28 year-old French fashion photographer, Laura Bonnefous, is part of a new generation of photographers whose work shakes up the usual representation codes. A graduate of The École des Beaux-Arts and the School of Images Gobelins in Paris, Laura’s fresh artistic vision and take on fashion got her quickly started in the competitive business of fashion photography.
Oscillating between art and fashion, her pictures borrow elements from installation art and sculpture. More than just photographs, she assimilates her work to “plastic research” focused on space, shapes, and forms. When it comes to her choice of models, Laura also sets the norm aside: “I look for atypical models with a strong physical presence that will serve the photograph. They almost become sculptures.”
SANT magazine recently caught up with Laura to find out a little bit more:
Between art and fashion, is the choice sometimes difficult?
For now, I have always been able to link both. When I work with designers, I still get to keep my influences and style while adapting to their demands. I like the idea of collaborating with a designer fully so that I can still have fun while celebrating his work through my camera. I truly think that we can conciliate art with fashion, which is why I keep doing it.
What do you like about fashion photography?
I like to be able to draw a parallel between fashion and sculpture, plus fashion is constantly creating and renewing itself. When I look at the work of designers like Comme des Garçons or Fendi, sometimes I just see sculptures. Fashion is a playground where I can have fun with shapes and forms. Clothes are raw materials I can stage, transform, and play with.
In your opinion, what’s the role of a fashion photographer?
I think the photographer should try and create a story around the pieces of clothing. He has to build a visual universe that narrates the making of a piece. We see too many pictures based on a model simply wearing the piece trimmed with a fashionable filter. For me, this is too basic. I like the idea of discussing with the designer so we can forge something together. When I worked with designer Hugo Matha, we reconstituted shapes and forms based on the bags he wanted me to shoot. We played with geometrical shapes that we associated to the bag, treating it like a sculpture. We wanted to go beyond a simple photograph. Same thing with the foulard represented through a surrealistic approach. Those images could be exhibited somewhere as they represent more than a foulard or a bag. Again, the frontier between art and fashion is blurred.
Do you feel that fashion photography is quite diverse?
I do feel like there is more and more variety in fashion photography, even if it is limited. It’s still timorous and my artistic choice can… [stop] some designers from working with me. It’s a different approach to fashion but the designers I have worked with so far were all willing to take that risk. So it tends to evolve but there are still many codes that limit creation. When you browse through magazines you see loads of regular classic pictures. It’s a shame because people actually respond well to creativity and originality. Still, I am definitely optimistic and I am sure that the new generation will jostle this.
Is there anything you would change within fashion photography?
I would like to see different ways of portraying fashion in magazines. It’s slowly changing, also in the choice of models, but there are still too many constrains imposed on the photographer, too many things that have to fit in a picture. It’s often more focused on serving the industry than it is on serving the story told by the image. I think that if a piece of clothing is beautifully represented, it makes a difference and everyone wins. There is no need for all these rules and we often forget that refined photographs are effective too. So I would change the logic and start with the story before thinking of the result.
What advice would you give to an aspiring fashion photographer?
You need time, work and patience. You also need to be passionate, to persevere and be prepared to accept rejection. But most importantly, you need to know why you take pictures. There are so many photographers out there nowadays that you can make a difference by finding your own original style and forge your artistic personality.
Laura Bonnefous’ series Périphéries Intérieures will be exhibited at Paris’ Mois de la Photo in April 2017.
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Words: Pauline Schnoebelen
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