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Phémina Festival : Valérie Simonnet : The Temptation of the Flesh


I fell in love with these images. They are by Valérie Simonnet and will be exhibited as part of the Phemina Festival which will be held from October 10 to 18 at the municipal theater in Fontainebleau. They are accompanied by this text by Ariane Monod.

Jean-Jacques Naudet


A serie of feminin nudes between paintings and photographies in an intriguing and delicate intimacy.

Valérie Simonnet’ project was to propose to  a number of women to select an old painting and become part of it.

At first glance we recognize famous nudes. But soon astonishment takes over and eyes are set on the live model. Because these women who wanted to be Olympia or Venus are our contemporaries . The game of surprise and photographic realism make them more present in the painting than they would be in a banal setting. Nudity highlighted by what had to veil it. They claim the play of nudity, like the artist claims the photographic ambiguity, protected as they are by the setting and sometimes the thread of the work. The artist gives the opportunity to the spectator, in front of the suddenly living flesh of the painting, to question the pretext of nudity. The diversity of styles as a guarantee of the universality of the purpose.

For these amateur models, this work has been both a mask and a discovery. A mask, placed on an identity, decency, apprehensions and doubts about oneself. A tremendous revelation of their private fiction, pleasure, as well as pride for this celebration of their naked body. Naive, mythological, sensual or symbolic, the chosen work gave the frame and the limit, art as a disguise of desire.

What is being questioned here are the models presented by our society, the merchandising of nudity, conventions and traumas that affect our self-image.

This series is also meant to show others patterns, including photographic techniques, which are more conducive to realization, diversity, gratification, but above all, to celebration. The nude is central, the very reason for the image and not a pretext for its marketing.

“Working with these famous painting, I became aware that the iconic women who appear in them and whose nakedness is barely perceived, were of flesh and blood like my very decent models facing my camera, and that the painted fabric would protect them from the predatory effects of consumption and its armed force, photography.” Simonnet says.

Thus, despite the formal rupture proposed here, we are not so far from the previous work of Valérie Simonnet, urban photographer, constant walker, incessant surveyor, tracker of our world in its grey realities.

The same criticisms were present in her earlier shows.

“La rue parle”, “Moderne solitude”, “Dissolution urbaine” until her last work “Défaites”, whose titles speak for themselves.

To be noted , the last image of « défaite » ‘ shows  an elegant nude getting rid of handcuffs. It was an intriguing surprise but in fact a disonance that should have alerted us… Saint Anthony’ temptation was already a work in progress.

Asking women to become part of a painting implied for the photographer to dream herself as a painter. This studio work, a fantasy to cross the mirror, is not as different from the usual outdoor walks. Nevertheless listening to models and theirs desires in an ode to the history of painting.

As in the pictorialist tradition, the artist refuses the simplification of the shooting and the diktats of photographic schools to deliver us sophisticated though uncertain images, between photography and painting. The selected matt and velvety prints on etching paper further accentuate the pictorial ambiguity

“Painting or photographing” was already Stieglitz’s question in « Camera Work », back in 1901. It is again one for Valérie Simonnet, photographer and copyist, whose choice is not to choose.

Valérie Simonnet ‘s shows started in 2008.

Ariane Monod                                                                                             


Valérie Simonnet will give a lecture entitled « Is a feminine nude a possibility ? » on October 17 at 5 pm as part of the Phémina Festival.

Contact: 06 06 42 98 87


The festival will be held from October 10 to 18, 2020 in Fontainebleau.

Photo exhibition location

* The village hall of the Municipal Theater

conference venue

* Workshop of the new municipal media library

Free admission

The week from 10:30 to 12:30 / from 14:00 to 19:00

Weekends: from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nocturnal on Saturdays until 10 p.m.

Closed on Monday 12 and Tuesday 13/10

More than 30 exhibitors from all over France and beyond, hundreds of images, conferences, workshops, portfolio reading, animations

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