Montreal artist and photographer Laurence Philomène reimagines comfort and femininity around her subjects and the world.
We caught up with Laurence and gained a lot of wisdom learning about her idealized femme utopia for our Affinity issue.
Here’s what Laurence had to say:
When I was a teenager, self-portraits were a really big thing for me. I was lonely and I would just put myself in weird scenarios and take pictures. It was a whole thing with the online Flickr generation, and all my friends were doing it. We would all take pictures of ourselves and try to see how creative we could get with it.
Then it became a sort of self-care thing for me to take pictures of myself. There was a time when I stepped away from the whole self-portraiture thing, but I feel like every picture I take is still of myself. They are just projections of myself on to others. So the series that I’m doing right now is kind of that, but to the extreme. I am literally putting other people as myself.
On nudity and sexuality…
One thing that bothers me is that my work is viewed as sexual, but to me it really isn’t. It’s very much about showing nudity in a non-sexual context. And some people will argue that nudity is inherently sexual, but I don’t think it has to be. It really bothers me, actually, when my work gets viewed as sexual. A lot of my work gets reblogged on porn blogs, and I can’t control that, which really bothers me because I don’t want to objectify the people that I photograph. And it bothers me that there’s nothing I can do against the fact that the world will still objectify them.
On the objectification of people in photos..
I used to think it was specifically women’s bodies that were objectified, but even if I take nude pictures of boys they’ll end up gay porn sites. I think people see images and kind of disassociate the fact that it’s an actual person in the photos. And they will very much see it as, ‘Oh, this is just a photo, this just an object.’ I especially feel like that a lot with the pictures I post online. I think people tend to forget that there are real people behind it, and that it’s not just an internet story.
On ‘viral’ stories…
I really don’t like viral stories and all those sites that have viral stories, because that’s what this very much is. It’s taking very specific elements of a story and sensationalizing it. It’s something that’s been really bothering me and turning me off of having an online presence.
On reclaiming nudity…
When I started taking self-portraits that included nudity, it was very much about reclaiming my body because I’ve been so sick my whole life. I was always in pain, and my body changes a lot depending on my illness; this was a way for me to come to terms with that. When I photograph others it often becomes more about the shapes and the visuals, and how it looks. I think skin is beautiful.
Graeme (2013)- These were taken in my friend Graeme’s backyard & bedroom in the summer. He’s a ballerina and already has a certain femininity to him so I wanted to play on that. We just had fun with these, they are pretty candid.
On photographing men…
I use to photograph only girls, and then I started photographing guys and I got really into it. I really like to photograph men the exact same way I photograph girls. I like to eradicate masculinity from my work as much as possible. I just act as if it doesn’t exist — and it doesn’t exist to me. I used to photograph dolls a lot, and someone told me the way I photograph boys is kind of the same way I photograph dolls. I kind of just pose them around as I wish and have fun with it. I’ve been really lucky to work with guys who are super open to it and let me do whatever I want with them. It’s very much a reversal of typical power structures, as I’m completely in control when I photograph boys.
I really like to photograph men the exact same way I photograph girls.
On her work being seen as “radical”…
One thing that’s important to me regarding nudity and my work is that a lot of people will come up to me and say, ‘Your work is so radical’ and ‘so shocking.’ And that is never, to me, the goal. I don’t care about being radical. I’m just doing me, and if you think that’s radical then that’s your perception of it. I’m someone who seeks comfort in everything, and I don’t seek controversy. I’m just trying to be myself.