Hello! I'm Jean-Guillaume, I do street portraits but also like to create more storytelling editorials. I'm mostly shooting medium format in analog. Film makes me slow and I focus more on the craft than machinegunning for pictures.
September 29, 2018
Thanks to my girlfriend Yang Shi, I had the chance to do a shoot with Dobs, a designer from NYC making clothes with natural dyes and recycled fabrics. My girlfriend styled and did the collage but also conducted an interview with Elenur Erdogan, the designer. The character in this editorial is Persephone, the greek goddess who inspired her collection.
When did you first discover Greek mythology? Can you tell me the first myth you have ever heard?
My introduction to Greek mythology began in my junior high school english class. My teacher assigned us to read the story of In this class I developed my infatuation with poetry which is why when I read Icarus I was captivated with metaphor of the solar system. Icarus representing Earth’s rotation, the imagery of his wax wings melting in the sun floated in my mind; I found it all entrancing- I would draw feather wings on all my notes.
Through your art I can see a lot influence from Persephone, goddess of spring and the Underworld, an often overlooked Greek deity. What was your first impression of Persephone and what aspects of her character initially appealed to you the most? How did you relate to her as an artist but also as a woman?
I connect to Persephone’s story on a personal level. I appreciated the purity of her character, the image of a nymph frolicking through the fields is something I relate to in terms of myself as a child but also long for now as an adult. As a child my innocence was stolen and I was inadvertently brought into a dark environment. I managed to find a way to thrive in this darkness. The work I create is therapeutic for me, it is how I communicate events in my own life. Despite her life in the underworld Persephone rises above to bring Spring. As an artist, I hope to create work that inspires others. I hope to demonstrate how overcoming hardship is strength and there is beauty in that journey.
In the legend of Persephone, she is kidnapped by Hades as she plays innocently in the meadow with her nymph companions. How do you depict this concept of female frailty and helplessness against greater force of nature?
I believe there is a frailty depicted in Persephone’s character that is beautiful. While it is seen as weakness I view that vulnerability as one’s greatest strength. The ability to be vulnerable allows us to experience emotion and develop a better understanding of one another. In contrast to my previous ready to wear collections Persephone is intentionally overtly feminine playing on the ideas of winter/spring between color palette and fabrication. However I do not believe our heroine is helpless. The floral laces within the collection are nude and black and appliqued on to billowy ivory blouses and tulle skirts intertwining the land of death with the land of the living. Persephone, a victim of fate, chooses to embrace her situation and becomes the force of nature.
To follow up on the topic of her kidnapping, I see that many of your pictures are very blurry and eerie. Do you find beauty in imminent disappearance? Do you think it’s something peaceful or chaotic? Are the spatial and temporal components of equal importance?
I chose Persephone because I feel a number of individuals can relate to her story. For that reason I decided my Persephone should remain ambiguous. In reality anyone can be Persephone. The nature of imminent disappearance is interesting. Nothing in this life is permanent. It is a paradox between charathic release and nostalgia I often battle in my own mind. As humans we are constantly evolving and we grow a step closer to who we are through each transformation. Sometimes it can be peaceful, other times chaotic, it depends on how we choose to exist in the situations we are given. Spatial and temporal components are of equal importance because they influence one another. The components we see physically begin tell a story, just as the components that are obscured challenge our minds to complete it.
In the legend, Persephone is also associated to the seasons and nature as she ensured the healthy growth of vegetation and a bountiful harvest. I know that you use a lot of natural dyes, dead flowers and animal parts as important elements of your design. Can you tell me more about this process? How is it received by your audience?
The natural dyeing process began as a result of an individual describing my work as “garbage.” At that point forward i was determined to create beauty from garbage and alter an industry’s perception. I began to dye garments with my own food waste, I collected flowers intended for disposal for decor and slowly became obsessed with the idea of waste. Through my process I have developed a very distinct aesthetic not just in clothing but in the environments I choose to present. My dedication to working authentically has allowed me to acquire an audience that appreciates and understands that work. Sure, it’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea but I am not creating for everyone.
Cursed by Hades, Persephone is forced to stay one third of a year in the realm of the dead. As a result of her confinement, winter encompasses the earth. What’s your relationship with decaying nature? And how does it transpire into your art?
My nostalgia addiction is quite apparent in the aesthetic of my work. For years I have been a collector of antiques and oddities, I often turn to the past to inform my work in the present.I wanted to give all the beautiful items I collected a second life in my work. What started as collecting onion peels and tea bags for dye lead to flowers, skulls, and anything I felt could be repurposed. Over the past few years of creating I have found new connection to myself through the Earth. I have developed a bond with decaying nature. I want to save it from the perception that it has fulfilled its purpose and allow it to live freely as it is in the world I created.
In your biography, it says that you are a storyteller, what do you want people to remember from the myth of Persephone?
I want people to remember that despite what turns life may take through every experience growth is a source of power. Sometimes what others view as your weakness is in fact your greatest strength.