Since my first one-person-show in 1977, my greatest passion has been the human body. Every model is a discovery, an encounter that may last for years. With the establishment of mutual confidence, privileged moments give birth to an experience of the unknown that illuminates every successful shot.
I work in a relatively straightforward manner. I use a 35mm camera that allows me the flexibility to leave the model uninhibited while concentrating on their particularity and humanity. Black and white photography helps me focus on the essentials. A pronounced grain and deep blacks accentuate the shadowy areas of human adventure. Obscurity as such intrigues, stimulates and fascinates me.
It is difficult to describe my initial condition at the beginning of a studio session. Initially, a state of complete availability, then gradually, I enter a trance that I attempt to inspire in the model (subliminally).
Will we go beyond ourselves? What will be the minute detail that becomes legible in the photo as the model's inner fire? Will the model be able to reveal it? Will I be capable of capturing it? Each studio session demands tremendous physical force and unshakable concentration. The relationship with the model is necessarily solitary; there are no assistants, lighting techs, etc. I must minimize potential distractions to get inside a subject, a personality.
I'm often asked why I choose the type of model I do. Why these? My body type is small and slender, whereas Aviva, Dalila, and Holly are Rubenesque. For me, there's a significant element of the unknown in the act of creating. If I truly knew the answer, I wouldn't photograph them. My choice of models depends on various circumstances: how we meet, our desires, possibilities that attract and intrigue, the transgression of normative boundaries, and the confidence one creates to persuade someone to pose. What I photograph is the irreducible mystery of my models.
These models are heroes of our time. They enlarge the boundaries of our emotional and visual world through their talent, strength, and courage. Their beauty emerges from the poetry of their imperfections. They take part in the trance, in the ritual of bodies in weightlessness. El Duende. Life itself. The imperfection is the art of freedom, as opposed to the fascism of Apollonian art. I love Goya, Dziga Vertov, Maya Deren, Antonin Artaud.
A wound is at the origin of my encounters: a visible or invisible wound you feel, a wound you try to discover. The models I choose reject social conformity. Breaking taboos requires a great deal of courage, to expose these taboos without becoming morose takes even more courage, and it is this courage, this fire, that draws me to them.
I find that living in New York—and I mean New York and not the rest of the United States—is very stimulating because it's a place that produces a tremendous wealth of surprising encounters. Certain individuals' cultural plurality and inventiveness sharpen my gaze: I'm often drawn to make contact with another person in the subway or spend time in the alternative networks that are so rich in New York.
I also need Africa and the linguistic and physical emotiveness of Africans. African communication is grounded in the body. The sensuality of this kind is an antidote to every form of cynicism. For me, Mali and Senegal are places where all art forms are embodied.