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Julien Benhamou is the photographer of dance, muscle and movement. Whether he shoots outdoors or in the studio, it flies and twirls, the style is ethereal, the dynamic built like a rhythmic measure, in which one does not get bored. Because that is what it is; even if the image remains fixed, the object is versatile, volatile, mobile, animated by the cadence. The spectator is breathless, he beats the rhythm with a slight nod, because the show is alive, it comes alive before his eyes to allow him to project himself into the room, into the scene. Through his art, Julien captures the poetry of curves and taut and bandaged lines. He offers us the spectacle of aestheticism, the movement frozen, frozen in its eternity. Forget the academic image of classical ballets, the poses are freed from conventions, references to fashion archetypes are claimed: opaline artificial lights with iridescent reflections, games of material and texture, dancers posing like mannequins... Because his models are artists, dancers, great dancers, elegance itself. “Artists generally have strong personalities, they make great role models, and are a great source of inspiration! These dancers are unique because they have the balance and fluidity of movement of a fashion model, and sometimes far superior to a model! They are artists and performers, concerned with the end result, and not just with their own image drowned in the whole process. They don't just want to look good in the picture, they want the end result to be creative, whether their image is strong or unusual. And this is an even greater challenge! »


Can you tell us about your background?
For my 13th birthday, I was offered a camera and I immediately fell in love with the subject. By holding this box I immediately wanted to create. I was not gifted for painting, drawing, sculpture, but photography… it seemed very simple to make images and I was immediately interested. During my college years I developed my small photo lab. More than the object in itself, photography allowed me to approach people, to ask them to pose, which created links. I was quite shy, but in college and then in high school, thanks to the device, a very strong social bond was woven. And still today the photo allows me to go to people that I would never have been able to approach otherwise. After high school, I studied photography in Paris, in the 15th arrondissement, fairly technical studies. Upon graduation, I became an assistant. I notably assisted François Rousseau, Valérie Belin, then fashion and advertising people. Shortly after, I started doing portraits for magazines, to illustrate interviews. Basically, I was looking for myself a lot in this discipline. I went to see my first ballet at 27, and there, revelation, I said to myself that the artists on stage would make very good models with strong images. The next day, I wrote a project that I presented to the Paris Opera. I was not in the middle at all. They gave me an appointment and without matter, it went very well. They validated the project: fixed portraits, close-up seated dancers. And this project was published in the magazine of the Opera in portfolio. An agent from the Ministry of Culture came across this project and offered me to exhibit in the windows of the Palais Royal, in the form of a diptych. I had stroke upon stroke of luck! That was 8, 10 years ago! More and more, the Opera asked me to carry out production tests during the show, during the performances. It9;s quite a job, you really had to know the dance! So I pored over a lot, I did several tests, the first ones with horrible movement grips. With the Opera, and especially classical dance, you have to capture the right moment, the right movement. After a few failures, the results were very convincing and I was entrusted with several projects. I went back to the Opera like that. I made photos for the press, programs, posters. And since then it has been working fine. I forged links with the dancers, so I wanted to do personal projects, more intimate sessions. I come from portrait photography with a vision steeped in fashion and I photographed these dancers like stars, like for editorials, not like dance magazines. I used leotards, but the poses weren;t fixed, I was working on a movement while sublimating it, and thats where this singularity came from.

Are you categorized as a dance photographer?

I first considered myself as a portraitist but for 3 years I have been developing an artistic project. I move away from the portrait and the representation of the person to create images where I use bodies. And Ive actually been working nude for 3 years, something I;ve never done before. I had never opened this part of photography which offers infinite possibilities.

How do you approach your models?
I have always been very sensitive to the beauty of bodies, to lines, to forms, feminine or masculine. When I photograph, I dont feel like I;m alone in control. I take a photo, and when I get a result that I like, I go see the model and we talk about it. He gives me ideas, it;s quite a collaboration! I involve my models who are artists, I dont work with models. They have a creative role in the image. At the very beginning, I ask them to perform an improvisation. I tell them its to adjust my settings, set my light, but often its because they have their own gestures and I can use them. I have a basic idea with photographic or pictorial inspirations. I show them the original idea so that we gradually detach ourselves from it and can go in another direction by exchanging together.

- Find the continuation of Julien Benhamou inNormal Magazine n°7-

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