Midezy Nami Cafe, #Issue 28, “Sara, Just Sara”
Miedzy Nami Editions / 2009 / 14 x 19 Inches / 40 pages / Color and Black and White Photographs
For photographer Jean-François Campos inspiration comes in the form of myths. “Sara, Just Sara: In the mirror of my myths” was created especially for our magazine. Jean-François chose to use Miedzy Nami Café as a vessel in which he could present work that would allow him to return to his photojournalist roots and forsake the usual post-production techniques of fashion industry. With this project, Jean-François embarked on a road trip with his muse, Sara Blomqvist. During this time, he produced three melancholic and suspenseful stories: “Just Sara”, “Welcome to the Dead Leaves Garden”, and “The American Daze”. Each story reflects an aspect of his journey as both a photographer and a man, but the meanings behind these powerful pictures is best explained by the author himself:
How and when did you meet with Sara Blomqvist ?
About two years ago, I was shooting a series of portraits, a story that was the extension of a personal project I had been working on, a journey to capture the intangible fragility of beauty – a series I would called later “The Rising Stars”. One by one, the girls would pass in front of my camera, while others sat waiting their turn. By the end of the day there was this girl waiting silently for her turn. Her beauty was different, she had barely any make up on, she was very pale, was looking somehow fragile though intense at the same time. I felt myself staring at her. I didn’t want her to see, so I returned to my camera to finish shooting. I called Sara in. She was in front of the camera and was like a Roman sculpture that came straight from the future. I tied her hair back. I was impressed. In less than 15 minutes I had over 200 shots. She left and I felt punctured, a wound I get whenever I find myself sincerely absorbed by beauty of this magnitude. I went to my computer and looked at the images. The emotion was intact. As I was sitting at my computer going through my images when the art director of a campaign for a Dior mobile phone called. “Do you have any idea who you would like to shoot for this project?” he asked. I replied, “Yes, she is just in front of me.” A few days later we shot our first fashion photographs together for “My Dior”.
You say that your inspiration comes in the form of myths. Can you clarify?
Sara has become the mirror of my myths. She enables me to access myself and reflect on how I relate to the image that I have in mind of “the woman”. She makes me feel free when I’m shooting, and at the same time deeply shy. This contrast is unexplainable and it is the very foundation of our collaboration. Taking photographs of Sara is quite intense to me. I feel a particular pressure as an artist, there is no “faux-semblants”. That is why I consider Sara being more that just a model to me, Sara is just Sara, and it happens that she is also a model, and that she has become a muse.
As a former photojournalist, what is your relationship to “reality, past, and present”?
I have a very conflicting and complex relationship to the past. I kind of forget things progressively, except what I want to remember, and at a point, I might even transform that into a myth. I’m a storyteller, I guess I have invented with photography a work that belongs to me exclusively. I guess I start by telling myself a story and as time passes I continue to tell it, but by a subtle continuous transformation it kind of becomes my past. It’s a “Songe’, a form of personal “reverie”, but are we not all doing this at some extent? Taking a photograph is the beginning of the story. The difference between my work as a photojournalist and as a photographer who evolves around fashion and beauty, is that my activity today is not any more focused on the reality of others, but on my own. And this reality is one that belongs as much to my past than to my present.
Why did you leave photojournalism and turn to fashion photography?
For the 15 years that I was a photojournalist. I covered a lot of different episodes, some happier than others. I started my career in 1989. It is exceptional I guess for one to be able to precisely date the beginning of a career, but in my case history helps a lot. I can say that I started being a photographer on November 9th 1989. The day the Wall fell I was in Berlin. It was one of the most beautiful moments of our contemporary history, and a beautiful day in my life. I realized later, throughout my photojournalist career, that moments of sheer happiness would be very rare, at least during the 15 years that would follow the fall of the wall. I started photojournalism when I was 22, I spent most of my young adult life behind the viewfinder of a camera. I suppose I needed to become a “normal” person, and I felt at some point quite intensely the need to leave photojournalism, to stop leaving my life through the one of the others, to start living my own life somewhat. It took me over a year to really stop going on assignments for magazines. By the end I felt like I was dry, I felt like I was not able to take photographs anymore. When I really put a term to answering the phone and accepting assignments, I spent a few months not thinking about photography for the first time in so many years. A few months later I left to the south of France for a few weeks, in the little city I had lived when I was a kid. I took with me with a large format camera, some color negative film, and I shot landscapes on a tripod. I spent a few months developing, printing the images and I started doing commercials. At some point the department store “Printemps” hired me and I started working with models, beauty teams. I realized that talking about beauty was everything I had missed all these years I was a photojournalist, the page was turned.
You decided to publish this whole project “unretouched”. Why ?
As a fashion photographer post-production and retouching has became an inevitable step of my process. Considering that I had total freedom with this project I felt the need to try and reconnect to the essence of my work as a photographer. If I kept using digital I decided from the moment I started shooting that I would want no retouching. I wanted the images to be as analog as possible rather than cold digital representations of a virtual reality. I decided to kind of opt for instantaneous transcriptions of raw emotions, like when I was leaving with Leicas in my bags and just film.