How it all began ?
Discover Genesis, the first collection of the project Who's That Nude In The Living Room
It was with the Genesis collection that the artist Idan Wizen began his project Who’s that nude in the living room ? in 2009. His idea? Transmit through this project a reflection on the place of nudity and the human body in today’s society. This collection, in black and white tinged with red on a black background, shows us bodies of different ages, different horizons with the aim of showing the beauty and diversity of the human body.
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Hello, I am Idan Wizen, artist photographer in Paris. I have been doing this job since 2009 when I started with a project called Who’s that nude in the living room ? Today, I’m going to tell you about the genesis of this project and my first photographs.
Can you describe your project ?
Who’s that nude in the living room ? is an artistic project that has started in 2009, the idea is photographing humanity as it is, in its most natural state. Each person comes to pose individually, without casting, without post-production, without artifice, and today, I photographed more than 2500 people. Photographs that you can find online, in various exhibitions and on my website.
How it all began ?
I finished my studies, I came back to Paris, I lived just before in London where I finished my studies. And I still had some time. I wanted to talk about several things: I wanted to talk about the place of aesthetics in society. I found that at the time, it is less true today, that we were really stuck on a one body stereotype. Models edited, reworked for a magazine. I found that beauty could be in other body types: in men, in women, in older people, on curves, on lots of different things. I also wanted to talk about the place of modesty. I had the feeling that we were going towards two extremes. On one hand, ubiquitous, often unsolicited pornography on the Internet, on newsstands. And at the same time a resurgence of puritanism, of demonization of the body, as if it were wrong to show it, that there was something disturbing. And then one last point, a reflection, that I asked myself about attraction, about what we like in a being, when we take them out of any socio-cultural context, when we no longer have their name, when we no longer have your age, that you no longer have your profession. What do we like in a human being and what makes us want to buy a small, large, very large work of art at home, look at it, admire it, and tell a story.
This story, I wanted to tell it with the Who’s That Nude In The Living Room project, where I tried to photograph people, without casting, they were not chosen, regardless of their physical appearance, and to try to transform each human being into an art photograph, a photograph that others could look at, admire and appreciate. Then it started by chance, I remember sitting in a cafe with a friend, talking and setting things up. Quickly, we decided to organize a first day where I will do a maximum of shooting to start having content. So no one knew me. I had never worked professionally in the field of photography. I had just finished my studies and it was a real challenge.
How was your first session ?
The first photos, it was something quite funny. I didn’t have the means, I didn’t have a photo studio, and I didn’t even have an apartment big enough to be able to do the photosession. So the first thing was to find a place. Most of my friends were students or had student jobs, in Paris, necessarily with limited spaces. So we went to the apartment of a friend’s parents who had a bigger living room, but above all, they were not aware that we were going to do a photo shoot. We didn’t want to tell them anything. I still remember waiting in front of the building with all the equipment, the background which is 2m72 long. Waiting for them to leave the building and go away for the weekend, so that I can come home and settle down, precisely in their living room. This was the first session. The people who came were mainly friends, friends of friends, people who trusted me, people who hadn’t necessarily seen my photographs, who didn’t know what it was going to be like, who had no ideas, but who trusted me. And for that, even today, I thank them and I really thank them for the trust they have placed in me, it allowed me to get started and start this project.
What were your first difficulties?
The first difficulty was, I believe, having confidence in my photographs, telling myself that they could be good, that they could please. This is something we always doubt. I had no experience, I had no recognition, so it’s not easy to dare to show them, to post them and say look, this is something I’m selling and worth it. I always found it very difficult to know if it was good enough, qualitative enough. Then the second difficulty is to make yourself known. Telling yourself that we are going to publish them is one thing. But to make people see them, people care about them, understand them. That they are justly pleasing. It is also another difficulty that requires time, work and self-denial.
What was the reaction of those around you and the public?
I think those around me were a bit skeptical at first. They weren’t sure what I was going to do and why. But overall, they always supported me, they always believed in me, and that’s what allowed me to keep going, because without a supportive environment, it’s always difficult to enter an artistic environment and to be able to do your work, develop it, and believe in it. The audience, of course, we always have a biased view of the audience, because I don’t have people who aren’t interested. I don’t have people passing by without seeing anything. These people don’t come to talk to me, but the reaction of the public was relatively good, I was offered a first exhibition extremely quickly, then a second, and everything happened very quickly and it became my job, my main activity In just a few months.
What was your motivation to keep going on this project ?
At the beginning I liked to say, to continue the project, that I wanted to photograph 6 billion people. The challenge was perhaps a little high, so I revised it a little downwards. Today, I always say that I want to continue as long as I have the impression of bringing something with new photographs. As long as I have the impression of being creative, of making photographs that speak to others, that are new. Which are different. I want to continue, I want to bring. I want to be able to offer people who follow me, whether on the site or on social networks, for collectors, to offer them new photos that will please them. And then, it’s also a real pleasure each time to exchange, to meet new people. People who have their fears, their concerns, their questions, helping them, accompanying them in this process, it has also become something strong and intense and really fundamental in creative work.
Why did you create a second collection with a different graphic universe?
The Genesis collection includes 100 photographs that were taken on a black background, in tinted black and white. And after 100 photographs, I wanted to change. I didn’t want to change the project. I didn’t want to change the very idea, this idea precisely to talk about aesthetics, modesty, attraction. This idea spoke of the body without photo editing. But I wanted to show it differently. I wanted, graphically, to evolve, to work on my lights, on my decor, on my lighting, while keeping what was essential for me: the model. So I worked on a second collection, the Perseverance collection. Where I also photograph 100 people on this very bright red background who was going to strike and be a strong impact for the spectator.
Can you tell us about three works that particularly hint you in this collection?
Three photographs that I’m going to tell you about, it’s not easy since on the Genesis collection, there are many, many who marked me, many who touched me, many who have a particular story. Obviously, it was my beginning but let’s say that the first one I’m going to talk to you about is the photograph, H023, which we chose to put right here. This is one of the first photographs with a really old man, in any case much older than me, especially at the time which I found touching. There was this look, a look almost from a son to his father. We discussed a lot and exchanged a lot before. He was someone I really appréciate. I had the opportunity, in addition to seeing him several times after the session, and he really had an authentic look, like a wise man who came to give me advice and at the same time give himself up and pass me a sort of torch. This is a photograph that I really like. And then it’s not just me, we had the chance that she won an award a few years later. As a Photoshoot Award, it was my first award, my first photo that had an international award. So I was really touched by this photo. She marked me. And I remember as soon as I posted it, quickly many friends, to the many people who followed me at the time immediately told me that this one stood out.
Another photograph I want to tell you about is F023. This photograph spoke to me a lot because I think it had an impact on what I did later. It is a photograph where the gaze, the face was in the foreground, and the body in the background. And in fact, it’s a bit paradoxical to take this angle of view when I said that I was doing nude photography. Generally, we will take the body and then the face will be placed above the shoulders. This is often the first logic. Here I took precisely another axis, I photographed a person. I photographed, which I started to do at that time, that is to say: a portrait of a naked person, and I always tried to keep that in mind. For more than ten years now, it has been a photograph that still touches me today and a lot by its smile, its look, its attitude.
A moment that particularly touched me too, It was a photograph with F024. She was a young woman whom I did not know at all. She introduced herself to me, we discussed, we exchanged. But if you look closely at the photograph, she has a large scar running through her rib cage. And this scar, I actually discovered it at the time of the arrival on the background, where she was naked. And we hadn’t talked about it at all before it surprised me a bit, I didn’t expect it and when talking with her afterwards, she told me that this scar was so much a part of her, that she forgot to mention it. And I found it beautiful, I found it strong, I found it touching, and I thought it deserved to be seen, to be highlighted to have just forgotten it in this way.
Unlike the other collections, 40×60 cm is the largest format available on Genèse. Why ?
The Genesis collection is a collection that I wanted to make in eight copies, in two formats, a 20×30 cm format and a size 40x60cm. It’s true that today, I allow myself to make prints that are much bigger, much more imposing. But at the time, I couldn’t. For two very simple reasons, the technique, the cameras did not allow to do the same thing as today. It was in 2009. There were cameras that were able to do large formats. But in any case, I didn’t have the financial means at the time to buy a device like that. So I work with a small reflex camera that allowed me to shoot up to 40x60cm. And above, I thought it was starting to pixelate. So I stopped there, these are photos that cannot exist in a larger format, unless to lose a little in quality.
Is the material important for an art photography project?
The importance of equipment in photography? Yes and no. This is a question that is rarely asked of a painter or a sculptor, or in any case much less. It revolves around a lot, often about photography, like if it was the camera, the lighting, the type of flash, the brand of lens that would do it all. I think it’s often an extension. Above all, the material, the technique allows precisely to bring only on the style, and not on the content. The content is fundamental upstream. And I think it’s especially in art photography, which is going to be the crux of photography. So it’s important to have the equipment that will allow you to achieve what you have in mind, what you want. But I think you can find lots of creative solutions to do different things. If we don’t have the means to have such a light, such a camera or such a lens and at the end, you have to know how to do without, to adapt yourself and know how to achieve differently. If the idea is there, if the intention is good, the rest is really less important.
Is it still possible to acquire works from the Genesis collection?
Yes, it is still possible to acquire works from the Genesis collection. We have a few left on our website. You can order them online, or simply come and see me at my studio. You can also hope to find some on the secondary market, in the auction room. You just have to follow a little carefully. And, I believe that acquiring a print from the Genesis collection is something strong. It is to acquire the etiology of the project. The first idea, the rawest idea, it’s often moreover, photos that are harder in terms of light, in terms of work, contrast. It’s really acquiring the raw idea that came to me ten years ago and that some have followed since today,for quite a few years, which they appreciate. It is really acquiring the etiology of this project.