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3 photographers, 3 places, 3 venues


“At the FEP’s European congress in Lyon, Martin and Jørgen took the initiative to bring the three of us together, as a means of brainstorming about our ways of photographing, and to redefine ourselves and inspire each other. Who are we? For many years, Jørgen has been running a portrait studio in Copenhagen, focusing on feel-good sessions for private clients. Martin's background lies in extensive commercial productions for Slovak companies, using large teams, state-of-the-art lighting material, make-up, styling and post production. I am formed by editorial reportages for Belgian magazines: working in a limited timeframe and with limited means, getting the essence of the people, the places and events I was sent to.


All three of us had been doing some nude studies, influenced by our 'professional' work: Jørgen focused on the happy erotic side of his daily life models; Martin on the power and beauty his images could bring to the world, and myself on the emotional impact of an image as told by the person herself. Our common ground was clear: we loved working with people. And somehow all three of us knew that our approaches were rich and recognized by our public and peers, but could be widened to reach to a new, higher level.


We decided to photograph the same women, on the same day, in the same place. On our terms, with our own sensitivities. We embraced the inspiration we received from each and every woman, through their stories, from their emotions, by each facet of character they wanted to reveal to us. We were curious to see what we would record. To see differences and similarities, in form, in content, in emotional impact. Would we portray the same personality facets of the models? Would we trigger different aspects? How differently would we translate them into a two-dimensional image? We chose a no-make-up approach to get us as near to our subjects as possible. To - also visually - let go all masks, all protection. To let as much vulnerability and strength appear as our models would allow.


We chose to do three rounds of sessions: one at Jørgen's place, one at Martin's, one at mine. Each of us would invite women we knew. The sessions went smoothly, although we were faced with several limitations. We had to limit the duration of each of our sessions, even when we might have liked to continue our encounters for a longer time. Some models didn't want to be photographed by all of us. Some of us couldn't photograph certain models because of daily urgencies, especially for the 'home' photographers. At other times we just had a few minutes because one of us went over his time, and we wanted to respect the model's wish to take some time between what were often intense sessions.


Our own emotional challenges popped up. We learned the advantage of having a supportive partner. We supported each other, became friends. The women were happy after our sessions. They expressed their surprise and gratitude in often touching words. Some had opened their hearts in a way they had never expected from themselves. All of them went through an intensive personal process, as did the photographers. Isn't there an expression after all saying that all photography is auto-biographical?


We decided to share the results. We selected the images, found a presentation form. Martin organized an exhibition in Bratislava. The Slovak press reaction was massive, as well as the public’s. Two thirds of the visitors were women. We saw tears, heard compliments spoken in soft words, we saw backs straightening up, smiles, confused eyes, we heard intimate stories, we were asked by complete strangers to continue sharing this project.


Our reaction, initially, was surprise. As we had just been human, vulnerable ourselves, and open for the people we had been photographing. We had been communicating as we were hoping that people would communicate with us. We let the project rest a little. Let our respective selves rest a bit. We came back together to see what the images, the collection, would need to travel the world. The practical aspects you know. We went through our selections again, tried to find a subtle description, an accessible and honourable presentation. I believe we are ready now. I hope you will appreciate it. I hope even more that it will stimulate you to open your eyes and ears to go beyond the first appearance of people you meet in real life.”


Pascal Baetens