Julien Benhamou is the photographer of dance, muscle and movement. Whether he photographies outside or in studio, it flies and swings, the style is aerial, the dynamic is built as a rhythmic fashion in which one would not get bored. That is what it is: even if the image stays fixed, the object is versatile, volatile, mobile, mobile, led by the rhythm. The viewer is on tenterhooks, he beats time with a slight nod, and as the show is lively, it also liven up in front of his eyes to allow him to project himself in the room, on the stage. Through his art, Julien captures the poetry of curves and tensed banded lines. He offers us the show of aestheticism, of petrified movement, frozen in his eternity. Forget about the academic image of classical ballets, the poses are freed from conventions, and references to the archetypes of fashion are claimed upon: artificial opaline lights with iridescent sheen, effects on matter or texture, dancers posing like models ... Because his models are artists, dancers, great dancers, elegance itself.
“ Artists generally have strong personalities, they make great models and they are sources of inspiration ! Those dancers are unique because they have the balance and the fluidity of a fashion model’s move and sometimes are much more superior than a model ! They are artists and interprets preoccupied by the final result and not only and not only by their own image drowned in all the process. They don't just want to be beautiful in the image, they want the final result to be creative, they want their image to be strong or unusual. And this is even a greater challenge !”
Can you tell us about your career?
For my thirteenth birthday, I got a camera and I immediately became passionate about the subject. Holding the case, I immediately wanted to create. I was not good at painting, drawing, sculpting, but photography... it seemed very simple to make images and I was instantaneously interested. During my college years I developed my little photo lab. More than the object itself, photography allowed me to go to people and ask them to pose, and this forged a bond. I was rather shy, in middle and high school, thanks to the device, a very strong social bond was formed. Even today, photography allows me me to go to people that I could never have approached otherwise. After high school, I studied photography in Paris, in the 15th, quite technical studies. At the end, I became an assistant. I assisted François Rousseau, Valérie Belin, and other people in fashion and advertising. Shortly after, I started doing portraits for magazines, to illustrate interviews. I was basically trying to find myself in that subject. At 27, I went to see my first ballet, and I had a revelation there, I told myself that the artists on stage would make very good models with strong images. The next day, I wrote a project that I presented at the Paris Opera. I was not in this field at all. They gave me an appointment and without any material, it went very well. They approved the project: fixed portraits, dancers sitting in close-up. And this project has been broadcasted in the portfolio of the Opera magazine. An agent of the Ministry of Culture came across the project and offered to expose it on the window display of the Royal Palace, in the form of diptych. I had strokes of luck one after the other! It was 8, 10 years ago! More and more, the Opera asked me to perform production tests during the show, during performances. It's quite a job, you really had to know about dance! So I had to study a lot, I took a few tests, the first ones with some horrible move shots especially classical dancing, 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: that's how I started at the Opera. I took pictures for the press, the programs, the posters. And since then, it has been working pretty well. I made connections: I forged links with dances, so I wanted to build personal projects, more intimate sessions. I come from portrait photography with a vision imbued with fashion and I have been taking pictures of these dancers as if they were celebrities. I used leotards, but the poses were not fixed, I worked on a movement while sublimating it, and from there came this singularity.
Are you classified as a dance photographer?
I first considered myself as a portraitist but I have developing my artistic project for the past 3 years now. I am moving away from the portrait and the person's representation to create images where I am using the bodies. And I have been working on the nude for 3 years, which is something I had never done before. I had never opened this part of photography that offers endless possibilities.
What is your approach with your models?
I have always been very sensitive to the beauty of bodies, lines, forms, feminine or masculine. When I photograph, I do not feel like I'm alone. I take a picture, and when I reach a result that I like, I go to see the model and we talk about it. He gives me ideas, it's a whole collaboration ! I involve my models who are artists, I do not work with models. They have a creative role in the image. At the very beginning, I ask them to do an improvisation.I tell them it is because I need some adjusting, and to settle down the light, but it is often because they have their own moves that I can use it. I have a basic idea with photographical or pictorial inspirations. I show them the original idea and we can change direction by exchanging our ideas.