Snapshots : An interview with Romy Alizée
Emmanuel Bacquet: Romy Alizée, you began as a model, then switched to wielding the camera to create your own images. What was behind this change?
Romy Alizée: The exercise of posing was educational and I learned by watching. When I began, I was responding to a need to be gazed upon, to be a kind of muse. Let's say that in my circle and at that particular time, I had no access to the names of women photographers, nor even women artists. As we know, history has erased them... So I couldn't really dream of anything better. Also, in order for me to want to take photographs, I needed to gain self-confidence and for my friends to push me. It was discovering I had an eye for this and realising its value that made me go on. I had things to say, a whole sensibility to unpack, and I was getting bored of myself as a model.
EB: In the film "Instantanés" (Snapshots), which is dedicated to you, we see you working at home, or in an inhabited apartment, in a fairly intimate setting: just a few flash lamps, and by pushing back the furniture. Is such intimacy vital to your pictures?
RA: I mostly managed with what I had at my disposal: a 24-square-metre apartment, no material, a certain timidity that made me shy away from the idea of shooting in a studio with people all around. I like to be alone with the people who pose and for the set-up to be simple. I need to be in a place of trust, to be free and open to others. It's the same today. It's only for press orders that I actually work while others look on: not an easy exercise but one in which I'm learning a lot!
EB: From its beginnings, photography has given rise to an artistic creation where eroticism sits at the centre. It is a chapter of history, long dominated by men, that has created its own codes. Do you feel a closeness with certain photographers?
RA: Yes and no. In everything I've seen through taking an interest in erotic photography, it's mainly the gay and lesbian imagery that I retained. I needed to escape the world of erotica seen by straight men and find other ways of showing desire, incidentally realizing that I was lesbian. It goes to show how powerful images can be!
The pornographic archive footage continues to intrigue me. I find a certain form of play, fairly off-beat; the sexuality doesn't appear serious and simpering. I may be generalising but this is what has often struck me. The girls who pose seem to be laughing and that's something I find really lovely. Humour is also an important component of my images. I'd rather provoke laughter than pure excitement.
EB: In your creation of images, in fact, there's a process of reappropriation of eroticism, taking back female power. Do you also see a form of activism there?
RA: It's hard for me to imagine an art which has nothing to say, no position to defend. You could say that about my work; in the sense that it conveys a certain image of myself in my self-portraits (totally performed) - direct, determined, detached – but also in my portraits of people encountered in the queer or sex-worker communities, because these are faces and bodies that have long been invisible. That said, in my particular niche, I do consider myself an artist not an activist.
EB: What are you currently working on, and what new creations do you have in your sights?
RA: I totally sidelined my “Histoires de Putes” (Whore Stories) project, which I mention in the film.
In 2019, my friend Laure Giappiconi and I set out to produce a trilogy of photographic films entitled Romy & Laure... et le secret de l’homme meuble (and the Secret of the Moveable Man), then, Romy & Laure... and the Mystery of the Enchanted Butt Plug. The third will be shot in early 2022. This collaboration marked the reunion with a desire to make films, until then buried under layers of class complexes.
At the same time, I'm pursuing my research into self-portraiture at a slow but steady pace, I'm collaborating regularly with the press, I co-wrote a show with Marianne Chargois (GAZE.S), I acted in a film and I'm getting a musical project together. And if all goes well, in 2022 I'll produce a photo album with United Dead Artist.