Exploring the choreographic side of photography, Boris Camaca captures the Ballet National de Marseille
Known for his weird and wonderful photographic narratives, here the Parisian photographer discusses how his practice is centred on movement, exemplified in a recent shoot: Room with a View.
- Jyni Ong
- 14 May 2020
You never know what you’re going to get with Boris Camaca. A couple of years ago, we were welcomed into the Parisian photographer’s wonderful imagination through a family of lizard-human hybrids wearing effortlessly stylish clothes. The series, originally featured in Tank magazine, is just one of many memorable scenes played out in Boris’ photography. Imbued with intrigue, doused with striking hues and a touch of the surreal, at the very core of Boris’ practice is movement.
It’s a topic exemplified in Boris’ recent commission for Ballet National de Marseille’s latest production, Room with a View. Contacted by the art director Alice Gavin for the job, Boris was instantly drawn to the idea of shooting 20 ballet dancers. “That obviously sounded relevant and exciting,” he tells It’s Nice That. Two years ago, he completed a job in Germany which allowed him to experiment with the choreographic aspect of photography in a packed crowd of extras and actors, and was interested in the challenge of capturing such mass scenes.
Since we last featured him back in 2018, a lot has changed for Boris. Now, he takes on fewer projects, focusing on a few editorials and a couple of personal projects per year. He works closely with his wife, Salomé Poloudenny, with whom he does everything on a shoot, from the styling to the posing and beautifying. “There’s more of that ‘DIY’ aspect to my work,” he says, “an intimacy that pushes me towards abstract edges of narration that already existed in my work, but lay there unexploited.” At present, he is keen to produce images that “don’t have a direct purpose” as such (selling clothes, for example). Instead, he’s more inclined to pursue concepts or themes that inherently spark an interest creatively.
With this in mind, when it came to working on Room with a View, Boris had only a few broad themes to work from. The show was in the process of being written, but he was given a few key words like “crisis, epoch, youth, death and apocalypse” to work from. He conversed with the ballet’s composer Rone – a French electronic artist – who had a couple of ideas involving a parade, and referenced the film The Wicker Man to demonstrate a dreamy atmosphere. “So very quickly,” Boris says, “a pagan ritual idea appeared. You know, in those times, you can easily picture a group of people praying to nameless gods, looking for answers and meaning lost in chaos. These people are us,” he adds, “so it made sense.”
In turn, he also wanted to find a way to utilise the dancers’ physical abilities. He had an idea sparked by the film World War Z, a vision of hordes of zombies climbing on top of one another, grasping at human flesh and forming vivid shapes as a consequence. Working closely with Salomé – who also created the costumes and styling for the ballet – together, the duo decided to take advantage of the number of models, and create “this sort of typological styling where every dancer was a character from society that you could see in the street” – in other words, an archetype.
Bringing the choreographers La Horde on board to craft this idea into a reality, the collaborators were then able to effectively communicate with the dancers, framing ideas into actual moves and physical poses. For Boris, working with dancers was an interesting alternative to working with models. “Models are a complex issue,” he says on the matter. He muses on the differing kinds of models today, the ones who are chosen for their physical beauty, and the ones who are chosen for what they represent, either culturally, politically or personality-wise.
On the other hand, the photographer says, “Dancers are another kind of model. They bring a strong charge of creativity and self expression, combined with a powerful control of their main tool, their body.” It’s a different kind of artistry showcased wholeheartedly in this shoot, and with that said, Boris finally goes on to say of the dancers’ unique talents: “They can bring shapes, they can bring narrative, and each of them has a specific personality that carries their own story, written across the face or body they inhabit.”
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.