If we were a self-righteous magazine, we would be talking about Redemption!
The one that signifies the triumph of Art over the Flesh.
But we’re just a photography magazine, so we’ll forget about redemption in favor of adventure and amazing evolution.
Some of these photos are 40 years old.
They are signed Eric Neveu.
He was at the end of the 70s and during the 80s, the emperor of the nude, the pope of erotic publications: photographer and editorial director of New Look, French Playboy, French Penthouse, Him and Union sometimes.
But read the interview he gave in 2009 to De Luxe magazine.
Jean Jacques Naudet
Éric Neveu: The Esthete of the Golden Triangle
Beneath his graphic palette, women’s bodies become greedy and colorful, as irresistible as Haribo sweets. After bringing Newlook, Penthouse and him to success yesterday, Éric Neveu now devotes himself exclusively to photography, surfing with constancy and lightness on the wings of a triangle called desire… Meeting.
Interview by Cécile Mortreuil.
You have two hats, one as a photographer and the other of a man of the press. How did you start?
I’ve done fifteen jobs in my life…I was a ski instructor in Courchevel, for example! I taught Claude Lelouch, Roger Hanin and Sami Frey to ski. Then I was a radio host in Tahiti for 2 years. That earthly paradise that becomes hell after two weeks for those who love action! When I came back, I accepted a job in Daniel Filipacchi’s group, as an accountant. However, I didn’t know how to count further than ten…After a number of mistakes, I got in touch with Daniel Filipacchi himself, who, for the mistakes I had made, should have fired me immediately! But on the contrary, he took me under his wing.
So that’s where the press bug grabbed you…
Daniel Filipacchi offered me to work for him in art publishing, especially the surrealists. When I turned 30, I went back to see him because I was tired of earning the minimum wage. He then suggested that I join him in the United States where he was establishing himself as a press publisher. Our ties were strengthened and I became, over there, a bit like his private secretary. It was in the United States that I took a liking to photography. Then Filipacchi temporarily closed his business there. I was still his assistant, and to make ends meet, I took sexy pictures.
You then created Newlook. What is the genesis of this magazine?
I had sold my first photos to Penthouse, in the United States. I remember that I was given as much money for this subject as I had earned in a year with Filipacchi! Daniel found it boring that I worked for the competition… He had Playboy and Lui, but I didn’t have my place, the team was complete. In a joking tone, I then suggested that he create a new magazine. He left laughing, then a few days later, he said to me: “I thought about your idea again: you have carte blanche, but I don’t want it to cost anything, and that it should not look like anything already existing “. And I created the Newlook magazine formula. Filipacchi was quite surprised. His partner Franck Ténot thought it was a rag that would never work! Daniel said to me: “You see my friend, you did something that nobody wants! But you believe in it. Why ? I told him that I believed in it because it was a magazine that I would buy. So he told me: “Let’s not listen to anyone, we will do it”.
We printed 350,000 copies and I had six issues to prove myself. By the fifth issue, we were at 600,000 copies, making it the biggest sex magazine in Europe.
How do you explain this dazzling success?
It happens that I have a taste and a simplicity of reflection shared by the general public. However, all the market surveys had given as a loser… This proves that the right man, at the right place, at the right time, can do the trick. And that a success does not always come from the idea of a great professional, since I was not one!
As a result, you took the lead in other magazines of the group…
Following this success, Filipacchi entrusted me with the reins of Lui magazine. Then we published a French edition of Penthouse. A real hit!
Did you continue to take photos during this time?Yes, but photography was a side job. I created the subjects that I couldn’t find from other photographers. But we must not forget that, apart from charm photos, I had manipulated thousands of shots for Newlook on cars, crocodiles, firefighters… Charm is an aspect of my life as a photographer, but I spent much more time with Nicolas Hulot or Yann Arthus-Bertrand, who at the time worked for our magazines and were totally unknowns.
How do you view your work as a photographer?
I have always had a distance from my ability to become a celebrity photographer. I am a deformer, an illusionist. And I can’t consider myself a real photographer, because the places are taken! What could I have invented? When the first critics came to me, they told me that my work reminded them of Gursky. I didn’t know who he was… Even when you want to invent something in good faith, there is always someone who has done it before!
What is the most successful photo?
This is without a doubt the series of photos that I took of Danièle Gilbert naked for the magazine Lui… It was a huge success that created an historic sales record (600,000 copies sold in 2 days!) for this prestigious magazine. . This experience proved that the counter-use of the people could sometimes have the real adhesion of the public.
When do you consider a shot successful?
For me, photography is the creation of an image that can be appreciated by as many people as possible, without having to read a manual. If the photo is pleasing, it is successful.
How do you work?
At the base of my work, there is always a cliché and a graphic palette. I have known many artists and I have always dreamed of handling brushes. Today there is a modern brush which is this little electronic pen. I seek to be more decorative than photographic. For me, photography is only a technique: all my photos, I could have done them in painting. However, I can’t follow my instincts all the time because what I do has to be big and it’s extremely expensive to make.
Do you have a favorite model?
Yes, it’s definitely Clara Morgane, with whom I had the pleasure of working for her lingerie collection. She hypnotized me with her natural beauty, her charm and her incredible photogenicity: out of the 4000 shots I took of her, only three were missed because my overheated flashes hadn’t worked. With Clara Morgane, even a blind man could take a picture!
Do you find that photography is still considered a minor art?
There is indeed a dichotomy between photographers and others. Only painters and sculptors are considered artists. However, things are definitely changing. The young German photographer Gursky, of whom we have just spoken, sells the least of his works for between 700,000 and 1,000,000 dollars. This is the price of a masterpiece by great painters! Eugène Delacroix died before the advent of photography, but already, instead of having models pose, he preferred to ask a photographer to take pictures that he used to make his paintings. If he had lived longer, he would have switched to photography. However, today, major collectors always have resale in mind. A photograph is reproducible and the buyer cannot know if his investment is interesting, because we lack hindsight on the resale of photos.
Who are the artists that you like yourself?
If I had the money, I would buy photos by Francis Giacobetti and paintings by Wilfredo Lam. They are the two artists that I appreciate the most in the world.
Tell me about your “Legs”…
When I was little, I saw “The Man Who Loved Women”. This film made a huge impression on me. The story of a man who spends his days in a cellar looking at women’s legs through a window. “Women’s legs are the circumflex accents of life,” he said. This sentence marked me a lot, because I am more attracted by the bottom than by the top. I have always found figure skating, trapeze, all those arts that emphasize footwork, very erotic. This series of “Legs” has already entered the largest collections…
Now that you’re out of it, what do you think of today’s erotic press?
I gave up reading it because for a few years it no longer met my expectations: I am often more attracted to the covers of fashion magazines which I find more exciting than those of Newlook, Playboy, Union, Hot Video, etc… , who hackneyed themselves in a “trashy people” style à la Interview or roll in the gutters of low-end pornography. I don’t know if their new formulas have hooked customers, I’m not one of them anymore. I prefer to discover much sexier photos and videos on the Internet and, in addition, completely free.
What is your approach, the message you want to convey through your works?
Each decorative panel that I make is the culmination of an intellectual process to find what I have touched on in my life. When I was little, I was operated on for appendicitis. At the time, you were put to sleep with a gas mask. As I was about to sink, I had before my eyes psychedelic images. When I was 15, I was hit by a car and found myself in a deep coma. The first images I saw were these absolutely anesthetic visions. Visions confirmed by an LSD experiment many years later! I wanted to reconstitute these colors, these lights, these forms in my work “Bubble gum”.
But my main approach is to please myself with the hope that it will please as many people as possible.
Where did you get the idea for the series about fish and planes?
I have always been afraid of water, the ocean and especially what happens below the surface. During my stays in the Bahamas and Tahiti, I saw myriads of extraordinary fish with always the worry of being eaten by a shark! So I wanted to create an aquarium of extremely reassuring fish. I am fascinated by these inhabitants of the depths, although they give me a hallucinating fright! I am scared to death on planes too. I’m scared to death the whole time!
So is it a way to tame your anxieties?
Exactly. It’s the same thing for my series on buildings. I often take the train to Clermont-Ferrand, and when I come back to Paris in the evening, I pass these absolutely sinister suburban buildings that worry me. That’s why I make these compositions from buildings that I wanted to make a little more sympathetic.
Since you are figuring out your phobias, you must also be afraid of women!
Now it’s become a phobia…I’m scared of pleasing women and getting into trouble!
Tell us about the photo titled “The Cat”.
This is a very erotic photo. This young girl often poses for me, but never wants to show her face. I did the staging, and at the moment of pressing the trigger, my cat passed through the frame. This is called the photographic incident!
Do you have a favorite photo?
My compositions of fish, which you can look at closely and from afar, seeing different things in them. I realized, thanks to these series, that we could make interesting things from a simple plastic fish!
How do you view photography today?
It is very difficult for an artist to pass an objective judgment on the work of his colleagues. I regularly visit the galleries that exhibit photographers and, for months, I have never had any particular emotions that would make me want to acquire a particular print. For me, whether it’s a photo, a painting, a sculpture, it must be a work that speaks to you with a decorative purpose that you can’t get enough of.
What would you love to photograph?
The check that a collector will give me to buy me a unique print! A check for a million dollars made out to me! And again… I would not be very original in my approach, since Malcolm Morley, a great American hyperrealist painter, has already done so.
What are your projects ?
I live day by day ! I’m fine where I am and I just say to myself: “May it last”! I’m not jaded but I no longer want to own. My only ambition is to leave a second trace, apart from the one I left in the magazines, through the decorative panels that I create.