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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT
The Living Art Of Risqué
December 2011, Las Vegas.
Inquiring about older performers, I met some show girls. The way they looked down on strippers got me quickly interested in the latter. Outcasts are my kind, they try harder. From strip joints to Burlesque theaters, I went on a quest and met the “Legends”, these dominating characters of the quintessential American art of strip tease. Hours of confidence on tapes, intimate photo sessions, they peel off and reveal the hidden layers of their life with throaty emotion. Their memories reflecting the memories of the land. Vietnam vets and bikers are their loyal patrons.
Candor and decadence, the art has seen his Golden Age, losing to the sex industry, but its actors keep its luster vibrant. Of all ages, from sixty to ninety five, they don’t make covers of glossy magazines. Seductive Queens of “effeuillage”, undressing but never bare, endangered species of femininity, they made it to these pages.
Stripper. Ecdysiast. From Greek ecdysis: shedding of an outer layer of tegument, as do snakes, or insects. Natural act of transfiguration. What’s removed is no longer skin. Pure artistic mutation under our eyes, for strippers seduction is renewal of reality. Don’t be fooled. Each one of them is a real entrepreneur of the American Dream. They have conquered their flesh and their independence, their sex and their economy, and they have paid the price. Rise, fall, addictions, solitude, indigence, all the trimmings of life when there is nothing but life to live. They made it with humor and grace. This is what makes them the Legends.
Together we have played a scene or two of the film of their life and in these moments I could see the changeling of me. As if in the making of all women were the intimate moves and rituals of seduction of the young girls we were. Moves that stay with us for life.
As I honor these artists I wish to honor my mother and her fierce mother, and the older woman I will be one day when I reach the age the receding flamboyance of flesh let through more of the original soul.
Aged bodies, aged trophies. Memories of adulation and erotic trances have a way to keep alive and transfigure with innocence in front of us these beautiful women.
I studied photography and multimedia at the Ecole des Beaux Arts de Paris in France and even before receiving my diploma I was using photography as an art medium.
I quickly moved into the world of art galleries, art exhibitions, fully participating in the art scene of the time. After a while I somehow felt something was missing and I consciously extracted myself from the elitism of the art world to get closer to a more palpable reality. The reality of daily life for the common people of the world wherever they are. The obvious alternative was to become a documentary photographer. But I could not resolve myself to the two choices of this well-known dilemma. I thought about a third way: why not do art outside of the art world, on the terrain, on the living theater. To do photography as an art, as others do painting, and to use the power of art to better depict and document the social issues I was drawn to.
I am an investigative photographer at heart, naturally responding to the call of human struggle in life. I tend to go deep underneath the surface, to uncover the making and the material itself of these struggles, their habitat. This takes time and concentration and I dedicate both without refrain as I have discovered from experience that the deeper the understanding the more powerful the revealing, that is the photographs I shoot.
I started working with analog, Leica M6, organic and invisible when needed (as in Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake). I still use it, but to work as a set photographer on movies and for magazines I switched to digital. I use a simple technique, which is a dual process most of the time. I take photographs and also open conversation and engage into a dialogue with the subject of the photograph. I document this encounter through videotaping or audio recording and also take extensive written notes of these conversations. I found this accompanying work to stimulate my awareness and to magnify my perception of the scene and the live subjects I am shooting. I get down to reality to meet the subject in its essence. It is an intense moment. In the no man’s land between the subject and my eye on the camera, necessity is mother of invention.