The simplest motions of our bodies, for anyone who contemplates them, become enigmas as difficult to fathom as thought itself
— . " D.A.F. de Sade

        Since my first one-person show in 1977, my greatest passion has been the human body. Every model is a discovery, an encounter that may last for years. With the establishment of mutual confidence, privileged moments give birth to an experience of the unknown that illuminates every successful shot. 

        I work in a relatively simple manner. I use a 35mm camera that allows me the flexibility to leave the model uninhibited while nevertheless concentrating on her or his particularity and humanity. Black and white photography helps me focus on the essential. A pronounced grain and deep blacks accentuate the shadowy areas of the human adventure. Obscurity as such intrigues, stimulates, and fascinates me. 

        It is difficult to describe the state I'm in at the beginning of a studio session. A state of complete availability initially, then gradually I enter a sort of trance that I attempt (subliminally) to inspire in the model. 

       Will we go beyond ourselves? What will be the minute detail that becomes legible in the photo as the model's inner fire? Will the model be able to reveal it? Will I be capable of capturing it? This demands tremendous physical force and unshakable concentration. The relation with the model is necessarily a solitary one; there are no assistants or lighting techs, etc. To get inside a subject, a personality, potential distractions must be minimized. 

        I'm often asked why I choose the type of model I do. Why these? My body type is small and slender, whereas Aviva, Dalila, and Holly are Rubenesque. For me, at least, there's a large element of the unknown in the act of creating. If I really knew the answer, I wouldn't photograph them. My choice of models depends on a variety of circumstances: how we meet, our desires, possibilities that attract and intrigue, the transgression of normative boundaries, the confidence one creates in order to persuade someone to pose. What I photograph is the irreducible mystery of my models. 

        These models are heroes of our time. Through their talent, their strength and courage, they enlarge the boundaries of our emotional and visual world. Their beauty emerges from the poetry of their imperfections. They take part in the trance, in the ritual of bodies in weightlessness. El Duende. Life itself. The imperfection is the art of freedom opposed to the fascism of Apollonian art. I love Goya, Dziga Vertov, Maya Deren, Antonin Artaud. 

        A wound is at the origin of my encounters: a visible or invisible wound you feel, a wound you try to discover. I think the models I choose are rejecting social conformity. Breaking taboos requires a great deal of courage, to expose these taboos without becoming morose takes even more courage, and it is this courage, this fire, that draws me to them. 

        I find that living in New York—and I mean New York and not the rest of the United States—is very stimulating because it's a place that produces a tremendous wealth of surprising encounters. The cultural plurality and inventiveness of certain individuals sharpens my gaze: I'm often drawn to make contact with another person in the subway, or to spend time in the alternative networks that are so rich in New York.

        I also need Africa and the linguistic and physical emotiveness of Africans. African communication is grounded in the body. Sensuality of this kind is an antidote to every form of cynicism. Mali and Senegal, for me, are places where all artistic forms are embodied.

by Ariane Lopez-Huici

New York, October 2003 

Translated by Philip Barnard