Paris-based photographer Arnaud Lajeunie was born in 1986 but his shoots, in which he instinctively explores the lines of the body and how to manipulate them, suggest wisdom beyond his years. A quiet sensuality creates memories that can also be found in the erotic magazine L'imparfaite, which Lajeunie co-founded and for which he is creative director. Shooting deep in the forest or on the beach in the dark and allowing his photos to play and happen naturally, Lajeunie creates "… a playground for images to act themselves out". Dazed spoke with the photographer about play and the art of being free...
Dazed Digital: How did you begin to take pictures?
Arnaud Lajeunie: While finishing a Master’s in political science, I spent a short time as a copywriter in an ad agency. That was two years ago. I’d already been taking photographs for a while, “on and off”, you could say. But there, I realized that I was more comfortable expressing myself with images than with words. Since then, I really focused on working with images, went to “Arts School”, ate up everything I could find, and this first feeling is still there.
DD: Sensuality and the lines of the body are often found in your work. How important is this?
Arnaud Lajeunie: I think it’s related to dance, especially choreographers such as, for example, William Forsythe or Jiri Kylian. I admire the fact that from a classical background, they used bodies and space to experiment. I like this idea of creating a particular kind of interaction when I work. I try to place the models in a special state of mind, let them release something - an expression, a pose, a face, a posture - that neither I or they would expect.
DD : Has there been a piece that you feel perfectly captures your work?
Arnaud Lajeunie: I think that 'l’eau dans le sable' was an important moment for me. I planned it very carefully, thinking a lot about the where and when and which attitudes to ask of the models etc... The models began improvising, became more and more free, wandering around, kissing, touching, rolling on the sand. Then I let go of many of my preconceived ideas and let them explore the playground I had created for them.
I directed them at first, but after they understood what I wanted from them, they appropriated it and went with it, lived it. This made me think, and I realized that what I wanted was to create space where an idea or a narrative can evolve and produce something unexpected. I’ve been focusing more on this idea since then: creating a playground for images to act themselves out.
DD: What are the ideas behind the photos entitled "Babayaga"?
Arnaud Lajeunie: Babayaga is an Eastern fable about a forest witch who poisons young men. The mirrors reinforce this idea of brutal, yet sensual, apparition, only parts of the body are unveiled, the rest remains hidden, as if it doesn’t exist. For me Babayaga is part of a wider process. When I use mirrors, exploding pigments or when I shoot in the complete darkness, I’m introducing artifice that blurs the model's perception in order to get something unexpected. It’s through these constructed atmospheres that I tried to achieve something more “natural”. Sometimes, the distance the lens necessarily creates starts to slip..
DD: What do the outdoors offer your images? They are often taken in the wilderness.
Arnaud Lajeunie: It is related to the same idea. What you call the wilderness reinforces this idea of space where models can do something they are not necessarily used to. When you are alone on a beach, or deep in a forest, you don’t feel exactly the same as in a two hour studio session. However, I do enjoy working in the studio, but I try to achieve my ideas through simpler means there, like shooting in complete darkness and only giving voice directions.
DD: When do you feel most free, energised and excited to work?
Arnaud Lajeunie: When I feel that the model lets go, just runs with the idea and brings out some really strong energy, attitudes, or emotions. When I realize that they’ve understood where I want to go and push me further. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some incredible people lately, like Malgosia Bela and Roberto Bolle for Visionaire 60 for example. It was inspiring to work with them in this same exploratory way. At the end of the shoot, we had expanded the initial story into something stronger. We went somewhere together.
DD: What is next for you?
Arnaud Lajeunie: Work, I think. I am currently working on several series and on the fifth issue of the magazine I co-founded 2 years ago, L’imparfaite. As creative director, it’s a whole other challenge, but it comes back to the same question of experimenting with ideas, photographing the body, and trying to make something special together.