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Frédéric Fontenoy is above all a family story. An exiled Jewish grandfather on one side and a collaborator grandfather on the other, who disappeared during the fall of Berlin in the spring of 1945. Taboo and a shadowy part of the family, at 40, Frédéric Fontenoy began to research on this enigmatic grandfather before realizing the importance of the character, sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison, in 1947. Inspired both by this cursed grandfather, by the readings of Georges Bataille and the imagery of Hans Bellmer, Fontenoy photographs bodies that are deliberately sexual and claimed as such. Frédéric Fontenoy was born in Paris in 1963 where he built his studio in his apartment, a place in the image of the character.


His works, controversial, are disturbing and striking. His work depicts interior scenes in a darkroom, a setting filled with antique objects, reminiscent of the brothels of the 1930s. In his photos appears his "character", a perverse double, Fontenoy himself, transfigured into a kind of timeless individual moving in an identical setting although variable, depending on the scene, in his dark room, a room in a theater or in a mental labyrinth. As an executioner, Fontenoy tortures his models. He ties them up, he whips them, he ties them up, he corrects them... Woman is an object, sometimes furniture. He plays with fetish clichés, eroticism and the world of BDSM, from ropes, high heels, riding crops and canes to octopus and swastika. But even as victims, the models are in ecstasy. Behind these libidinous images, the rendering is purely aesthetic, the style extremely refined, the black and white associated with the contrasts of the different games of shadow and elegant light, the harmonious characters, the spectator becomes a voyeur and takes part in this debauchery.


Your universe is apparently very linked to your family context?
The universe was built little by little until the day when I saw that it was a universe, built by the accumulation of my work. After there was a real choice, the concern was to situate the fiction, because it is a fiction at the base, between the years 1930 and 1945. I started this work after a few years of research on my grandfather , this unsaid family, and I first wanted to make a film about this character. I had lots of objects belonging to him: furniture, sculptures. I had all of these on hand without using them. It's not just the collaborative side! My grandfather was a writer. So I took pictures with quotes, with typewriters, then I took a picture about opium, he was an opium addict. I really like the photo with four legs in the shape of a Nazi cross in a mirror. In the newspaper I hold in my hands, "L'oeuvre", you can see my grandfather on the front page. He was then giving a political conference. His ex-wife, my grandmother, had a love affair with Hans Bellmer. She also gave me drawings, photos and rare books as well as portraits of her. From there came the concept of Bellmer's swastika. This is the photo most linked to my family history! The rest of the time, I leave lying around a book where he wrote a few pages. He was the first journalist, then at Havas, to go to Moscow after the revolution. He spoke Russian fluently, he translated Tolstoy in 1924. Then he was expelled by the Russians because he became an anti-Communist. Il  then left for China and returned to France in the years 1935 to begin his political journey rather oriented towards the far right. He was an adventurer with multiple lives and the family didn't want to talk about it because it was complicated. She reduced him to the collaborator side and in 1945 he disappeared, without any death certificate. It's the corpse in the closet! He would have disappeared two days after Hitler. My father received an official letter a few years later. My grandfather was the communication minister of Chiang Kai-shek, a revolutionary before Mao, and when the latter took power he went to Taiwan. At the same time he directed the Havas press agency for France and he was told that he could not be Chiang Kai-shek's minister and publish information for France at the same time! ". He was barely thirty years old!

So he was a somewhat virulent collaborator?
He set up several political parties during the collaboration. Otto Abetz, German ambassador to France, was close to him and his newspapers were financed by the Germans. Disappeared at 46, it's as if he had had several lives. And when I discovered his story, I said to myself that I had to go all out and that's why I take risks too. I didn't have that energy until I found out what he had done. So there is a lot of the family universe in my photos! What brought you to do nude? I have always worked on the body. Since the age of 18, I wanted to be a photographer. I left a photography school in Switzerland and I immediately worked on the body, on my body when I was young and slender (Laughs). But it wasn't nude, it was really work on the body: the body in space with a photographic axis. So I know that very well. Before, I was more abstract, more visual, and at some point I came to narration, with these stories about my family.

- Find the continuation of Frédéric Fontenoy dansNormal Magazine n°6 -

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