THE NATURE OF SKIN by Laurent Elie Badessi
Head, hair, neck, shoulders, arm, wrist, belly, chest, torso, back, knees, legs, feet... My eyes rest on the different parts of our body.
Our fleshy envelop is so close to us, yet at time we forget its resemblance to nature. Plants, rocks, mountains, sand, salt, water, animals and human beings are all natural elements. They are also the elements from which I create my photographs.
In my images I like to emphasize that the human body is often the mirror of nature. Nature is astonishing, perfect, even if we might frequently think it is not. Each object has its place there, its function and its unique beauty.
Harmony emerges from the differences and similarities that yield such perfection. I try to elicit harmony by juxtaposing human bodies of all types with natural elements to produce unexpected encounters.
With my pencil I first draw the concepts I envision, and with photography I freeze this harmony of forms, matter, and colors by drawing with light. The photographs assembled in SKIN constitute the result of this research. The body becomes line, curve, texture and then contrasts, combines to create a symbiosis uniting the fragile and the sharp, tender and tough, black and white, masculine and feminine, mankind and nature.
Harmony from contrast. A skull, a knee, an outstretched arm, a hand, a back, a belly of a pregnant woman. I assemble these bodies and take them apart again, thus giving birth to forms that are often graphic and sometimes abstract. I like to act as a sculptor, fashioning the body with my hands, chiseling it with my lens, using the lines as raw material for integrating everything into a coherent whole.
My pictures do not rely on post-production cut and paste tricks. I play on the ingenuity of the camera angles and trust the skill of my models, who adapt their bodily shapes to the context surrounding them.
In order to breathe spirit into the bodies revealed in this book, I have invited Artists, Composers, Fashion Designers, Dancers, Writers, Curators, Film Makers, Actors, Singers... friends, who have great respect for the world we live in, to express their feelings about art, the body, nature, and humanity.
The human body is a beautiful machine. The symbiosis between body and spirit is extraordinary and fragile. To preserve it we must perpetuate this harmony between human beings and nature.
POETRY IN IMAGE by Sondra Gilman
A portfolio was open on the coffee table. I saw the first print. It caught my attention. I saw the second, and the third. My husband was standing next to me. “A master printer”, we said. “Blacks that are blacks, pure whites. Contrast, composition.” I took each print in my hand. The soul of the artist was talking to me. We had never met. We had not seen his work before. The images were modern and classical. They had the depth of a careful and thoughtful composition. “Would you like to meet him?” “Yes!” we said.
He came with a larger portfolio and a small sketch book. We had all been born under the same sign of the zodiac. He showed us his images. He handled each as if it were a delicate flower. He recalled the moment, the model, the time. Now, they were familiar. I discovered new depths and nuances that I had not seen before. He explained what he saw. His words flowed. I shut my ears. He did not have to talk. The images spoke of his ideas, his loves, his beliefs.
“I love black on black. I love the contrast of the same. The similarities and differences that nature brings. I deal with nature, everything that is natural. I love the simplicity of line. I love to see the image come out of the paper, in the darkroom, when I am all alone with the negative and my thoughts, listening to music. I love the earth because of its gritty quality. I love the human body. I can sculpt with a body. The lens is my tool. The body becomes a piece of sculpture. I try to find the angle, the exposure. I know in my mind what I want to take” he said.
Another look. There was the distilled knowledge of generations that had preceded him. Ancestors that had carved, painted, taken photos. When photos were difficult to take and make,– when a darkroom was a special place where you could find out whether a particular chemical formula could create or destroy your work. As a young child he stood in the darkroom, next to his grandfather, on a stool, so that he could see. His grandfather showed him the miracle of the image. He did not fail his “Grand-père”. He became a creator.
His images transcend the obvious. The hands seeking the gift from heaven; the delicate line of a horse against the black skin of an athlete; the nubile model showing her humor with a sea cucumber in her mouth; the nude, in a classic pose, surrounded by cracked earth of the desert; the eye of the horse; the bodies in juxtaposition; the rice over the body, covering it, creating a new texture. White on black. White on white. Black on black. Contrast. Light. Texture.
“I look at the salt. I had models covered by it, holding it, light reflecting on it. I dug into the large pile. I wanted to touch it one more time. I started digging more intensely. I wanted to have it. I wanted to touch it one more time. I saw red. Red on the salt, on the coarse salt. It was blood. My blood that came from my hands, that were now raw and bloody. The salt and I were one”.
The work of Laurent Elie Badessi does not follow earlier models of the photographic canon. He is an original. It is so difficult to find an image that does not remind you of one that you have seen before. We have seen millions of images. Badessi has his own vision and follows it. He titles his images. He, like the ancient Romans and Greeks, ponders on the influence of the four elements on our lives. Earth, air, fire and water. The titles cannot explain the sensuality of the print or the richness of its tonalities or the creative realization of his ideas. He carries a small sketch book around with him. He has drawings, hundreds of them. Those are his ideas. Like a sculptor who makes a drawing of what he will sculpt out of a piece of marble, Laurent visualizes and organizes his ideas of a photo before he takes it.
“I love to travel. Africa, Australia, United States, Mexico, France. I set off. I look: I hunt for locations that I have dreamed of. I take snapshots. Look again. All the time I look. The images are inside me. I have drawn them before. I try to find the right model and the right place, the right time. I overexpose the film, make various manipulations. I like simple equipment. I look at the negative. I nurture it. Now, each print is my real love. I make the print come out the way I saw it. I was taught, and learned, to respect the darkroom.”It is his church”. Then you see a small copy of a picture next to a drawing. An idea that worked. The satisfaction of a realization of your imagination. The success of a creator and the pleasure of an artist.
I close my eyes and the images dance in my consciousness. They are strong and contemplative and, in today’s world of exasperation, hurry, and crisis, they are an oasis of beauty and serenity. You find humor. You find the careful hand of an artist that continues a great tradition with tremendous flair, honesty and integrity.
The images you will not forget. The artist you will follow.
Sondra Gilman discovered the intense pleasures of living with photography when she started collecting the medium in the early 1970’s.
She and her husband Celso Gonzales-Falla are still continuing to enlarge the collection and an exhibition of the photographs has traveled to various museums across the country.
An Aperture book The Power of Photography – A collector’s Choice, written by Adam Weinberg, describes the collection.
Ms. Gilman played a significant role in starting photography at Gilman Paper Company and was instrumental in establishing the Photography Collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York. She became the first Chairman of the Photography Committee at the Museum and the Photography Gallery of the Whitney is named after her.