Claire Artemyz “Affleure de peau”

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“Claire Artemyz is a photographer from France and she use to work with close-ups in the body modification process. Claire brings to us “a world inside the world” and you can see a piece of her incredible work here.

As a photographer, I focused my interest on the notion of envelope, in 1998.
I first worked on urban envelope, the outskirt of industrial and city life, such as old factories and psychiatric hospitals.
(At the turn of the 19th century, huge « asylums » were built outside the cities, to keep psychiatric patients « outside in the fresh air ». Thus, they would not disturb « normal life ».)
Later, I had the feeling that I wanted to shift from a metaphoric work to photos of the human body.

I got interested in skin, our body envelope, and the question of identity.
I was struck by the wide spreading practices of modifying one’s skin, mainly by tattoo.
It was immediately completely evident to me that modifying one’s skin had to deal with the appropriation of one’s identity.
I decided to work on that subject in 2003.
I entered the first tattoo studio at that time and started what is now a pretty long story, taking me a full time job. I did not know much on the subject, at that time, having only read a few books, about history of tattooing.
I suppose I was lucky, since the guy was very open and helped me a lot find my way.

I have always been interested in the hidden part of things. When I was making photos in old abandoned buildings, my attention was drawn towards details.
So quite naturally, it occurred to me that I wanted to make photos of the process of body modification, in close-ups of what happens on the skin, during the act.
More than the result in the end, it is the act of modification, which gets my attention. It is the work of the artist, tattoo artist or modifier, which interests me.
I started with tattoo, and later explored other kinds of body modifications.

From 2003 to 2005, I met various fantastic tattoo artists. I must say they were all friendly, open and most interested in letting me do photos of their work.
The collaboration with these people was so helpful to me. I spent a lot of time in the studios and learned a lot about styles and techniques, and of course about the people who get tattooed. I also went to Tattoo Conventions.
So progressively, I got acquainted with what I soon discovered was a fascinating world, full of so interesting people, different types of people, not just one bunch of them, all alike. So many styles, so many social classes, ages, etc…
And I met so many people being enthusiastic about my photos. It helped me so much going on, knowing it was a right track to follow.

One day, in 2005, I met Lukas Zpira. It was just like stepping alive into a legend.
And today, in august 2008, the last photo session I made of his work was just a few weeks ago!
I had heard of Lukas a long time before getting personally implied in the body modification world. I do not even remember how.
Anyway, after investigating tattoo, I wanted to shift to the other practices and I think I was very lucky to get the opportunity to meet this extraordinary person and skilful and inventive modifier. His work did so much for this world and I am so happy he was confident in me and let me watch him work and make photos.

Actually, when I showed him my portfolio, he immediately said: “when do we do something together?”
And this is it.
The atmosphere is so different during the cutting of the skin with a blade and the people maybe are different from the usual clients of a tattoo studio, although, of course, most of them are also tattooed.
Anyway, during the years, I had the opportunity to make several photo sessions with Lukas.
Today, I know that going back and forth from tattoo to Lukas’ work made me evolve in my process.

I met other modifiers, but the collaboration with Lukas is regular just like I have worked on long periods with tattoo artists.
I mainly worked on a regular basis with Erik Reime and Colin Dale in Denmark, , Loïc from Abraxas in Paris and Frank from “frankstattooworld”.
These people understand what I am aiming at.

Among the other tattoo artists I worked with, I would like to mention Xed Lehead in London, Yann from“yourmeatismine”, Lionel from “outofstep”, Noon from “boucherietraditionnelle”, Lea Nahon, Karl Marc, Jack Ribeiro. And many others…
At the present time, I mostly make photos of tattoos and scars. These are the procedures which correspond best to what I am looking for.
The “go and return” from tattoo to scarification considerably enriched my work and the direction I took in making the photos.
These photos reveal phenomenon which usually go unseen, being wiped away without any thought about it.
I call this work “Affleure de peau” which means coming to the skin, from the inside of the person. And the subtitle is “Body landscapes”, because the photos are body landscapes emerging on the skin, during the act of modification. The images are abstract and speak of the inner deeply personal and mysterious dimension of body modification.

As I told you, I am interested in the inside of things, in the “world inside the world”, this is why I do close-ups of mods.
I had a training in biology, maybe this is why I look at things from the inside.
Then I studied art at the university in Paris. Then I finally turned to photography and video.

Well, to answer your question, I do not have mods, but I do not know that a photographer must be or become what he or she photographs! And I am there to watch, and make the photos, not to be an active part of the process.
Which does not mean that I think I should not have body modifications. But today, it would be hard for me to chose. So just let time do its work, and we’ll see.

I show photos in Tattoo conventions. I was present at the Xth Northern Ink Xposure in Toronto in June, in a collective show at the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art. I also exhibit in the galleries of the tattoo studios, and of course in some conventional art galleries. I had a show in Tokyo in February at Vanilla Gallery and have one in project in Paris in a few months.
Next show will be in New York at
Tattoo culture, studio and art gallery, starting August 16th till September 12th 2008.
For the moment, I have no exhibition in Brazil, but I would of course love to.

I must say that I was lucky to be so well supported along my way.
“Body landscapes” now have other “folders”, one is “Eclipse”, on the eye as a sign of identity and other directions are on their way. But I must say that “Affleure de peau” is to me the most powerful and extraordinary subject I ever worked on and that I am not through with it, yet!
I keep on finding new unexpected directions and ideas, even when I feel I have at last come to an end. It’s just like a ball hitting the ground again and again, each time getting new energy to go on.
Long life to Body Modifications and to the people who undergo this life project.

Claire Artemyz – France

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