Didier Illouz works with photography, graphics, digital manipulation and movies.
In his series “Any males” he photographed people from his entourage, and than -thanks to the possibilities offered by digital editing- he mixed their faces with that of an animal of his choice.
The result are hybrid beings, part man, part beasts, which recall the mystical visions of shamanism traditions, the metamorphoses of Lycanthrope, mysterious therianthropy dreams.
Usually over retouched projects end up with images that are clearly false and bad, but in this case the photograph by Didier Illouz are very elegant and well balanced, with a beautiful black and white to sepia tones, a gray-scale reminiscent photos from the pre-exposing to make a gray paper base. A great way to walk around between the visionary imagination of digital photography and traditional one.
Fabiano Busdraghi: Can you tell your story as a photographer?
Didier Illouz: I have always been enticed by pictures, and the fact of wanting to make some myself came naturally and gradually.
By the end of the 80’s, I could spend days working on my computer, drawing and trying to reproduce pictures with the first softwares for images.
Then, as I met people, I started taking pictures and practising black and white printing what brought me to experiment printing, toning and coloring techniques.
After a second year university diploma of sciences, I spent 2 years studying cinema and video and I obtained a Master’s degree in Sciences and Techniques.
Then, during several years, I made numerous round trips between the photography, graphics, the shootings of short films, digital standardization and Vjing. It was difficult for me to choose among those disciplines.
I currently spend my time taking and touching up pictures, and working on graphics.
Fabiano Busdraghi: What is for you photography?
Didier Illouz: To me, photography is a great means of expression and exchange. It is a means to make an idea become real, to create and suggest a universe, to give a message, to testify, to mark the spirits or simply to immortalize and glorify the Beauty.
Fabiano Busdraghi: Can you tell about your Anymales series
Didier Illouz: To begin with, the idea of this series consists in suggesting to persons I know choosing an animal, then being shot to allow me to merge the faces. This idea appeared to me as I discovered the North American shamanism and the parallel which these people make between the characteristics of an animal and what an individual can cross during his existence.
Parallel of the Man with the Animal – Parallel of the Man With Nature.
Find a way to reveal the animal within each of us.
In parallel, during my studies of sciences, I spent years studying biology, zoology, botany, genetics, crossings and mutations… I grew up in this scientific approach which made out my vision of the processes of creation of life.
Nowadays, we are witnesses of the intervention of man on his environment at numerous levels, and of the turnovers which come along: on Monday, May 19th 2008, the British Parliament authorized the research on hybrid embryos stemming from the integration of human DNA in ovules of animals.
My images anticipate the more or less risky and\or disastrous consequences of this type of manipulations.
It is a matter here to bring a reflection on the positionning of Man in front of the Nature, on his power, and the possible consequences resulting from the disruption of the natural processes.
Fabiano Busdraghi: Your images are often dark and disturbing. We have the impression of seeing the monsters of our own nightmares, nasty beings, half beast, half human. Why are attracted by this dark side of humanity? What does this represent for you?
Didier Illouz: I don’t see my images as dark, and I don’t think my creatures are nasty. I try to highlight a certain melancholy in these portraits.
It is what the current situation of our time evokes me. As for the dark side of humanity, I see it as much more obvious in the relationship which man maintains with the animal.
Fabiano Busdraghi: Your series Any Male reminds me partially the work of Daniel Lee, but your images are even more dreamlike and more unreal. What are according to you the differences and the analogies in your works?
Didier Illouz: I didn’t know the work of Daniel Lee. I like it very much, especially the series Manimales. It is moreover the first title I had chosen for my series.
To me, his work is more pictorial. He does not hesitate to deform these faces in order to get closer to the animal facies, and this without making use of any animal attribute. His series is also more homogeneous.
I am very admiring.
Fabiano Busdraghi: Concerning your personal work, do you photograph only professional models or also friends, persons met in the street, etc.? In that case, what is the difference when you work with somebody who is not used to pose?
Didier Illouz: All the persons who posed for the Any Male series are part of my entourage. There is no professional model. Therefore, those persons are not quite used to pose.
The next step consists in approaching persons in the street but I don’t feel really ready yet. Most hard is to begin.
Fabiano Busdraghi: Many people think that a retouched photography is not a true photography any more, generally these persons think that the photography should exclusively be a faithful representation of the reality. Personally I think that a faithful representation of the reality is impossible and that a “true” photography is nothing else than an illusion. Do sometimes people tell you that you do not make photography but something else? What then is your answer?
Didier Illouz: Last summer, I took part in a competition where my images were spread on the web and anyone could write comments. One of the participants wondered if it was still about photography, because of the importance of the retouching. Personally, I think that any image is retouched. To play on the color rendering of an image for me is retouching in a certain way. To show a color scene in black and white is far from being a faithful representation.
To use such or such focal also transforms the vision of the reality.
I take pictures and do retouch some of them. Both are for me additional means of expression, what allows me in the end to create pictures. Even though the photography plays the role of raw material, I consider that the result remains a photography.
Fabiano Busdraghi: So what do you think of the digital manipulation of images?
Didier Illouz: At the beginning of the history of photography, photos existed under the shape of glass sheets. Nowadays, photos are digital. And at any period in History, photographers have tried to manipulate their images by using the techniques of their time. Today, computers allows us to realize special effects which would be impossible to obtain otherwise. And I am happy I can take advantage of it.
On an other side, I am not attracted by excessively retouched images. When I retouch a fashion portrait, I work to embellish the model, but I absolutely avoid deforming the face, straying from the natural lines.
Fabiano Busdraghi: The photos of your Any Male series are argentic photos, digitally retouched. Why don’t you work directly with digital material? what attracts you in argentic photography?
Didier Illouz: Until now I have worked with a leica RE argentic reflex then I have digitized my films. This allows me a specific result and to reach a sufficient file size to print my images in a consequent size (60x80cm).
It is a rather long, tedious and expensive method, but in order to get this quality using digital material it was until now necessary to work with professional numeric cameras (what I could not afford).
Thus I decided to wait for some years until the camera of my dreams would appear on the market – full frame with many pixel. This day finally arrived (recently) with the release of the eos 5D mkII. I just bought it.
It upsets quite a lot of things. He(it) is going to need me certain time(weather) of adaptation but at the moment, I see only of the check there.
It is quite a change. I shall need some time to get used to it but till now it’s just great !
Fabiano Busdraghi: At the moment on which subject are you working? How does it differ in regard to your previous works? Have you some project for the future which you have not begun yet?
Many projects in mind. For the moment I have not decided yet, I experiment tracks.
Most hard being to choose.
Tempt a parallel between the human being and plants, here is a possible track. Either work on the landscape…
In any case, develop my way of working beginning with getting used to the digital tool. Then, everything is going to go much faster (I hope so).
Fabiano Busdraghi: Does the distribution of your work especially remit in Internet or they follow more classic ways? Do you regularly read on-line magazines or blogs of photo?
Didier Illouz: My work is shown at the same time via my website, publications in the press, photo competitions, exhibitions and auctions.
Of course every day I discover new websites, on-line magazines and blogs about photography. I visit them in a rather unpredictable and irregular way “so many things to be seen and so little time”. I am very curious but concerning photography, I can’t watch too many of them alternatively. I just can’t spend hours looking at hundreds of photos. Naturally at one moment I have enough and stop. The overconsumption of images is not my thing.
Fabiano Busdraghi: All the photographers have “ever made photo”. I Imagine that for technical limits of the moment, slowness, lack of equipment, faults etc. were never taken, and are lost for ever. I often become attached in never made photos they become a very good memory. Can you tell us one of your “ever made photo”?
Didier Illouz: Many of my pictures projects correspond to “ever made photos”.
During those last years, I have had many ideas or concepts that never got real.
Be it in a cinema, on Tv or in an exhibition, you realize that somebody have had the same idea as you and that this idea was realized.
This is a feeling that can be extremely frustrating. Then, either you get rid of this idea, either you try to bring it further up.
Fabiano Busdraghi: And the story of one of the pictures that comes with the interview
Concerning the picture “Christophe” (the eagle/man), the model, who is a friend, is a medium: he can have visions spontaneously. And The eagle in shamanism happens to be the spirit, corresponding with visions.
Fabiano Busdraghi: A photographer whose work you particularly like and why
Didier Illouz: To choose only one is very difficult. One among so many: Mark Holthusen.
I like his scenery, the sizes of his works, his colour palette, his universe, his looks, his mastery concerning lights.
I am as well very admiring and sensible to another category of photographers : cinematographers. I could give you many names of those I am really fan.
Fabiano Busdraghi: Have you a photographic dream? Which thing have you never made and you cannot make, something that you hope you’ll see one day, an invention which has to be born…
Didier Illouz: My dream: to be able to dedicate more time to my art, materialize my ideas, produce more.
And the invention: a large format view camera with a digital back for less than 1000 euros, it would be nice.
Fabiano Busdraghi: What book you are reading at the moment? What music do you like? Some favorite films?
Didier Illouz: The book I read: The essence of the Tao by Pamela Ball.
The music I listen to: Boards of Canada, Beck, movie tracks… At the moment I listen to the last album of The Raconteurs and that of Friendly Fires…
Some films: so many films… The murder of Jesse James, Amateur, Lord of the Rings, Into the wild, Other Worlds…