10 minutes with Chloé Meunier

Interviews with Photographers October 30, 2013 7:31 am

When did you first become interested in photography?

In fact I took my fist portrait when I was 18 years old.  My father is a local nurse and we live in a rural area with a generation of people who is what I would call half-marginalized – because they live their own way, without excluding themselves of the society. But they don’t follow it fully. So he introduced me to Yvon who was a hunter living in his house with his hunting dogs and a roe deer. Above the unexpected situation, I met a world – a world of someone with various levels of being in the world. He didn’t have much money but the material aspect was secondary. When I first showed this picture I had one person who laughed at Yvon – I was feeling so bad that I decided to stop taking pictures. 

 

Chloé Meunier

Chloé Meunier

 

A year or two later I have been convinced to carry on and I did it. However I gave myself a condition, which is still on : showing only portraits that I toke when I have reached the goal to share as much as possible a vision of people that could be as less as possible empathic or that doesn’t objective them in one of their aspect (social class or economic for example).

 

Chloé Meunier

Chloé Meunier

Chloé Meunier

Chloé Meunier

Chloé Meunier

Chloé Meunier

Chloé Meunier

Chloé Meunier

 

Who were the first photographers that you loved?

It was mainly Mary Ellen Mark. Then I had an interest of the most well-known American photographers from various times, such as Robert Franck or Nan Goldin and Richard Avedon for their portraits. But the book that pushed me to question my approach on portrait was “Conversations avec Cézanne“, not to relate painting and photography, but because of a feeling of freedom – what he said opened me to something that was not just theory on portrait but more to a questioning, a possibility of thinking instead of imitating. And the right to be wrong.

 

Chloé Meunier

Chloé Meunier

Chloé Meunier

Chloé Meunier

Chloé Meunier

Chloé Meunier

Chloé Meunier

Chloé Meunier

 

Can you tell me about your series, Marilyn?

The first and most important meeting that I had in photography is the one with a 70 years old transformist called Marilyn. This person made me think about the relation I could build up with a sitter, a long term one. I have known Marilyn for about five years now and I first met him in a club in Brussels, where he was on stage for a transformist show. He was talking to me quite happily so eventually I ended up asking him if we could meet up another day for some more intimate shoots and he agreed. He also mentioned that he was hoping I won’t disappear like most of people who took some pictures of him. That never happened, as I like to keep him update, I had him on the phone last monday to tell him about a festival in US where “Marilyn” (the short movie I did about him) has been selected to be screened, and he was quite emotional about that. Sometimes he calls me or sometime it’s me who contacts him, I can’t say we are friends, but we are more sitter and photographer in a long term relationship.

Marilyn fascinated me from the first time I walked pass his flat door. There is a lot going on with him which is quite interesting. He doesn’t belong to the gay community even though it has never been my concern. With Marilyn as a sitter I am sharing how a woman is socially designed, the representation of sex consumerism or getting old, rather than talking about gay community. He may look like gay but this idea would come from a social reflex, a sticker on him because he dresses up as a woman.

I see Marilyn with stigmas of our society, not a just a victim or a marginal with a called “abnormal” behavior (because we are told not to behave like that). I see him as someone being as much as he can, in a society that expects him as a man. He plays the game while he is doing something called controversial – dressing up as a woman. However, designing a character as Marilyn who is what the society is expecting from a woman, is not controversial at all. He highlights the prison of social genders representations despite him, without criticizing them. So he is trying to do what he can in a society of expectations and because of this he can be seen as an abnormal.

I am not trying to show with my work the reasons of why he dresses up as a woman, I just highlight the impact of social’s expectations and judgments on us and how someone can deal with it. He doesn’t dress up as a woman to criticize the society, he is just trying to deal with himself and his environment as much as he can. Marilyn is more like a mirror, I would say a mirror of our binary society where the body is the main concern, where the fact that “to have” is more important than “to be”, where women’s social representations are mainly sexual objects (also through celebrities) which doesn’t allow them to get old.

This is what I would like to share through those pictures of Marilyn.

 

Chloe Meunier

Chloe Meunier

Chloe Meunier

Chloe Meunier

Chloe Meunier

Chloe Meunier

Chloe Meunier

Chloe Meunier

 

Do you have any plans for your next project?

I have few actually. I would like to carry on my video projects like the one of Marilyn, which is still on private view (because of submission to festivals) and has been awarded in US. I am actually editing a new video project about a farmer with a great editor Tal Amiran who also works with my producer Françoise Gouliardon (Beaucoup Films). This is my new approach on portraiture. I am trying to explore how to build a portrait of someone through video. Video might help to even less objectify people. Later I would like also to make some project around post-colonialism that is one of my concerns.

 

Chloé is based in Belgium and France. See more work, here.

Leave a reply

required

required

optional