Profile of an artist: Calypso de Sigaldi
CityOut interviews ex-model and now provactive fine art photographer Calypso de Sigaldi.
The Beauty and the Beast opens this month (16 October) in Monaco. Tell us about the exhibition.
The photographs are my way of showing what amuses me in the society in which I exist today. A world that is supposed to be glam, chic and beautiful. I live in Monaco, yet I could be representing… Monaco,Milan, London, New York, or any other centre of fashion. I shoot only about the life that I know. Also being of French culture, I have this kind of sarcastic humour that some other countries may say is cruel. But it's our cultural form of humour.
Surely some of the themes you deal with in this photo series could be regarded as 'cruel'?
No, not cruel. The worst thing in life is to be cruel. In my current work, I am just joking and being ironic. I like to tackle serious subjects, but in a non-serious way! I try through my photography to be like my heroes, Moliere and Jean de la Fontaine (who also used animals to speak about humankind).
Wild Sunset by Calypso de Sigaldi
Would you say your art is both beautiful and beastly, in that you take us as base creatures. Through a lens, you create something false, something artificial. You amplify our beastliness and make us beautiful. Perhaps more beautiful than we really are?
I agree with this statement. I don’t like the dolly-bird image of female beauty. Maybe because I've been a model in the past and heard some absurd stories of women who didn't possess this knowledge. I also don’t like the way society regards 'beauty'. We dub 'beautiful people' as dumb or brainless. Beauty for me comes out of personality, not just the physical.
But how do you show the internal beauty of a person through your photography?
Probably because I am a woman I can create a good rapport between the subject and I. Girls have those evenings when they are intimate together and share secrets. When I shoot I try and create these girly moments, when a girl feels safe and allows herself to be open.
What is the difference between fashion photography and how you work today?
My work is similar, but the only difference is that I don't have to focus any more on a product. I can concentrate more on the emotion I build a story from a theme I have in my mind. All my pictures are like a movie; there is a cast, a set, make-up, props, a style. I work with a team to build a reality that didn’t exist anywhere except in my mind.
Glory Days by Calypso de Sigaldi
You shot The Beauty and The Beast series in your living room. Surely this is unconventional?
Yes, of course it was! I'm trying to bring to Monaco a type of photography that doesn’t exist here. I don’t have the usual tools – top models; the studio; the team. I had to bring them from Paris, Milan, and elsewhere.
Why do you only focus on female beauty and the female form?
I don’t only focus on females. To me its easier to be inspired by a woman's life because I am a woman. I love also to shoot men. But I shoot men from a woman’s point of view. It's also more fun to use women. We can use make-up, clothing, hairdos.
Victor Victoria by Calypso de Sigaldi
In your work, you don’t book professional models. Instead you prefer to work with unknown girls and friends. Why?
Before in my career, I used to cast from premier model agencies and I could be extremely picky about who I would select to photograph. In Monaco there isn’t the same quality of modeling agencies, so I had to work with who was around me. I also discovered it was very beautiful to share your knowledge and confidence of being female with a girl was young, innocent and often with a complex. This is an emotional and very beautiful journey between artist and subject.
You mean you take someone very fragile and manipulate for art?
No, not at all. Many young and older women live in modern-day society with complexes. I am not trying to manipulate anyone. I am only trying to 'give back' what has been gifted to me. I worked in the fashion industry during a period where I was luckyenough to have good people around us who explained to us when we were young why our difference made us beautiful. Today we live in a society which believes in a uniform notion of 'beauty',. A society that forces women to conform. This has led to me witnessing many women who have very low self-confidence and who strive to become this social stereotype.
Why did you quit the fashion scene to focus on fine art?
I am still totally in love with fashion. But I am not in love with the way fashion promotes itself today. The fashion photographers who made me love my original work were free to express themselves decades ago. Marketing took away their liberty to express. The notion today is to create a mass-market image. Before the image, the work was intellectual and elitist. There is less space for originality now. My peers advised me the great era of fashion photography was over, and so I made the move into fine art.
Do you miss working in the fashion industry?
Today, not really. My collobroration with Reis & Maas allows me to be free as an artist. This is reminiscient of when I was happiest working in fashion. The gallery is very free and in vogue. They allow me to express myself with a total freedom.
What’s been lost since the industry’s heyday of the 1980s?
Freedom. It has became a business. In the early days it was not. People were crazy, avant-garde. Today the reaction is: "Lets think about the impact on sales."
Next project after Beauty and The Beast...?
I have a big project I'd like to do which is about seduction. It will involve both men and women. It will focus on the Dandies of the 18th century and to show the fun, the trauma, and the lightness of seduction during this age. The Dandies were very sophisticated and refined in how they seduced. Today seduction tends to be aggressive and vulgar. This is a shame.
Catch Calypso's latest exhibition at Reis & Maas Galerie Monaco (16 Oct to 19 Nov).
Beauty or beastly? The art of Calypso
Visit official website of Calypso de Sigaldi