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Valérie Belin at the Galerie Nathalie Obadiah

We met Valérie Belin who is presenting her latest series All Star at the Galerie Nathalie Obadiah in Paris until  October 29th 2016. It was an opportunity to approach her about what goes on behind the scenes in the production of her pictures. Interview.
Since 2009, digital has had an important place in the process of creating your images…
Indeed, since the appearance of digital my work has gradually changed. I couldn’t ignore the new tools such as Photoshop: I had to appropriate them. So my work moved forward from analogue photography, which referred to the print and the living being, towards the virtual. You can almost say that I made a move from the photograph to the image. It’s never about corrective retouching but rather working with what the Photoshop tool can do specifically.
As with your earlier series Still Life (2014) and Super Models (2015), the photographs in All Star are the result of multiple exposures. How are these images made?
Multi-exposure is a phenomenon that I’ve worked with since 2009. I started with the series Crowned Heads, each image of which was composed of five to seven superimposed views of the same model. On the other hand, the eleven images that comprise the All Star series result from a coming together of three elements: the covers of American comics, a portrait of a young girl whose great classical beauty has been produced in the studio, and vector images.
With the images in Still Life that showed a kind of chaos of objects, you spoke to us about the consumer society and its excesses. What’s in the All Star series?
In Still Life, I showed the intertwining of objects, while in All Stars it’s about real people. In this series, I put the accent on the mind and the psyche of the characters. How? By deliberately leaving the titles of the comics across the model’s forehead.On the other hand, the model’s gaze is vacant in order to relate better to the viewer. This way I’m indicating the information overload that characterises today’s world and of which, in the end we are all victims. An excess that can create a lot of mental confusion.
All of that is made visible thanks to meticulous and complex work…
Yes, work that is very important because there is intermingling, there isn’t a cacophony. I carry out this basic postproduction task in close collaboration with Pascal Brunel of Picto with whom I’ve worked exclusively for this kind of job since 2006. For me he’s the equivalent of a chief cameraman for a film director. It’s a bit like a double act as, over time, a real relationship of confidence has grown up. There’s a real osmosis between us.
This collaboration, is it of the same order as that between the photographer and the printer?
That’s a good comparison: in the same way that a printer interprets a negative, here, the Photoshop virtuoso translates my intentions. It’s a daily grind and a long-term job. For example, at the start of All Star, there were more that 200 comic covers… And at the end the series was just 11 images. Together, we had to feel our way along because we were in the unknown. There were lots of hiccups before we got the result we wanted.
This research work is still going on then, always at Picto, for the production of the prints…
Once the image is made, it’s necessary to find the best printing process and the appropriate medium, which require other competences. So I work with the print centre at Picto. For this series, we opted, after having done some tests, of course, for pigment prints… And I chose a paper normally little used by photographers because it has no depth…but it’s exactly what I was looking for to use in this series.
The time when the artist works alone in the studio is definitely past…
In fact, the artist doesn’t work alone but in a team. Each member brings his or her own specific competences. As far as I’m concerned, I work like the director of a short film. It begins with my assistant, the model agencies, a hairdresser-makeup artist, and it continues to post production, the titler, the framer…

Interview by Sophie Bernard

Valérie Belin is  represented by the Galerie Nathalie Obadia since 2013.

Valérie Belin, All Star
Until October 29th 2016
Galerie Nathalie Obadia, 18 rue Bourg-Tibourg, Paris 4e
For the All Star exhibition, Éditions Damiani have published the second large monograph devoted to Valérie Belin, covering her work from 2007 to 2016. Texts by Quentin Bajac, Dork Zabunyan and Étienne Hatt. Available now from the gallery and in bookstores in January 2017. Price: 50 euros

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