Around here, the snow is melting in the mountains, she says in one of her messages. I try hard to imagine the landscape while here, in Rio de Janeiro, the heat barely allows you to stay for long inside the house without turning on the air conditioner. Gaëna lives in a house in the mountains, in Quebec. Gentle and patient, she answered my questions and insane comments, written in a tolerable English; better than my French, which I won't risk more than five sentences in. I almost forgot to tell you that, on my mother's side, I have a small portion of Portuguese blood in me. We promised to exchange language lessons and moved on to her plays.
I came across her work last year, while sailing aimlessly through the Internet. Since then, I became a faithful reader of her charming blog, where Gaëna posts, almost daily, an edited photograph, accompanied by a poem, hers or someone elses, and, almost always, finished off with a song by Charles Trenet or Aznavour.
Filled with a peculiar female passion, Gaëna's pictures have, as a basis, Nature, alive or still life, natural essences. Each picture she takes is violently intercepted by an imaginary world that reveals new sides of it, bright and dark. She manages this through her editings, a crucial part of every image, where the photo is manufactured and becomes a picture. It's in this way that they start revealing more than what they showed before, at least in a perceptible way. In an interaction between words, stories and pictures, Gaëna tries to reveal the senses that exist beyong what appears in things or in bodies.
What comes first? writing or photography? Could you tell us a bit about how these two things are organized in your mind and what is the relationship between your pictures and your poetry?
Ever since I can remember, I have looked at the world as though I was looking out of a window, a frame. A moving painting. A work of art can come from various types of inspiration; from its most light and bright side, to it's most obscure side and the passing of the days. All of my memories are images. I've always looked for, understood and imagined stories, perfumes and shades through pictures. When I started writing, I drew images with words... I usually say that, even in my words, I make images and that's how I feel things.
Gaëna, you seem to always create a world where everything seems imaginary, but that imagination always exists within real things, like walls, umbrellas, cars. You usually talk a lot about your city, but sometimes it seems a surreal city, a place beyond the place. Am I being too thick? (laughs) How does that happen? What are your eyes looking for?
I'm very instinctive and I like everything in my own way. This is a country where I venture myself without sometimes knowing where, in concrete terms, but sure that there is something that I don't know and that something can happen through the exploration, through transformation. That is some sort of internal magic (laughter).
Well, there are many ways of travelling through pictures. People. Human landscapes. Look, taking a little time to explore people, to learn to know humanity and listen to it with your eyes. They are still... Impressions. A bit like in "Wings of Desire" by Wim Wenders, you know? Listening to the little voices of people. The only one that comes from the inside through the capturing of the present moment, "a plot of time". To look, touch, smell, maybe, the loneliness that's inside every person. You know, loneliness. We can't do anything about it. Constant, momentary, temporary, permanent... And its expressions are in the the countless movements of the body. Ah!... So many things...
I say that also because of your editings, which seem to speak of hidden visions, Sometimes I think I'm remembering dreams I've had. It's a strong feeling of waking up in the morning and starting to remember what I've just dreamed about. Could you tell me about those insanities...
My pictures are my shelter. I take pleasure in knowing how my shelter can also become a shelter for other people. The other person who travels, maybe, in the wings of my desires, of my dreams and those I see in another person's body, lost in the crowd. You asked me before about what comes first, words or images. Well, that depends. When I'm illustrating other people's art: writings, music, the inspiration will come from that. When I'm creating my own personal universe, everything is together, as a whole. Usually, La Chambre Noire is the image that opens the road... That's why photography is important: it speaks without using words.
The body, your body in particular, has an important role in your photographs. Do you take photos of yourself by yourself, or does someone help you? What does your body want to say through those colours, dresses, textures, nudes. Your hands, the chairs...
Well... the body, the "country through which I travel"... Mine, as it so happens. For numerous reasons: the simple pleasure of "playing", of "doing what I want", and also because it is easier. Yes, I am the one who takes the pictures of myself. The body's language? Softness, dance, floating... Using my body is using a "non-commercial" silhouette; a female body living, moving, expressing itself, playing... Being alive. In the near future, I hope to use other people. Taking a model as if I were taking a coutry. Another side of the world.
Gaëna Des Bois' work can be found in her blog La chambre noire, with souvenir prints in the Imagekind gallery. At some point, in September, she will open her own gallery.