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There are encounters that mark you, by their intensity, by the emotional and creative charge, by life itself perhaps, an impalpable but yet present magnetism. Even if we had remained not very eloquent with her during our first meeting, the moment was rich. In writing we have admired the work of Irina Ionesco for a very long time, in all likelihood since the moment we came across it. A unique atmosphere, a dark and gloomy atmosphere, an emotional and erotic discharge. Then we came across her daughter's autobiographical film, “My Little Princess”, and inevitably, when it came out, we forged a biased and misleading image of her, for us anyway. All scandal aside, Irina Ionesco is a monument of photography, a certain and abundant influence on the medium of the photographer and in particular of the photo of nude. We were invited to her place very quickly after being introduced by one of her friends, the photographer Malika M. We reached the Paris border, at the Bois de Vincennes and took the elevator. A short, 80-year-old woman opened the door for us. His face was pale, emaciated, under chestnut hair styled in buns, two V-shaped eyebrows of the same shade dominated by eyes steeped in history. She wore Victorian jewellery, others brought from Egypt over a dark dress and a scarf. On his hands, tattoos of snakes. We enter a living room enriched with amber vapors, scarlet walls saturated with trinkets, portraits of his daughter, his grandson, his cats, his wives… Pedestal tables and tables overflowing with books and beautiful books heaps of prints, frames of letters and correspondence were arranged in the room. A single unit in the apartment, a monomania, a common point to all its walls, the ghost of his daughter, Eva, who will remain his obsession. Under dim light accentuated by the night outside, we take a closer look at the objects, including a casket resting on a Persian rug, one of his jet-black cloth books, an equally gloomy sarcophagus casket, all-silver laminated skull vanity on blanket and crows legs at the four corners, as feet. We sit down and start the interview. She explains to us with a fluid and rhythmic voice how she came to photography...
Born in Paris in 1930 to Romanian parents, both artists, Irina Ionesco had a complicated childhood. It is regularly mentioned that she was abandoned by her mother at the age of 4, but this is not the case. She joined her grandmother in Romania where she lived until 1946. In order to escape the Russian occupation, they fled the country together to take refuge in Irina's hometown. Of all the passions that exist, Irina chooses dance. Very flexible by nature, she became a contortionist and put on her own show as a snake dancer. She performed all over Europe until an accident during a performance forced her to stop. She then turns to the painting of empty places which have the particularity of being adorned with a female object in the center. His passion for photography manifests itself when his friend the painter Corneille gives him a camera. Barely a year later, she took her first photograph, Raphaëlite Hair. Irina has a revelation: to photograph women instead of the objects she painted and which will be the double of herself. She then began to photograph women as well as her daughter, her muse and the centerpiece of her work. His first exhibition ten years later (1974) marked the beginning of his fame and of many collective and individual projects. A great explorer for her series of travel photographs, a novelist in her autobiography L;oeil de la dol (2004) and a fashion photographer for various magazines and brands, Irina Ionesco is a versatile artist. Fervent fan of Cecil Beaton, August Sander, Richard Avedon, Robert Mapplethorpe and Diane Arbus, she is even passionate about fashion photography. This fascinating universe that Ionesco offers us is built like a play. She stages her models as actresses. Adorned with jewelry, gloves, symbolic accessories and fetish objects, they are women with many faces. Strongly inspired by her life and Orientalism, her great attraction to Orientalism and various autobiographical aspects are reflected in the choice of her models who embody her models embody Byzantine icons, pagan goddesses or brothel courtesans. For her: ;each session, staging is conceived as a theatrical sequence, integrates the woman into a dream universe, where she herself is mythical, multiple, invented She thus creates a hypnotic universe, both for the spectators and for the models who feel bewitched by the artist. They are mirror women. The strong resemblance between the photographer and her models makes them one and the same character. The relationship they maintain is therefore of great complicity and lasts a very long time (8 to 10 years). Always photographed at night, her models become surprisingly hypnotized by this universe. Irina writes the story of her life through her photography. By immortalizing these women, she is the one she stages: My life, my past, the circus, the stage, the theatre, my mother, the trapeze, and then this life like that, of ethics that we acquire in a discipline which is the stage, and which is not especially a bourgeois place, with other themes. The photographs she takes of her daughter, Eva, are fascinating, but sometimes for the worse. Aged four to twelve, Eva was only a young child when her mother decided to make her her muse. Every week she photographs her looking through herself: It was a mirror, like all the other women.
For Irina, Eva was a natural induction from my work. She was the favorite because obviously she was someone I loved, and a child has a lot more charisma, charm, surprise and unprecedented than anyone else who has already grown up. Once an adult, Eva sued her mother. Irina was then sentenced to a fine of ten thousand euros instead of two hundred thousand. She nevertheless retained the right to retain ownership of the negatives she had made of her daughter. Irina points out that no jurisdiction in the world had censored them and that Eva had participated, as an adult, in the distribution and commercialization of these photos by signing contracts. She admits to usI took these photos out of love for Eva. You don;t torture your daughter. I wanted to make her an idol, who will never be forgotten. In the 1970s, the works of Irina , are neither disputed nor censored, exhibited in the four corners of the globe, in Egypt, in the United States ts United, in Japan… From now on and after the lawsuits, these photos could not escape the scandal. The sexualization of the image of a child did not go unnoticed, due to the eroticism of the poses. The magic of the Ionesco universe turns into a spell. However, such is not the will of the photographer. As Pierre Bourgeade explains in a collection of erotic photographs by Irina from the "Images Obliques; collection: imprints like a seal on the one on the lens side. “I love virgins,” Irina says. The controversy cast a fatal shadow over an art that has always been and remains a monument of aestheticism: Irina makes art. After making the medium-length film “The Law of the Forest”, Eva tackles “My Little Princess” (2011), an autobiographical and fictionalized film about her childhood. Her character will be embodied by a little girl named Violetta and that of her mother by Hannah, a mother portrayed as sulphurous and played by Isabelle Huppert. Always slandered and sullied by an image of her vitiated by this film, Irina far from castigating the latter reveals to us that unlike this hysterical, infamous and exaggerated character, and although naturally eccentric, Irina was calm and that Eva was her love. mad. Irina Ionesco;s work has influenced a multitude of artists. The dark atmosphere found in his shots is the key word of his very particular style. Faces of such innocent women embodying erotic and fetish symbols give rise to an atmosphere that is as morbid as it is bewitching. We can;t help but be drawn to this invitation to the imagination, to dreams, as in his series featuring Alice in Wonderland for Vogue enfant. The charged universe of Irina bewitches us. Filled with symbols, his work makes the association of an illusory enchantment harmonious.

- Find the continuation of Irina Ionesco inNormal Magazine #1-

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