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Backstage : tribute to the beginnings of the liberation of the body

Idan Wizen tells us about the Backstage collection, from the project Who's That Nude In The Living Room?

The project Who’s That Nude In The Living Room?, set up in 2009, gathers different collections. Inspired by the 50’s, entirely in black and white, the Backstage collection plunges us into the atmosphere of cigarettes and whiskey. Why the 50’s? Idan Wizen tells us a little more.


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Hello, I am Idan Wizen, an artist-photographer in Paris. Between 2015 and 2016 I made the Backstage collection, from the project Who’s That Nude In The Living Room?. It’s a collection in black and white, which includes 330 photographs, 330 people, who were not casted, everyday people, like you and me, who came to pose in the simplest of clothes and unwind on this meridian and the checkerboard game that you can discover in this collection. 


Why did you choose to pay tribute to this epoch? 

The Backstage collection is mainly inspired by the 50s and 60s. I wanted to pay tribute to this period for several reasons: first of all, it is a time when in the mentalities it was a real liberation. On all aspects: the mentalities, the liberation of the bodies, the sexual liberation, the liberation of mores. I find that after centuries and centuries where one imprisoned the man and the woman in their bodies, where we demonized the body, I found that it was a beautiful tribute to this time, where we were freed. 

And then, it is an atmosphere which always liked me, which always attracted me. I often have the feeling that I was born a few years too late. The 50’s and 60’s, in terms of music and cinema, were, in my opinion, the apogee of 20th-century culture


What do you think of our decade compared to this one?

The comparison between our current time and the 50s and 60s is not necessarily obvious. But indeed, I am a little afraid that today the freedoms that we obtained in these years, the absence of the judgment, the true individual freedom, we are a little bit going back on it. Under the pretext of not displeasing anyone, of not offending anyone or the communities, we censor a lot

Today, we limit ourselves a lot on freedom of expression. I’m not convinced that we shouldn’t talk about subjects anymore, on the contrary, I believe that the good thing is to talk about them, to be able to debate about them, and that’s what allows us to move forward while remaining free. 


How did you manage to create these smoke effects? 

These smoke effects were made simply by letting people smoke. Before being booed off very quickly, I precise that only let the smokers smoke, their cigarette was real, and the shot was taken at that moment. Yes, we were smoking in the studio when we did Backstage. It was a different epoch!


Why stripes and checks? 

In the Backstage collection, I used two graphic elements: first a black and white checkerboard, which was placed on the floor, and then a meridian with stripes. The first point was to have a game of perspective, a game of contrasts that seemed interesting graphically.

The second point was to evoke a duality: a duality of the world of the time, very binary, very marked. A time when there were far fewer shades of gray than today, when today’s battles are far more complex, certainly less clear-cut than at the time. 

And then, the last point was to evolve the various characters as in a chess game, as on a chessboard where one would move with the wire of the checkerboard. 


Which are your favorite photos? 

In the Backstage collection there are many photos that I like. They are photos that have made a big impression on me and that the public has liked a lot too. But I want to talk about three photos in more detail. 

There is of course the photo The Farmer, which we used a lot, put forward on the site. It’s a photo that won the first international prize, so it’s obviously gratifying, it makes me happy. I particularly like it because it shows an elderly person, totally relaxed, having totally forgotten me, having totally forgotten nudity. It’s a total letting go, a letting go, which evokes me this photo and which I particularly like. I think that when I see this photo, it makes me think of what Serge Gainsbourg could be if he were still alive. 

Another photograph that touches me, that I think about, is the photograph The Doll. This young woman, all curvy, but all lovely and harmonious, is the opposite of the stereotypes of the beauty of the time. And yet, with her little headband in her hair, which was there naturally, (it was she who brought it without knowing the theme of the collection), I find her particularly strong. By her look, by her assertiveness, by the strength of her character, she is beautiful, she is resplendent and she can only move the viewer.  

Another photo that, in my opinion, does not leave one indifferent is the photograph The Warrior. It is a very strong photograph, because it symbolizes, in my opinion, the two fights that were mend at that time: the fight of the women and the fight of the black populations mainly in the United States. You can see her fighting and not letting herself be defeated. And then, it’s one of the fights that was victorious for a large part. So I think it was a beautiful tribute and a beautiful symbolism.