about the models when they arrived in my studio. For Identité(s) the right equation was a subtle mix between preparation and spontaneity.
Because of the specific use of this camera, I had to be able to let go and to accept the hazards, as there is no possibility to have precise pointers during the shooting before seeing the final instant photography. For a very controling person like me this has been a very interesting exercise.
Your sensitivity comes through in the way you combine multiple humans and manage to build new creatures doing so. What do you find most fascinating in our bodies?
There is always a societal subject underneath my artistic work. I don’t believe that artists should give the answers but I believe that their role is to bring up the tricky questions in order to make people think (about life, about society…). I would rather say that Identité(s) is about the contrary of a fascination for the body. I wanted to show a simple and harmless vision of the body in an era where image censorship is striking again. The nude body, especially female, has unfortunately become a political issue again, whereas for me it is the most primal and natural state of the human being. We were born naked and we will carry our body our whole life.
One of the main peculiarities of the photographs is the array of subjects you chose to photograph. They all have that something in their eye that somehow draws the observer in. How did you go about the selecting process of who you would photograph?
My artistic creations are obviously very closely linked to my private life and to the way I feel at that particular time. I usually work a lot alone and on deep subjects. But this was a special time when it was necessary for me to be surrounded by people. Having people posing everyday in my studio, sharing how they feel, laughing, crying, gaining their trust and getting their immediate love for this project has been an incredible personal reward for me. And I think that this is what you see in their eye.
This project highlights a quite different use of the photographic medium with respect to your previous one. What brought you to look for a such fresh approach?
You are absolutely right. I experiment a lot of different photographic techniques, medias, and also creation processes combined with other art forms (dancing, painting, filming, acting,..) or combined with scientific researches in the fields of psychoanalysis, biology,…
I am kind of a hyperactive person and I get bored very quickly. If I always did the same thing I would simply go mad. So basically for each new project my intention is to explore a different technology and a different approach in order to see how far I can take them.
I don’t display much on the internet because I strongly believe that the spectator has to “live the experience” and be physically confronted to the final result. For that purpose, whenever the venue allows me to do so I work a lot on the scenography and on the way I want my pieces to be shown.
What do you see in your future as a photographer? Should we expect further experimental projects coming up?
Further experimentations are definitely on their way!
Identité(s) made me realize that I want to work less and less on my own, and a number of collabs with other artists are already on their way. I will soon join a Greek visual artist living in London UK to work on a project about motherhood. Our aim is to create photographic subject where the viewer has to go under a constraint in order to be able to see the pictures.
After that I will travel to Berlin to brainstorm with an Italian choreographer about physical limits and art.
I am curious about what brought you to photography. Did you start your career in the art world as a photographer or did you get there through other medias?
Recently, while working on pictures of old women that I took when I was 16 years old, I suddenly understood that photography has been my intuitive way of expression since I was a little girl. Growing up in a strict protestant half German family, my voice didn’t matter much. Photography became my voice.
Then, during my Bachelor of Arts in Dublin Ireland, I discovered semiology and was fascinated by how the image could be used to convey messages. The starting point of all my artistic creations is based on photography as it is my natural medium of inspiration.
More of Dominique’s work can be found on her website here.