Late in 2011 we decided to meet up in Emmanuelle’s home town of Paris, France (which I was able to combine with a conventional fashion shoot in the north of the city). Unlike that shoot, the art nudes I did here with Emmanuelle became the complete antithesis of the latter. Whereas the fashion shoot was very precise and polished, this would not be. Looking back, it was clear that the only thing that Emmanuelle and I had carried over from Perpignan was our commitment not to repeat ourselves.
Initially I had been thinking about shooting again in the streets but Paris isn’t that kind of city. With its closed off court yards and facades it was the complete opposite of Perpignan’s narrow streets and tall buildings throwing down lots of soft light and privacy.
Fortunately Emmanuelle knew a friend who was renovating a nearby apartment. In between all the hoovering and sanding of floors that was taking place, we moved in for the day. The room was bare and empty, stripped of all identifying furniture and styling – reduced to its barest essentials. A naked appartment.
When shooting art nude on location, you obviously want that location to be in the frame but at the same time I didn’t want anything to distract from Emmanuelle’s naked form. The emptiness of this apartment perfectly suited the atheistic I had in mind: A window, a floor, a naked body, nothing more.
In avoiding the Parisien streets we’d instead arrived at another quintessentially french icon: the french appartment window with its slatted shutters. So omnipresent and recognisable in Bernardo Bertolucci’s ‘Last Tango In Paris’ – an ordeal of a film to watch that regularly veers between brilliance and self-indulgence – this appartment had those self-same windows. Looking at these photos now it feels like that they couldn’t have been taken anywhere else but Paris.
But this was October and it was freezing.
The warm, lazy summer of our south coast Colioure shoots was behind us now and since the flat wasn’t being rented, the heating had been turned off. Despite the cold, Emmanuelle, nothing if not pragmatic, got ready and we started to shoot quickly – with her diving under my big ski jacket inbetween takes. It was just as well because the polythene sheeting we’d found in the adjacent room was nothing but freezing – but it gave the shots an important extra texture compared to the wood of the floor and Emmanuelle’s skin.
Preparation is normally key but as hallmark of our art nude work together we were typically unprepared. Just a camera, Emmanuelle and the opportunity to shoot. What else would we need? In these circumstances I’m always looking around for things to pull together and change the dynamic of a shoot. As luck would have it, there was a steel bed frame in the other room which became pivotal to the final sequence of shots.
I wanted to shoot in slow motion – but really slow motion – with 1-2 minute takes but for that the camera would have to be seriously still. A tripod would have been nice but it wouldn’t have given me the low-down angle I was looking for. In the end I zip-tied the camera to the bed frame and leant it over Emmanuelle’s body. Perfect. She now could move around as much as she wanted and yet the camera would stay perfectly still.
In the end I was really blown away by the some of shots that we came away with. Emmanuelle is a very chameleon-like model – which is part of the reason it so much fun to shoot with her – and the frames we ended up with show a fantastic variety of ghost-like personalities.