behind the female gaze

Photographer Camille Vivier is searching for sensuality in raw and humble objects, as well as the female body.

Women definitely look at other women differently. Navigating through French fashion photographer Camille Vivier’s website proves that the female gaze is unequalled when it comes to capturing women and the invisible things defining their femininity. Born in Paris in 1977, Camille sublimes sensuality like no one else. It is away from fashion spotlights and frenzy, through her personal work, that she has always felt free to explore the diversity of the female body. Through her lens, Camille sees women like Greek statutes and proves that beauty is no matter of weight nor height. Beauty can be found in subtle moves, poses, attitudes or curves. We travelled through her archives and talked about the female gaze together. 

"Through my work, I always seek to bring together very different universes that compliment one another: like flesh and concrete"

Hi Camille! You often shoot naked women while capturing remarkable architectural elements. What is the common thread of your work?

Actually, I love to create analogies between animated and unanimated bodies. I’m interested in architecture as well as anthropomorphic objects that convey a certain idea of the uncanny, a psychoanalytic concept of what we perceive as both strange and familiar. Above all, I love the static sensuality of bizarre and antic Greek statues. For me, the austerity of a conventional pose – often delimited by an object, a column or a chair – is much more erotic than any lascivious pose. Through my work, I always seek to bring together very different universes that compliment one another: like flesh and concrete. Staging is a way for me to keep distance from my models and not put too much affect in my work.

You are also a wonderful fashion photographer. Do you feel it’s important to represent all kind of bodies through art and photography?

Yes, I think so. I can’t bear to think that beauty can be labelled. Though my personal work, I want to show strong and confident women. Women who challenge beauty standards and feel free to be who they want to be.

"I like the idea that everything has a place in the universe, a function and a charge"

Do you think being a female photographer has an impact on your aesthetic?

Of course. There is always an implicit contract between the women I shoot and me. There is no threat neither balance of power: it’s an equal basis. As a female photographer, my aim is to give a strong and empowering feeling through the picture, far from the traditional, patriarchal and sexualizing masculine gaze that we are so used to, and bored of. I want to establish a sense of humility between me and the models I shoot.

I imagine your definition of sensuality is also free from beauty standards as well…

I find sensuality in contrasts and contraries: between raw and ostentation, refinement and modesty. Frugality, for example, has a very sensual connotation to me – I usually find sensuality in raw and humble objects, in spiky or even rough forms. According to me, sensuality is all about contrasts and imperfections.

I feel like your personal and commissioned work builds bridges between movements, times and artistic forms. I’m thinking about the Greek statues but also about classical paintings too. 

Yes, I draw my inspiration from many different artistic visual forms may it be classical painting or Art Deco. Literature inspires me as well. A lot, actually. I freely appropriate source material from JP Manchette, a French crime novelist to the erotic novels of André Pieyre de Mandiargues’. I don’t want to establish a scale of values among different art forms and movements. I like the idea that everything has a place in the universe, a function and a charge. Everything, at some point, has a resonance. That’s why I love to quote artists and refer to them in my work. And also because I believe in the importance of taking back images that have unconsciously shaped our collective memory.

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