Nathalie Mazéas : The human in everything
A self-taught photographer, Nathalie Mazéas quickly realized that it was the medium that gave her the freedom to be who she is, and that her place was more behind the lens than in front of a camera or an audience.
Her desire is to unleash the imagination, to photograph others as she would like to be photographed, and to reveal what makes the other person so eminently alive, so that a story, an emotion, emerges in the observer.
She tames the frame and the light, above all daylight, which fascinates her.
Today, after spendinǵ twenty years photographing actors for the press, film productions, the Conservatoire National Supérieur d’art dramatique de Paris, she is focusing her work, on a much more intimate approach whose theme remains the human.
In 2015, she began working on the nude as a political body, posing the question of the feminine in photography. The result is « EN CORPS », a series she has built around women aged 50 to 70 posing nude. A black & white silver work, shot in daylight and without any retouching. Then, the following year, she set off on a solo road-trip in the American West, returning with a beautiful series she entitled « NO MAN ». In 2017, her destination was Mali. Marked by the imprint left on her by Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibé́, she had the idea of setting out to meet artists who are fighting to appropriate their history and fix a memory that is being lost. À MÀRÀ is built in two parts, Malian photographers, and what to keep. 2019_Parallel to this, she is building her SUBLIMIS project, and going to meet people who live in another temporality, the street. She is interested in the ingenuity of their architecture.
Her highly acclaimed work has been exhibited in Arles, Bamako, Paris, Berlin, Aix en Provence, Cerbère and Plougasnou.
What was your first photographic trigger?
Nathalie Mazéas: When I was 17, I took a self-portrait, which gave my photographer boyfriend the idea of photographing me. When he saw the photo, he said to me: « You’ve got to take photos », but he never photographed me!
The man or woman of image who inspires you?
Nathalie Mazéas : Annie Leibovitz, Dolores Marat, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Peter Lindberg, Henry Cartier Bresson…
What image would you like to have made?
Nathalie Mazéas: Nude John Lennon embracing Yoko Ono, photographed by Annie Leibovitz in 1980, a few hours before his assassination. Apart from everything that moves me about this image, what I love is that, for once, it’s the man who’s naked and not the woman!
Which one moved you the most?
Nathalie Mazéas: La petite fille aux feuilles mortes 1946 by Edouard Boubat. It’s as if, in her costume of dead leaves, she suddenly realized that princesses didn’t exist.
And the one that made you angry?
Nathalie Mazéas: In 2009, Sharon Stone practically naked on the cover of Paris Match, with the headline « J’ai 50 ans et alors! What bothers me is making us believe in something that doesn’t actually exist, with an overly photoshopped image. So I thought about the representation of the feminine in photography, and decided to start my « en corps » series of women between the ages of fifty and seventy, naked and unretouched.
A key image in your personal pantheon?
Nathalie Mazéas: My first self-portraits at the age of 17, which is where it all began.
A photographic memory from your childhood?
Nathalie Mazéas: My mother was a photo bulimic! Her favorite trick was to get my twin and I to pose in front of roadside flowerbeds. Two navy sweaters would pop out of a hydrangea bed, and that was it. Every photograph became a nightmare.
With no budget limit, what work of art would you dream of acquiring?
Nathalie Mazéas: A Hans Hartung canvas, for the involvement of the body.
In your opinion, what’s the one quality needed to be a good photographer?
Nathalie Mazéas: To have no preconceptions, but to be curious, enthusiastic and true to your beliefs.
What, if any, is the secret to the perfect image?
Nathalie Mazéas: I don’t know what a perfect image is.
Who would you like to photograph?
Nathalie Mazéas: Geneviève Fraisse, philosopher of feminine thinking.
From the outset of her research life, she has aimed to produce « genealogies » or, to borrow a term from Michel Foucault, to establish « provenances ». Or to trace « lineages » in which the feminist gesture takes on meaning beyond sudden impulses, waves limited in time, or the catalog of exceptional women from which to draw inspiration for christening a bus station.
The photographer you’d like to have your portrait taken by
Nathalie Mazéas : Annie Leibovitz
A must-have photo book?
Nathalie Mazéas : Abigail Solomon- Godeau’s book on photography « Chair à Canons » photography, discourse, feminism. (Édition textuel, 2016) She belongs to the generation of American theorists who, in the 1980s-1990s, profoundly changed the way we think about photography in its relationship to history and current creation.
What was your childhood camera?
Nathalie Mazéas: A disposable Kodak, a Polaroid.
The one you use today?
Nathalie Mazéas: An old Pentax, a Canon EOS, a Canon 5D Mark IV.
What’s your favorite drug?
Nathalie Mazéas: Swimming at home in Northern Brittany.
What’s the best way to disconnect?
Nathalie Mazéas: Working at home by the sea, and swimming.
What is your personal relationship with images?
Nathalie Mazéas : I spent my childhood inventing stories by cutting out pictures from my mother’s magazines. I loved putting contradictory things together. Images have always been very present in my life. It’s beyond words. A man sent me a photo every day for a month of one of the places I love most in the world. That was my greatest declaration of love.
Your greatest quality?
Nathalie Mazéas : Positivism, optimism.
Your latest folly?
Nathalie Mazéas: Breaking through the bearing wall of my house to create a panoramic view. It’s extraordinary!
An image to illustrate a new banknote?
Nathalie Mazéas : Anita Conti’s photo on the banks of Newfoundland 1952.
The job you wouldn’t have liked to do?
Nathalie Mazéas: Accountant.
And if you hadn’t become a photographer?
Nathalie Mazéas: Dance! I would have loved to work with Hofesh Shechter.
Your greatest professional extravagance?
Nathalie Mazéas: Having a stool made overnight for my shoot the next day, for the official portrait of Blaise Compaoré, President of Burkina Faso. I felt that the architecture of his throne cut off his head, and I wanted a very human, uncluttered portrait. When I arrived in the salon where the shoot was to take place, there was a crowd of photographers waiting to see me in action. I invited him to sit on the stool facing the window, whereupon he dismissed all the photographers and, very amused, followed all my instructions to the letter. The next day in Ouagadougou, rumor had it that a white woman with her camera had bewitched the president! Now a refugee in Côte d’Ivoire, he has been sentenced in absentia in Ouagadougou to life imprisonment for « complicity in assassinations » and « undermining state security ».
What do you think is the difference between photography and art photography?
Nathalie Mazéas: For me, there’s no difference. It’s the viewer who makes the work, and it’s up to him or her to decide!
Which city, country or culture do you dream of discovering?
Nathalie Mazéas : Mali, which I’m still exploring, and Japan.
The place you never tire of?
Nathalie Mazéas : Northern Brittany
Your biggest regret?
Nathalie Mazéas: Not meeting Christian Boltanski!
In terms of social networks, do you prefer Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok or Snapchat, and why?
Nathalie Mazéas: Instagram and Facebook. Although I’m not very offensive on the networks.
What have digital technology and smartphones taken away from or brought to photography?
Nathalie Mazéas: Smartphones offer billions of possibilities and other ways of shooting. I took a self-portrait in the shower in an unlikely position, with the shower head in one hand and the smartphone in the other. Digital technology has enabled me to explore, to try, to go further in my experiments, I’ve let myself go further, because the economic stakes weren’t the same. But there’s another side to the coin!
Color or B&W?
Nathalie Mazéas : Both, depending on what I want to say!
Daylight or artificial light?
Nathalie Mazéas: I’m a big fan of daylight.
Do you prefer film or digital?
Nathalie Mazéas : Film.
Which is the most photogenic city in your opinion?
Nathalie Mazéas: All cities are photogenic, depending on the light and where you stand.
If God existed, would you ask him to pose for you, or would you opt for a selfie with him?
Nathalie Mazéas: When I was a kid, I got so bored at mass that he owes me to pose for me.
If I could organize your ideal dinner party, who would be at the table?
Nathalie Mazéas: All the names mentioned in this questionnaire, plus a few musicians.
The image that represents the current state of the world for you?
Nathalie Mazéas: I don’t have one in particular… but I really like Darcy Padilla’s work on California Dreamin’, seen at VISA pour l’image this year.
What’s missing in today’s world?
Nathalie Mazéas: Lightness, fun and humor….
If you had to start all over again?
Nathalie Mazéas : The same thing, only better!
Any last words?
Nathalie Mazéas: Heartily.