In photographs of interiors, busts, photos and family portraits, paintings, drawings and sculptures even books or magazine covers, the human figure always attract the eye first and more than anything else. We are unconsciously but irresistibly drawn by their presence. In our home, the story they tell is our own story, we relate to that story in a way that speaks to us and, to others, speaks of us. What we put on our walls is what we look up to not only literally. Not necessarily only who we are but who we want to be, our avatar in a better world. And that starts at a very early age. Not so long ago I have photographed the bedroom of a teenage fan of Justin Bieber. Every wall was covered from top to bottom with magazine cut outs, there was even a life size cardboard of the boy, the entire room was a love letter from a little girl to the young singer. And it sent a message “ If you don’t love Justin Bieber, you don’t love me.” Although in a more controlled manner, grownups don’t do much differently. As true ancestors are often displayed on the manor’s hall or dining room of many stately homes, borrowed ancestors will just as well adorn the walls of new money owners. Baseball fans close their eyes to the stare of Babe Ruth, Keith Richards inspired many a haircut, yoga adepts meditate to the face of Buddha and often a postcard of Gandhi isn’t too far away. Ralph Lauren who initiated the shop that looks like a home hanged photos of models looking like the great Gatsby and you if you buy that shirt. Impersonation is an essential key to one’s hidden aspiration. You may work in the City and still have a giant photo of the hells angels and if it’s a genuine print by Irving Penn, even the better but that will indicate something else. It not only speaks of your early age dreams or artistic taste but although incidental, the wealth that allows it.
Desks and bedsides give other clues, more intimate ones. When I ever have to tell the story of a home, and it’s not just a box with arguably pretty things, without the portrait of its owners, sometimes I don’t even meet them, I rely on the silent presence of these beings to speak to me first, give me some insight so that I can convey it more honestly.
When I photographed Yves Saint Laurent’s bedroom, one year after he had died, much of the complexity of his personality was revealed by what was standing in front and on the side of his bed. A painting of a nude man, a portrait of Christian Dior and of Maria Callas, snapshots of his mother and of his sister, of his close friends Loulou de la Falaise and Betty Catroux and his dogs all called Moujik. In the very heart of his most private sanctuary there was only room for love, hopes and despair and later on death itself kissed him on this bed, so whoever was not on that list was just not on that list.
This is teaching another lesson. The importance of archives. Another chapter I presume.
These words were inspired by my friend Lisa who honored me by commissioning me for her first book and in the course of many a hike throughout Los Angeles and New York, pitched me the idea that having photographed interiors for quiet a number of years now, I may share what it has tought me.
I thought I might as well start with what interiors are all about and that is YOU.