The project Mini-Miss by award-winning photographer Isabelle Chapuis arose out of a commission by Paulette Magazine and UGG to produce an image themed around the topics of mothers and daughters.
Mini-Miss beauty pageants remain to be a heated topic, especially in France, where the debate about the over-sexualization of children led to a ban of beauty pageants for children under the age of 13. In her project “ Mini Miss” Chapuis explores the range of emotions experienced by these young contestants while forced into premature adulthood as mini projections of their mothers. For more about her works visit her website www.isabellechapuis.com and check out the interview below.
Whom do you look up to?
Keeping to grow up… until enlightenment!
Are there any personalities that have contributed to your successful career path?
Traveling has been and still is the best school to get to know myself. In term of visual influences Guy Bourdin and Tim Walker really inspired me. Otherwise my friend Michael Môhr, photographer as well, really helped. I didn’t study photography so when I started to work as a photographer I looked for a class, that I didn’t find. But during my research I met this photographer who became a friend. We had a few talks and the way he lectured my pictures really helped me to step forward.
How would you describe yourself in one sentence?
Gentle but exigent.
Do you have a favourite quote that describes what you truly believe in?
We can create our life : thought is creative.
How do you define creativity?
For me creativity is an inner movement, the more it flows the best it feels.
If you had one advice for someone seeking to live a creative life, what would you tell him?
To never give up, because it can be a real challenge. Being talented and enduring is not enough…
How did your photographic career start?
I always knew I would do something creative, since I am a kid it was obvious. I always drew, painted, and created settings with what ever I had. I studied graphic design/art direction what I thought I wanted to work in. But after my studies I realised that I didn’t like the way of life it gives me. So I went abroad for 2 years and when I came back I settled as a photographer. The common point with my studies is art direction. Photography is just a way to capture what I have in mind, it is not an end by itself.
What was your favourite project and why?
I don’t think I have one favourite, although the first one that comes to my mind is my project “Barbapapa”. The photoshoot has been primed by “La Bourse du Talent” Award and exhibited at the French National librairy François Mitterand.
It was really playful to work with real cotton candy and the relationship with the model was a real present! Most of my models are non profesional, I do street casting, as this little boy who I met in a school. He was only 9 year old, never took pictures before, and the way he behaved completely blew my mind. In this 9 years old body, I could feel a strong maturity. I love to picture people who are not used to it for the candor they putray: it offers a large range of pure emotions. The model research is always a long process for me.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced during your career as a photographer?
Human relationship! As a photographer I am gathering a team for each project. More or less 10 people each time. I pick certain people for our creative and human connection. But it is not always easy to find the right balance in between giving a free expression space and directing them to one goal which is the image. Sometimes people tend to forget the main goal and want to serve their own interest. When everyone participates in a picture just doing what they like or want you can be sure that the model will look like a clown. Because everyone will want to be the most seen in the picture. If you do not put a visual hierarchy on the lecture of a photography you won’t get a strong visual. It is a bit like on a poster, if all the infos are written with a red bold font you won’t be catching the message correctly. You have to choose how you would like people to read your image.
What do you know now that you wish you knew at 21?
Nothing special, everything comes on time. So what I knew was what I needed to know.
Also life made me grow up quickly so I was far from being mindless at 21.
Is there anything for which you would be ready to give up your passion of photography?
As long as I can still express my creativity I am happy. Photography for me is just a way to picture the settings I create. So maybe in the future I would express myself with other mediums than photography. But creativity will always be the central point. Above photography the most important is to remain creative in the way of making choices in our life.
All images © Isabelle Chapuis