Exterface is Julien et Stephane – a photography duo popular for their balancing act between stunning sexuality and darkest fantasies. They do not photograph, instead they imagine first, and then work meticulously to bring these “wild” fantasies and dream-like ideas to reality. For Exterface normality is trivial. They envision the world populated with unicorns, superheroes, and goddesses. The only constant in their ever-changing work is sex. Editors of Depesha had a pleasure to have an exclusive tête-à-tête with Exterface artists, that thrive on taboos.
You photograph for magazines, but you also have a strong presence on the Internet with your Web site. Do you see a difference between the two mediums in terms of the presentation of your work?
We don’t see much difference between the Internet and the magazine medium. As our original formation was graphic design, we started photography having a very graphic vision, either for our pictures or for their presentation. We basically took the Internet, our Exterface website, as a great and valuable medium, displaying our work just as we wanted, between an exhibition and a magazine editorial but without limits, constraints or censure. We can do as many projects, pictures as we want, show anything and everything, we’re like our own clients! As artists we of course love and need to be free and liberated in what we do. When it comes to magazines, we simply have to conform ourselves to the demand, to the public, to the support. At first we thought it was sort of compromising but we manage to keep our freedom, our vision, and apply it to fashion. We’re really proud of that! It’s kind of funny, because nowadays magazines get more and more digitalized, some are even only released digitally, so it seems that press and Internet finally rejoins, we’ve come full circle now!
What are the creative rewards of photography in Europe?
Rewards really don’t get our attention and they don’t seem to be that relevant nowadays, even more in fashion photography. Anyway in France, one of the most prestigious prize was the Grand Prix National de la Photographie, which rewarded major photographers such as Brassaï, Ronis, Bourdin, Goude and even Newton. Still in France today, we have the famous Prix Henri-Cartier-Bresson rewarding photojournalism. There is also the Prix Picto for young new talents in fashion photography. The biggest European creative reward is definitely the Cultural Prize from the German Photographic Society, photographers such as Man Ray, Lagerfeld, Hockney and Tillmans have been honored over the years. In Sweden, the Hasselblad Award grants an award to a photographer recognized for major achievements: Cartier-Bresson, Penn, Avedon, Sherman, Goldin, to name a few.
Some people are questioning whether, in an era when information is disseminated so quickly, fashion shows still matter. As someone who is so closely related to fashion, do you think fashion shows are still an important and effective method of presentation?
If it’s called a show, that is for a reason. It is an artistic performance in its own kind. An event that showcases a collection, brings it into reality with the creator’s statement. As fashion shows are originally about getting public and press attention, fashion brands have to make exceptional, spectacular and phenomenal shows to stay attractive and credible. We find those shows really interesting because they contribute to the brand image and also to the collection impact. They are more and more like artistic installations, theatrical and musical productions featuring technological components, performances, video screens, etc. This isn’t an elite reserved attraction anymore, this is something that people can really relate to.
Can you envisage a different method of presentation than a fashion show? Perhaps involving new media?
Several designers have experimented different method of presentation lately: Burberry with a 3D Projection, Viktor & Rolf with their virtual fashion show and the Coco Rocha clones, Victoria Secret fashion and very musical shows, the Bernhard Willhelm living sculptures, Gareth Pugh with his fashion and psychedelic videos, we also think of the Kate Moss holograms for Alexander McQueen, his last and phenomenal living couture collection “Plato’s Atlantis” was the epitome of this intertwined media fashion shows new generation: live-streaming, special video backdrops by Nick Night, video cameras installation, first international airing of the Lady Gaga’s song “Bad Romance.” The concept of total work of art for a fashion show is something that really fascinates us, because this is not only limited to clothing but it’s like a global creative expression, combining the brand spirit and the creative director’s vision on every level. A more sensitive and less marketing driven fashion experience, a new world!
How do you think technology—tweeting, blogging, social media, etc.—has affected fashion? For better or worse?
It has affected fashion in a way that it has become more and more accessible and immediate, which is positive because we think fashion just like any artistic expression should be experienced by everyone. If you want to know what the trends are at a specific time, it’s possible! On the other hand, as anybody can see it and give his opinion on it, it’s all about “likes and dislikes” just like any consummation product. But this isn’t only specific to the fashion world, this happens also in the music industry or movies. We can’t really resent that evolution, just because we used it and still do, we are all about forums, blogs and news – maybe that contributes to make the photographers we are today.
Which European designer or designers working today do you most admire, and why?
Alexandre Vauthier, a friend and without a doubt the designer we admire and worship the most. We totally connect to his powerful, sexy and glamour vision of woman. Besides, his radical, graphical and technological work creates an amazing crossover between a “femme fatale” and a superheroine. It’s all about lust and power! We love the work of Galliano for Dior, he gives a extravagant and refined accent to the New Look silhouette. Jean-Paul Gaultier’s cultural impact is amazing, we can’t forget the cone-bra he did for Madonna, his boy-toy approach… We admire his anticonformism for genders. Tisci’s creative direction for Givenchy menswear is very exciting, dark, minimal and sensual, we particularly enjoy his use of fabrics like leather and lace. Even if he is no longer in this world, the conceptual and contemporary approach of McQueen to the fashion world, his sensitive and flamboyant art with a unique sense of mise-en-scene.
What excites you about the future, personally or in terms of fashion photography in general?
Reconciling the man and his sensuality and also keep developing his influence in comparison to women, on fashion and on photography. We think a sexual or sensual man is not necessarily a homosexual. This is what our occidental societies tell us, this is “too gay”, this is discriminative and hypocritical.
What is more important in your work: sex or fashion? Can one exist without the other?
One goes along with the other for us. In a way that we can’t conceive any picture without sensuality. First because this is something that totally inspires us and also because we consider it as language that transcends a model, that makes him or her glorious, strong and timeless.
What about male sexuality that inspires so much of your work?
We love the male, we love the male body. We’re quite obsessed by this sort of injustice going on with the male nudity, compared to the female one, which is totally accepted, used and abused. So in our process as artists, there has always been a need to expose the male as a sexual and iconic figure.
How much of your work is fantasy? Reality? Fetish?
We can qualify our work as neosurrealistic, between reality and fantasy. Our pictures and stories are like illustrations of dreams imagery or coming from the subconscious mind. We want our models to be fetishizable, raised as icons, idols or cult figures. In a way this is between sex and religion.
All images are courtesy of Exterface.