Christian Lacroix: The Non-Fashionista
After Dazed Digital discovered a few of the guests that Christian Lacroix had invited for the Arles Photography Festival this year, it only made sense to ask Lacroix himself what the town of Arles meant to him and why it was so important to return and take the opportunity to curate the event.
Dazed Digital: How did you get involved with the 'Rencontres d'Arles'?
Christian Lacroix: I always felt a strong, deep but 'underground' relationship between Arles and photography since the very beginning. I myself lived my own life vicariously through papers, magazines and exhibitions. Pictures always seemed more real than life to me, it was my escape from boredom. A mirror I wanted to pass through like in Alice in Wonderland. I was fascinated by family photos, portraits on porcelain in cemeteries, on graves, black and white pictures cut out from daily newspapers, the red thread of memories, the best way for exploring the past. Arles, in between Spain and Italy, is a true Latin Mediterranean city, both attractive and tough. I always loved ‘her’, but felt it difficult to deal with sometimes. When my mother passed away, the city became mute for me, and I did not come back for 8 years. But it is time now to be back and the Rencontres d'Arles was the right opportunity
DD: Why do you think Arles in particular is able to play host to an event of this sort?
CL: Arles has always been connected to photography since the beginning through artists, photographer and travellers such as Dominique Roman or Charles Nègre in the mid 19th century. Some aristocratic amateur even made autochromes at the very beginning of the 20th century, and then came Lucien Clergue after the war. Because of romanticism and the picturesque side of the monuments and landscapes, because of the English and the Americans coming down to the Riviera and mixing with local celebrities such as Picasso and Cocteau, because we are a Latin people, not iconoclastic at all, but in love with images. Because of the sun and the light of course. And of the very individual, personal and unique sense of everything "gipsy", mixed with Spanish and Italian cultures, ancient traditions and enjoyment of life.
DD: How did you select your chosen list of 'guests'? Was it difficult to get the list to a minimum? Were there others you wanted to include?
CL: I put names on a list; ideas, words, all connected with the relationship between my past, my passions, my native town and photos. Love and Death, absence and presence, not really fashion for the sake of fashion, but allure, attitude and backstage. Anything spiritual in a world of superficiality, with pleasure and fascination as the only rules. Nothing else. I wanted the town to feel concerned too. Showing private pictures, first 19th century images of monuments and everyday life. The war too, the bombings, the ruins, the 50s' and 60s' social events around Picasso, Cocteau and bullfighters, the industry, the gypsies, personal memories. Also images from my office, home or work. I thought that a selfish choice might be the best way to please others and being thrilled, enthusiastic or fascinated myself was the best way to interest visitors. Except for Paolo Roversi, Richard Avedon or Peter Lindbergh, we'll have few big names. I do think that the Rencontres must introduce new talents, unknown artists who deserve to be known. I asked each photographer, from the fashion field or not, to take this opportunity to show unexpected works they did not dare show or they weren’t allowed of showing before. The process was the same as when working on a couture collection, sampling themes, images, intuitions.
DD: The list of guests is quite varying in styles and in periods as well – was that done purposely?
CL: I wanted an instinctive list, displaying my favourites since childhood. Irving Penn is missing and so is Mario Testino. I didn’t want this Rencontres to be a fashion festival but a reflection on the relationship between first Arles and photography (and myself...), then between Arles, photography, myself… and fashion. As you perhaps know, I’m not a fashionista, a fashion for the sake of fashion type; I am much more preoccupied by the link with history, culture, folklore, literature, theatre, rites, scenography, stage setting, painting, etc. I knew that fashion naturally had to occur at some stage of this reflection, beside death, love, eroticism, as the theme of ‘vanity’, like in 16th and 17th century paintings. It was not meant to be an exhaustive list of my favorite photographers either. We tried from the first list to establish a coherency. For me it’s not a matter of past or present, just fascination, enigma, attraction for the history of photography from the very beginnings to up until now.
DD: It is obvious you have an eye for imagery – would you consider doing down the route of the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and shooting your clothes yourself?
CL: Why not one day. I'm into scenography right know, just one more step and perhaps…