One cannot control the reaction of the audience; but I don’t believe a photographer is all that concerned with the audience as much as he is with himself, satisfying his own creative needs. How it is viewed by the public is out of his hands no matter what.
Generally people don’t look beyond the surface of figure photography, never giving much thought to the different levels that go on that are more often than not a struggle to achieve. You are dealing with emotional, psychological, and comfort issues with every shoot, and this includes the photographer as well as the model.
You can hand a camera to anyone, give them a naked body, and say, “go shoot.” You’ll get a result. But is it a good one? There is an onerous responsibility in this kind of subject matter – the location, the lighting, the concept ... all of which are capable of changing when you least expect it – sometimes for the best, sometimes for the worst. You need to have an “eye” for this work, you need to be able to see that which is special and magical. Otherwise you just have a naked body. And remember: It is the photographer who “creates” the circumstances for all things to come together.
There are two common misconceptions I encounter with my work.
First, people ask about my model’s sexual preference – as if that matters. You might just as well as ask what their religious and political backgrounds happen to be. The model REPRESENTS an ideal form from which I work – just an elaborate bowl of fruit (as I often humorously inform them) which inspires. Yet I treat them with great respect. They trust me. And I don’t take that trust lightly, even when working with someone who turns out in the long run to be a disagreeable subject. They are not just “meat puppets”, which is an over used derogatory phrase, they are people. Remarakably, similar to when someone who puts on a mask and costume, they become very “mysterious” when their clothes are shed: how does someone look like this, or, how do they have such confidence to display themselves like this? Thus fantasies set in. The reality of their persons no longer matters. In the end the work has nothing to do with them personally, or for that matter nothing to do with me. It is The Work, and that stands on its own.
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Summer 2020 Yvan Cournoyer