​jean-francois carly's photographs show nudity and sex don’t have to be linked

We slip between the sheets with Jean-Francois Carly to pillow talk about his new exhibition of people in their own beds and their birthday suits.

by Felicity Kinsella
|
19 February 2015, 10:05am

Surrender After: 50 Black and White Portraits is not as transparent a topic as you might garner from the title. In his latest exhibition, Belgian-born, London-based photographer Jean-Francois Carly asks his muses to strip off in the comfort of their own homes. Whether it's friends, family or someone he met in an East London bar, Carly's subjects one by one let go of their insecurities and bare all for the camera. At a time when revenge porn is rife, private iCloud contents are leaked left, right and center and your TV is probably listening to you, it's nice to see vulnerability made tough. 25 girls and 25 boys beautifully photographed in black and white over the last three years make up Carly's latest showcase, opening at Forge & Co Gallery tonight.

Where did the idea for this project stem from?
The idea started four years ago in London. I wanted to explore my passion for portraiture and do something different to the fashion shoots I usually do. Since then I have met a lot of very inspirational people during my nights out, mainly in East London. I was fascinated by their positive energy and wanted to pay them homage by photographing them.

How did you choose who to shoot?
It starts with a "rencontre" (an encounter) usually quite impromptu and not planned on a night out. It can be quite random but then after meeting them again few more times, I want to photograph them without the mask. These 50 portraits, 25 guys and 25 girls, are a small selection. I would have liked to do more but going to 50 different bedrooms is quite a journey!

How do you avoid the sexual connotations that always seem to be attached to nudes?
The people I chose are friends and people I love and admire for their personalities and aura but I don't see them sexually. I think it shows in the images that they are not sexualized. There is a respect of individuality, of the fragile moment shared. The picture is done on film, not digital and it is hand printed. I shoot quite quickly. I start with a polaroid to assess the frame and exposure. Then, straight on film, the person chooses the poses. I try not to direct too much. I try to capture the essence of their personality by being quite quick before they become too self-conscious. I also noticed there is a "shy moment" when people undress in front of me. I usually turn around or go in another room. But after, they are fine and there is no shyness, most people are relaxed. The poses are relaxed, not frontal or provocative. Surrender After reflects that moment when they trust and abandon themselves to the camera.

Why black and white?
Because it's best for that type of intimate portrait; you are not distracted by the room or other features, you try to capture the soul, the person, her/his face. I also shoot on film (medium format) with Ilford HP5 for its sexy grain! Natural light to keep intimacy/eyes to camera/no retouching.

Surrender After is at Forge & Co Gallery from 19th February to 4th March.

jfcarly.com

Credits


Text Felicity Kinsella
Photography Jean-Francois Carly

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