Martial Lenoir, photographer, was born in 1971 and is currently living and working in Paris. He has just recently left his studio in Pantin, located in a vast industrial wasteland, a place branded to the character. He has discovered photography at the age of thirty, «by accident», and has acquired his first camera, a Mamiya RB 67 which he will never let go of. His first three series, «The Lodge Rats» for which he has won an award at the European festival of Nude Photography in Arles in 2009), «The Garçonnes» and «Reflections of Disorder” are in-depth and carefully designed minimalists mise en scène where the boudoir aesthetic has been intensified. The model is naked, wearing corsets, boas, pearls and garters, flaunting a delicate and active pose. In Martial’s work, models never smile, beauty is cold, gauzy, icy, so as to link solitude with introspection, in the manner of his light: constantly natural.
As a precious painting, the moment seems captured but without any dramatic tension. From now on, Martial undertakes many tests for agencies and is growing into fashion. But no excessive ornaments or saturated and opulent staging lies in there. Giving way to the raw: the woman is naturally sublimed, simple. She is magnified by her single beauty au naturel. As we go along his creations, the props disappear to give free rein to primitive nudity. His last series “Concrete” is its privileged witness, by the cognitive impact of the title as well as by the crude result. Martial is a prolific and passionate photographer, a Polaroid lover, of its treatments, its numerous techniques and declinations. He has experimented with the snapshot box for several consecutive years to bring out the most thorough result.
Can you tell us more about your career path ?
I arrived in Paris in 1995 to become a comedian. Before my 30s I was acting but mostly facilitating and event planning. At that time, and to be totally honest, I was absolutely not interested in photography. I posed naked for a few photographers only for pleasure. One day I found my father’s camera in a trunk, an old Fuji 4, and I said to myself that I would do a black and white film. After a couple of good feedbacks, I bought myself an automatic camera and took pictures of an outdoor concert. And right at that time « Le Nouvel Observateur » and « La Croix » called me to put my pictures in their own newspapers. It was quite surprising. I wasn’t technically good, a friend of mine who was a professional photographer whose work was exhibited clearly told me «your photos are lame, the lights aren’t polished» and he advised me to enroll in a class, which I did. After three months, a friend at school advised me to go into fashion and dragged me in model agencies. I started some tests. I loved fashion, the mise en scène, I loved the idea of a painting, of the process of painting and my first pictures were very close to that. Fashion allows that: a model, a space, a location, I create my own light and staging. But in the fashion world, no one cares about painting, or no painting… culture, or no culture, and I didn’t feel comfortable at all. Later, I became an assistant for culinary art and still life photographers at the Daguerre studio. In those subjects photographers are really talented when it comes to light. They set up five or six lights and reflectors and the result is impressive. It is where I really learnt about what light was about. Fashion had too many constraints. I sometimes like constraints in space or light or technical complexity but not the constraint of people. Fashion helped me for the nude, my nude art is very close to fashion and I got to the nude through fashion industry.
What is your main characteristic ?
Hard-working, extremely hard-working. When I like something, I can work like crazy. For the Lodge Rats, I have been working for three years doing three or four sessions per week. When I was at the photography school, I was printing during the day, and at night I had set up a lab and I went on printing until four or five in the morning. So, hardworking... when I like it. ( laughs).
The characteristic you are less proud of ?
Pride. Very inappropriate pride.
The one you hate in people ?
Lack of humility. (Laughs). And the lack of humor, I can’t stand people who are too serious and who lack a sense of humor.