this photographer makes a good case for wearing spf this summer
Pierre-Louis Ferrer's haunting ultraviolet photography reveals just how much the sun affects your skin.
Photography Pierre-Louis Ferrer
The internet has a growing obsession with the byzantine path to good skin. Masques, serums, face creams, exfoliants. These routines can be seen as attempts to regain control over our bodies; to control the way our stressors reveal themselves. Yes, we’ve accepted living in a world crowded with fake news, blue screens, and smog — but we’ll be damned if we let it show.
But no matter how much we spend, our skin will always tell the story of our lives. Pierre-Louis Ferrer, a photographer based in France, has made unearthing our permanent marks a focus of his work. His ultraviolet photography reveals the sun damage and early skin aging forever etched on us. The sepia-hued portraits are strange and enchanting. Ferrer’s subjects look at the camera with no shame or self-awareness, even while dotted with numerous brown sun marks. That’s because, due to the particular process of ultraviolet photography, Ferrer’s subjects can only see their sun marks after their photo has been taken and processed in Photoshop. If only we were this unabashed about the other highs and lows of our skin (wrinkles, under-eye circles, acne, etc). Products of, well, living.
“It’s like my subjects are seeing themselves in a mirror for the first time, after a year of not seeing themselves,” Ferrer tells i-D. “They are fascinated by the photos.”
Here, Ferrer talks to i-D about the technicalities of shooting UV photography and capturing his friends’ and family’s sun damage.
When did you first start experimenting with ultraviolet photography?
I started experimenting with infrared photography seven years ago. Then, two years ago, I discovered playing with UV photography. It’s a very interesting form of photography. It allows me to create portraits about the lives of other people — ur skin is a witness of our experiences. UV photography can reveal experiences like sun exposure, smoking cigarettes, pollution. How all of these things impact our body.
How did you find your subjects and ask them to take part in the series?
A lot of them are just friends. UV photography is interesting because — whatever kind of human subject is photographed — you can not think of the photo before you see them under the UV light. Because you are photographing invisible parts of the body. What I find fascinating with this technique is how I can reveal new ways for the subjects to see themselves.
What’s also really interesting is how similar we all look under this light. You can’t see race in the same way we see it in everyday life. What are your thoughts on that?
UV photography does not create false information. It reveals new information. So people are pleased because they know that what they see is real. Pictures are really important today, because of social media, and seeing yourself without makeup, without anything to hide behind, for me is important to realize our body is not just what you see but also what is deeper inside.
Are there any other great photographers you look up to?
The first one is Richard Mosse, for his infrared photography during the Congo War. He also took photos of refugee camps. The other one is Don McCullin, an English photographer. I really admire his devotion to his work and his ability to witness conflicts and make our minds aware of what happens.
What are some of your favorite photographers from this series?
My portrait of my mother Estelle. The diptych’s focus is on the nose because she was really ashamed of her nose during our youth. So for this project I really wanted to do diptychs where one part was a portrait and one part was a detail of the body. So when I saw my mom, I really wanted to focus on her nose.