Bodies as they are.

A portrait’s logic.

In the years 1983, 1984 and 1985, when I took pictures of 16-to-18-year-old young women to compose the Unes and Autres series and the young men portraited in Autres portraits de jeunes gens, the focus reference was August Sander as my first great master. After so many years, I am still interested in the works of August Sander of course and I, along with many others, think that some of his main works can be classified in « New Objectivity ».
Then, when I inverted the anagram of the title (Unes became Nues) I started to make naked portraits inside the home of the models that I met through ads in newspapers or through a third party.
The unique criterium was the order in which they applied to be a model.
As an echo to those first series of portraits, little by little felt the other great tutelary figure, Diane Arbus, become essential, my second great master in a way.

The title of those series are : (from 1986 to now) Nues ; Nues, autres ; Autres portraits nus ; Du Portrait (most of the pictures where taken in the USA) ; Madame L. (naked portraits of a mature lady) ; Avec ou sans écran ; and more recently in Japan : Japanese album ; Sumo portraits, Bubu Album, Diamonds are forever… a lot of these series are still in progress now.

I soon became aware that this strict and difficult approach of the portrait and the naked portrait led me to work in the narrow free field let by August Sander and Diane Arbus exactly between their respective works. So, of course, I payed a sharp attention to the question of facing up and also the question of the distance to the model while taking pictures. The distance to the model makes both a separation and a bond between me and the model, what I could call the « thickness of the distance », the distance that exists between the model’s body and mine.

I do not want to be labelled as a social reporter neither as somebody who makes some psychologic capitalization of an equivocal situation between private life and professionnal life as we can see in a lot of up-to-date autofictions.

My autobiography will later deal with the link between my private life and my artistic practice.

So, the series continue to form a corpus, a body of work, entering sometimes each other into dialogue. The title of this short text refers to an insert title of Jean-Marie Schaeffer’s article published in artpress in Mai 1994.


Jean Rault. Spring 2008.

Translation Catherine Beaucamp