MAGAZINE // ARTISTS
LAURENT ELIE BADESSI
IT IS ALL ABOUT INNOCENCE...
We feel certain ideas, feelings, emotions, might be a bit more difficult to capture through a lens than others. This is not to say that those others are not just as important or commendable to portray, although just a bit easier to transcribe onto a medium with the aim of being understood by a majority of viewers.
We think that it is hard to picture innocence. It is not hard to picture someone who is innocent, but innocence, the actual term, what does innocence look like? It is an intricate attitude, a state of mind at the end of a path that we, who collectively have lost and are unable to regain it, can no longer visit, a concept like polished armour made of glass; adorning and defending but all the while fragile and fleeting.
As a theory innocence in itself is always unsuspicious, experiencing the wonders of the world, those which only exist while there is sight to see them, not so much pure as pleased, always expectant, bright eyed and self enclosed.
How does one put this into imagery, how does one translate a state of mind onto a picture?
Many artists have failed at lesser tasks. Laurent Elie Badessi has taken upon him the daunting endeavour of capturing it onto paper, ultimately with stunning results.
Innocence for Laurent is light and the play of light, wholly or partially reversed in tone, making dark areas appear bright or bright areas appear dark. Using a form of solarisation or “Sabattier effect”, a from a photographers point of view technically highly specialised exercise, has enabled him to create a series of delicate and weightless yet vigorous and persuasive images, abstract shapes for an abstract connotation. The images converge each and every notion of innocence, as a whole and standing on their own, great graphical pieces of art with a vivacious but tender attitude, evanescent in their essence.
Laurent Elie Badessi was born in France and belongs to a family with three generations of photographers. From an early age, this enabled him to explore and appreciate the art and techniques of photography.
After studying language and communication sciences, Badessi enrolled in a photography course at Université de Paris VIII. Already curious about the relationship that develops between the photographer and the sitter, he decided to base his M.A. thesis on this subject. To explore this relationship further, he used the technique of “La photographie négociée” (The Negotiated Photography) and spent several months in Africa taking photographs of isolated tribes, that had never or very rarely been exposed to the medium. For this project, he received the prominent “Bourse de l’aventure” (The Adventure Grant) among several other grants and awards.
Badessi started his career in Paris and then abroad, before moving, in the early 90s, to the United States.
In 2000, after spending ten years focusing on the body, SKIN the book of this work, was internationally released by the prestigious Swiss publisher Edition Stemmle. The book contains introduction by Sondra Gilman, Founder and Chairperson of the photography committee at the Whitney Museum.
In 2004, Badessi was invited by the company Charles Jourdan to produce a series of photographs. Because of the emblematic relationship between the medium of photography and this brand, Badessi accepted the challenge. Like photographer Guy Bourdin who helped building this strong relationship with his iconic images, Badessi was also given carte blanche. To bring his own vision, he played with eroticism and mythological symbolism, creating memorable visuals that are in the permanent collection of Le Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, Louvre.
At the pick of the Iraq war, Badessi created “American Dream, This is not a dream” (2006), a powerful series of portraits based on the propagandist campaigns elaborated in the United States to attract new recruits during the Iraq war. The project was acclaimed abroad and widely collected, but seen as too controversial in the States at the time because of the tense relationship between many military families and the Government. As a result, the series was not widely exhibited in the States. In 2011 “American Dream, This is not a dream” was selected for the prestigious Arte Laguna Prize and shown at the Venice Arsenale.
Badessi uses symbolism, mythology, and historical and cultural references to create his images. The study of trust that develops between the photographer and the sitter and the exploration of the power of the photographic medium on people, are both fundamental vectors in his artistic quest. His work often addresses subtle and relevant questions on social, political and cultural issues, such as the relationship with nudity, religion, the environment, war or the fragility of life.
Badessi’s photographs are part of many important private and public collections. He has received several prestigious awards, including a grant from the French Ministry of Culture for his Paris show “Métamorphoses”. Solo and group exhibitions of his work have taken place around the world - New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, London, Milan, Rome, Paris, Nice, Barcelona, Kuwait City, Beijing, Monaco and Dubai.
Badessi lives and works in New York City
My photographs are rarely spontaneous. Everything in them has a reason to be. I go through extensive research for my projects and most of the time I sketch my images before execution. Symbolism, mythology, historical and cultural references are crucial and recurrent elements in the construction of my photographs.
Even if not always obvious at first glance, my images often reflect on social, political and cultural issues such as our relationship with nudity, religion, the environment, war, the fragility of life.
I believe that being around the medium of photography throughout my life firmly shaped my view of the world and how I photograph that world (I am among the fourth generation of photographers in my family). Even so, for most of my childhood I did not feel that I would be interested in the medium as a career. However, when I finally started taking photos in my early teens it felt as natural as breathing.
Photography is a magical way to freeze time. When it was first introduced, people trusted the photographer and respected him as they would their doctor. The photographer committed himself to capture the most beautiful images of important moments in their lives: a portrait, weddings, communions, the picture of a newborn or a dead loved one. Photography was viewed as a spectacular invention. I was able to experience that feeling personally during my early work in Africa when I went there to take photos with indigenous tribes. The trust that formed between the sitters and myself during this undertaking and the power of the medium fascinated me so much that I still focus on these vectors today whenever I work on projects involving people.
In our society most of us feel pressured by societal norms to identify with our profession and accept the label of that profession. This certainly applies to photography. I, however, never feel that I should call myself a portrait photographer, a fashion photographer, a still life photographer, a fine art photographer... For me what matters most is the amount of freedom the medium gives me to create and explore the world.
That being said, I am a Photographer interested in taking photographs of whatever I feel is worth resting my eyes on. My images can bring pleasure, sadness, awareness or even instigate reflection. I don’t save lives and I don’t make decisions that change the world! But I always keep in mind that I am an artist who is lucky enough to do what he loves the most - taking photographs and sharing them with others.
Laurent Elie Badessi