Text and photos by Alexandru Paul.
In 2003 I was tangled in thoughts concerning whether or not it was useless to take photos of whatever came my way as I had used to do. The feelings generated by an event and the act of photographing it, didn’t end up in my pictures. Or if something did end up, it was something else. The rectangle of the viewfinder had started to bother me. To limit my contact with the world. And then, somehow, photography moved from outside inside. I wasn’t looking for photographic subjects anymore, but for ideas that challenge photography.
It’s been a long time since I haven’t had a camera on me. And even if I push myself to take it with me, I soon forget about having it on me.
I started working at the Exhibitions project.
Some time after I graduated, I was trying to find myself a place as a fashion and advertising photographer. It seemed very stupid to me, at the time, the way myself and others were trying to fabricate a biography called CV – which only required mentions of success. Even the personal failures were featured as accomplishments. For example, if you ditched school after one year, you wrote that you studied for one year, not that you had been kicked out after the first year. The competition never cared about our weaknesses and failures. Our society doesn’t want to acknowledge our malfunctions and frailties. And if it does find out, we will be penalized. So we’re trapped making up this story, according to which you are to be cast in your rightful position by some headhunters. And since my CV never looked too good, I started wishing I would become a headhunter myself.
Regardless of the length o life,
a resume is best kept short.
Concise, well chosen facts are de rigueur.
Landscapes are replaced by addresses,
shaky memories give way to unshakable dates.
Of all your loves, mention only the marriage;
of all your children, only those who were born.
Who knows you matters more than whom you know.
Trips, only if taken abroad.
Memberships in what, but without why.
Honors, but not how they were earned.
Write as if you’d never talked to yourself
and always kept yourself at arm’s length.
Pass over in silence your dogs, cats, birds,
dusty keepsakes, friends, and dreams.
Price, not worth,
and title, not what’s inside.
His shoe size, not where he’s off to,
that one you pass off as yourself.
In addition, a photograph with one ear showing.
What matters is its shape, not what it hears.
What is there to hear, anyway?
The clatter of paper shredders.”
Wistawa Szymborska – writing a resume
I asked several people to take a nude picture of themselves, keeping in mind that it will be publicly exposed. I set up a camera and a mirror near by that was positioned to show whatever the camera was seeing and a remote releaser. I asked them to look at themselves in the mirror until they were satisfied and then to release. It was as if they were making themselves a different kind of CV.
It was also a curiosity about the way people relate to their bodies. If they know it, if they use it for its capacities or just to show off.
I had planned from the beginning the way I wanted this to look in the end, like a big folder you can walk through. I stuck with the plan and I was wrong. As time passed by, I realized that people who came to take a picture of themselves, had mostly personal reasons for doing so. I found out some of these reasons, but I didn’t care about them at the time. Maybe this was the most important aspect of this project.
What I remember though, is their approach. Some took it like a cold shower. They would go in, close the door and in three minutes they would be dressed up and out the door. Some took a lot of time. I don’t know what they were doing. Others would get undressed and talk to me, ask me my opinion about them and about the purpose of the project, or would ask for my advice. And they seemed to enjoy somehow the magic of the studio, the warmth and the light.
A girl who asked me not to exhibit her photo, still wished to take a picture of her. She did request though, because she didn’t trust me, to take a picture of myself first. Then she changed her mind and said she didn’t want to take the picture anymore. I made a scene and swayed her to do it, after all. But I didn’t exhibit it.
It was a boy who took the most of time. About an hour? He came out puzzled. He told me it was very difficult to realize what you wanted others to see in you. When I developed the film, I saw that he completely misunderstood the requirements and took the picture with his clothes on.
Communism and orthodoxy are very strict about nudity. The elder half of people in my country believes nudity is indecent and taught their children consequently. To take a nude picture of yourself, knowing it will be publicly exhibited, is an act of courage. And while you are brave, you need the support of those around you. You expose yourself and become more receptive to everything that happens around you. And maybe this is the reason why the short time I spent with these people was intense and the connection we made, durable in time.
While I was working at this project, my daughter Sasa was born and I started to achieve a certain success as a photographer. I abandoned the nude project. And then I resumed it when Dan Popescu, my gallerist – started to show interest about it. Another friend, who meanwhile got rich, offered to pay for the exhibition. As it was expensive, I wouldn’t have made it without a sponsor, and since I didn’t plan on selling anything, it seemed fair not to make it with my own money. The friend-sponsor failed to pay the money he promised, so in the end I paid for it myself.
The installation was exhibited for one month at H’art Gallery in Bucharest, and it remained for three years in their deposit. During the crisis, the gallery moved and the new location proved too small to accommodate this installation. So it was donated to the National Museum of Contemporary Arts.
Please visit Alexandru Paul for more informations and photographs.