Eva Selesin Interview & The Escape (series)
Featured in UNCERTAIN Magazine Issue #3
We noticed that your Mes Jours Intimes started around a year ago. How did it started? Can you guide us a bit through its evolution?
I started this account at the end of December 2016. I had another Instagram account where I was sharing pictures from my everyday life and where I was mainly interested in light or decors. At the same time, I was observing other people doing this different kind of photography, focusing on the human body, and so I just wanted to do the same. The only difference was that I didn’t want to share it with some of my old friends, family members or colleagues who were following me on my main account, so I had this idea to share pictures in an anonymous way, without showing my face. I remember I wanted to do very sweet pictures, with a sexy touch, but not really nudes. I didn’t ask myself too many questions and I just did it.
Soon enough the account became something different than what I was expecting – as I was playing with compositions, this account became the place for me to share things I always wanted to express but I couldn’t do in the real life because of my position and my way of living. With time, I became more and more interested in film photography, nude photography and fashion photography and naturally my account evolved around these influences. I have been contacted by photographers who wanted to work with me and I accepted. It was the perfect opportunity for me to explore what I can be, to discover another self, to develop artistic collaborations and to observe different ways of working. I was very lucky to meet professional photographers at the beginning and that also probably had an impact on my own work.
Self-portraiture with analog cameras can be really difficult: I don’t see what I shoot when I shoot – except if I hold the camera in front of a mirror. Sometimes I have wonderful surprises and other times the result is very different from what I expect. Because I have my limits and also because of my anonymity, I began to shoot models myself, that also gave me the possibility to understand what other girls and women want to express, and I’m grateful for that.
How does it feel to have this secret persona? Is the thought of having your friends not knowing about your account exciting?
To be honest, it’s not that easy. I’m lucky because some of my friends and even family members know that I’m doing nude photography and respect my artistic work. But a lot of people don’t because I just don’t want to show them my breast or to share with them my vision of sexuality. I have a professional life, besides photography, and I know these things don’t always work out. Sexuality and nudity are still taboo and women are still judged if they show too much. I also want to protect some of my relatives, I don’t want to impact their lives with that part of mine. And finally, I know that some people just don’t want to know. For example, I shared my Instagram account by email with a very old friend and she never reacted. She is still my friend, but we don’t talk about it. I think she just doesn’t want to. I wasn’t dissapointed or angry, I was just surprised. If it’s exciting… yes, maybe sometimes, but not so much with my friends; on the contrary, it’s more fun with people I don’t really know, like colleagues or people from my neighborhood.
When working with models – do you plan ahead your shooting or is it spontaneous? Is it completely your vision or the output is determined by the model’s personality?
I always choose a starting point, linked to decor, clothes and/or atmosphere, but this starting point also depends on the model, her vibe, her body, what she represents to me. I think it’s important to have a starting point and to discuss about it with the model because she has to understand what exactly is my aim in photographing her. I don’t want bad surprises, misunderstandings or disappointment, neither for me or for her, and that’s why I always want to make sure we share the same mood and I ask before the shooting about her limits.
As a model, is there a difference between working with a male or a female photographer? Which one do you prefer?
I only had a few experiences with female photographers but these are very good memories. I couldn’t say something like “the vision of a woman is sweeter” because it would be a cliché, some male photographers also have very sweet and respectful approaches on nude photography. I think everything is possible with both women and men. Probably the attraction between people can have an impact on the shooting, but I think it’s more complex than a question related to the photographer’s gender. I am lucky because I always feel comfortable with male photographers (well, except once) but I guess for some women it can be very reassuring to work with another woman, at least that’s what some of my models told me and I understand it.
Do you get to know your models in order to create a connection first?
We talk a little bit about the collaboration and I do my best to make her feel confortable and to understand what kind of pictures she would like for us to shoot, but I don’t try to know everything about her. Privacy is privacy. I don’t like it when photographers ask me too many questions, so I keep my distance – it’s my way of respecting models. Of course that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a connexion with a model or a photographer, I became friends with some of the photographers I worked with and I’m really happy with that.
Both as a model and photographer, what do you think is necessary for establishing trust and obtaining a relaxed environment in which you can properly create?
This is complex. You should be very clear about the limits of your model, to talk in a friendly way but without being intrusive, to share ideas, to verbalize clearly what you are doing as a photographer, to let the model choose which photographs will be made public or not (social networks, publications, exhibitions).
What’s the type of online behavior that annoys you? (comments, messages, stalking, asking for contact).
I’m always happy when people share their enthusiasm regarding my work but I don’t like it when it gets too much, like messages every day and night, especially from the same person. This is something I can’t manage and I’m not interested in virtual relationships of any kind – I definitely prefer real life. On Instagram, people who send me naked pictures of them are blocked and so are those who ask too many questions, ask for nudes, are rude or can’t take no for an answer. This kind of behavior can be exhausting, but for me, that’s not the worst. The worse are definitely the photographers who use their symbolic power (a lot of followers, a very good network) to obtain nudes from you, to be rude, to try to have sexual or inappropriate discussions. I hate that and I think you have to be careful about these issues when you begin as model because you don’t have a network to protect you.
What advice would you give to a woman who would like to shoot intimate self-portraiture but doesn’t have the courage to do so or finds it difficult to begin?
Well, when you start, the difficult part is to accept that these photos will be shared public. That’s why a lot of women don’t show their face, but that can still be a good option if you want to share your intimate pictures. You can reveal yourself in a progressive way. Besides the question of anonymity, I am always surprised to see how people can be interested in seeing pictures with a regular girl like me. So if women hesitate because they fear they are not “enough”, like they won’t fit some expectations, the truth is that a lot of people, men and women, are tired of perfect girls and are waiting to see something different. It goes the same with photography in general.
Do you feel empowered by your art?
Yes, that’s really amazing. It develops my creativity, it gives me confidence and I’m able to meet incredible people.
Eva Selesin is a film photographer based in Brussels