Laurent Elie Badessi
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Badessi frequently uses symbolism, mythology, and historical and cultural references in his work. The study of trust that develops between the photographer and the sitter and the exploration of the power of the photographic medium on people, are both fundamental vectors in his artistic quest. His photographs often addresses subtle and relevant questions on social, political and cultural issues, such as the relationship with nudity, religion, the environment, war or the fragility of life. Most of the time, he sketches his images, so rarely anything in them has not a specific reason to be.
Badessi the son of French photographer Elie Badessi and Catalan Maria Louisa Rovira Font was raised in France.
Badessi was first interested in painting and filmmaking, but at the age of fifteen, he chose photography as his chief form of artistic expression. While studying language and communication sciences with a focus on journalism and advertising at the Université des Lettres in Avignon, he experimented with photography. He spent hours taking photos of people and soon, started to draw attention to his work by winning prestigious photography contests such as the Guy Laroche Drakkar Prize.
Before moving to Paris, Badessi’s first noteworthy photograph was published in Paris’ Vogue Hommes magazine. The black and white portrait was exhibited as part of the Condé Nast retrospective at the Centre Photographique et d’Audiovisuel de la Ville de Paris (1986), along with photographs by Irving Penn, Bruce Weber, Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, and Annie Leibovitz that had been taken throughout the years for the company’s various prestigious titles.
Badessi became fascinated with the interaction that develops between the photographer and the sitter during a photo session, as well as the psychological impact of the photography medium on the sitter. In order to deepen his study of these two observations, he decided to move to Paris in the mid-1980s and enrolled in a class of photography at the Université de Paris VIII. For his M.A. thesis, he created a project entitled “Ethnological Fashion Photography” whose focus was to study the impact of photography on a relatively unexplored terrain, using clothing as the main communication tool with his subjects. Using the method of “La photographie négociées” (Negotiated Photography) introduced to him by photographer/teacher Michel Séméniako, Badessi, spent several months over the course of two years (1987 – 1988), in Niger, Africa, taking photographs and studying the impact of the medium on isolated tribes, that had never or very rarely been exposed to photography. He was able to finance this project thanks to the prominent “Bourse de l’aventure” prize that he won (1988), which was funded by several sponsors including Fuji Color, VSD magazine, and France Inter.
Soon, Badessi’s well-polished and unique images started to be seen frequently in photography magazines and exhibitions. It did not take long before he was hired to create images for advertising high-end fashion brands and perfumes. Thanks to these commercial assignments, Badessi has a steady income at an early age and was able to pursue his artistic quest and further explore the photography medium around the world.
To expend his career, Badessi moved to the United States in the early 1990s. Dividing his time between commercial and personal work, he began focusing on artistic nudes, which he had already experimented with during his early stages behind the camera. Since nude work requires the deepest degree of trust between the photographer and the sitter, he felt that this phase was necessary to further evaluate the psychological impact of photography on people. In addition to his primary focus, Badessi was also interested in the relationship that builds between the photographer and the model during a nude photo-session.
Badessi has always been spiritually close to nature. Before the organic products trend, he was well aware that we should respect our environment because we are part of it. He believes that whatever we do badly to nature will come back to us at some point. In between assignments and with this philosophy in mind, Badessi dedicated ten years taking nudes in dramatic landscapes, showing how close we are to nature. In 2000, the prestigious Swiss publishing company Edition Stemmle, released his first book, SKIN, which featured a foreword written by Sondra Gilman, Founder and Chairperson of the photography committee at the Whitney Museum in New York. A few solo shows presenting some of this work had previously taken place in Paris, but in the years to follow the publication of the book, more exhibitions opened in the United States and abroad. At the same time, his photographs became part of numerous important collections and he received several prestigious awards and grants.
During this transitional phase of his career, Badessi decided to focus on the fine art aspects of photography and only accepted commercial assignments that would grant him total control over the images. The campaign he produced for Charles Jourdan (2004) is the perfect example of Badessi’s desire to create and nurture an image from its concept to its final phase. The success of the Charles Jourdan project was a great challenge, because for two decades, Guy Bourdin had generated a large amount of stunning photographs for the brand that have become iconic images. To bring his own vision, Badessi played with eroticism and mythological symbolism, creating memorable visuals that are in the permanent collection of le Musée de la publicité – Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris. That same year, one of the photographs “The Abduction of Ganymede 1” made the headlines for an article in the New York Times.
Focusing on his artistic undertakings considerably boosted Badessi’s desire to get closer and closer to total artistic freedom. Being politically correct—which was a key factor during so many years of working for important brands—was no longer an issue, and he could now translate what he would observe in this world into images without restraint.
Following that philosophy, Badessi created “American Dream, This is not a dream” (2006) a series of portraits based on the propagandist campaigns elaborated in the United States to attract new recruits during the Iraq war. The project was acclaimed abroad and widely collected, but seen as too controversial in the States at the time because of the tense relationship between many military families and the Government, as a result, the series was not widely exhibited in the States. “American Dream, This is not a dream” was later selected for the prestigious Arte Laguna Prize and shown at the Venice Arsenale (2011).
Badessi—who had mainly taken photographs of people during his career—decided to work on a new series called “The unavoidable temporality of existence”, that would not feature people. For this series he set a goal to use inexpensive material to produce images that addressed some laws of physics. Specifically, he focused on laws relative to light, such as the phenomenon of the reflection of color onto a surface. Relying on the ability to freeze time—an important characteristic of the photography medium—Badessi produced weightless sculptures made of aluminum sheets, which appeared sturdy once photographed. These compositions, which recall the work of artists such as John Chamberlain or César Baldaccini, introduced the notions of chaos, balance, and duality between the fragile and the strong. This undertaking was a way for him to spend time in the studio, experimenting with the fundamental properties of the medium, like he did for hours as an adolescent.
This was also a time for him to reflect on the memories of his carefree childhood chasing butterflies in the beautiful landscapes of Provence. This time, as an adult, Badessi’s aim was to use the butterfly as a positive and symbolic element to approach a serious topic: The temporality of all things in life. The project that Badessi has been working on in relation to this theme is titled “Innocence”. This series has been in production since 2009.
Badessi’s newest project, “Confessions”, is due to be released in 2014.
Badessi has had solo exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, London, Milan, Rome, Paris, Nice, Barcelona, Monaco. Selected group exhibitions include “Trees in Focus” Anne Fontaine Foundation, Sotheby’s, Paris (2014). “Cloud 9” The Sultan Gallery in collaboration with Dean Project, Doha, Qatar (2013). “Trees in Focus” Anne Fontaine Foundation, Sotheby’s, New York (2013). "Shared Vision", The Sondra Gilman & Celso Gonzales-Falla Collection of photography, Aperture Gallery, New York (2012). “Mirrors of the magic muse” Foundation Ekaterina, Moscow (2012). “Shared Vision", The Sondra Gilman & Celso Gonzalez-Falla Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville, FL (2011). “Il Dibbio della bellezza” The Gibelli Collection, Museo Palazzo Te, Mantua, Italy (2011). “Arte Laguna Prize” Fifth edition, Arsenale, Venice, Italy (2011). “Icons” Laurent Elie Badessi & Andres Serrano, Salamatina Gallery, Manhasset, New York (2010). “American Dream” Galerie Adler, Paris. France (2009). “Whole in The Wall” Helenbeck Gallery, New York. USA (2009). “Exorcisms” The Steps Gallery, London. UK (2009). “American Dream” Bertin-Toublanc Gallery, Art Basel, Miami, FL (2008). “Laurent Elie Badessi” Galerie Helenbeck, Paris. France (2007). “Victim” Galerie Helenbeck, Group Exhibition, Paris. France (2006). “American Dream” Art +, Art Basel, Miami, FL (2006). “Color Generations” Tepper Takayama Fine Arts, Boston, MA. USA (2005). “Celebrating Diversity” UN Pavilion, Aichi. Japan (2005). “HPA” Guangzhou. China (2004). “New Acquisitions” The Danforth Museum of Art, Framingham, MA. USA (2004).“Skin” Spazio Etoile, Cesare Serono Foundation, Rome. Italy (2004). “Skin” Casa Battlo, Barcelona. Spain (2003). “Ethnik” Art House, Dubai. UAE (2003). “Go Figure, Manifestation of the Human Form in Contemporary Art” Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, Boone, NC. USA (2003). “Art Garden Fantasy” Maruani & Noirhome, Knokke-Zout, Belgium (2003). “Skin” Lacoste Castle, Pierre Cardin, Lacoste. France (2001). “NYC/DXB” (P.O.V), International Modern Gallery, Emirates Towers, Dubai. UAE (2001). “Skin” Galleria del Cortile & Academica di Costume, Rome. Italy (2000). “Skin” Stephen Cohen Gallery, Los Angeles. USA (2000). “Skin” Il Diaframma, Lattuada Studio, Milan. Italy (2000). “Skin” Cristinerose Gallery, New York. USA (2000)
Collections and awards
Badessi’s work is featured in prominent collections such as The Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzales-Falla Collection, The Buhl Collection, The Elton John Collection, The Danforth Museum of Art, Barry Diller, Dr. Pier-Luigi Gibelli Collection, The Jorge Perez Collection, Musée de la Publicité - Les Arts Décoratifs Paris, Pierre Cardin, among others.
Badessi has received several grants and awards. One of the most prestigious is a grant from the French Ministry of Culture for his exhibition “Metamorphoses” held at L’Espace V.E.G.A. Pierre Cardin in Paris (1996). Hasselblad Award, Sweden “American Dream project” (2011). 5th Annual Photography Masters Cup, International Color Awards (2011). Humanity Photo Award, Beijing, China (2004). Kodak, Grant, Paris, France (1994). Fuji Color, VSD, France-Inter “Bourse de l’aventure”, Paris, France (1988). Kodak, Grant, Paris, France (1988). Fuji Color, Grant, Paris. France (1987).
Badessi’s father’s side of the family has had an interesting history in fine arts and photography. His great grandfather, Cesare Badessi, was an Italian artist who specialized in fresco painting. To explore the "New World", he moved to Brazil where some of his relatives had emigrated from Italy. For several years, he decided to put painting on the side to take part in the family business, which spanned from banking to coffee exploitations and diamond mining. To resume his painting career, he moved back to Europe and started to practice photography in the late part of the 1800s. At the time, photography was a fairly new medium and was promising to become the alternative to painting. It was starting to open portraiture to an entirely new audience. With a prominent banker as business partner, he opened a photo studio in one of the most fashionable streets of Lisbon, Portugal where he took portraits of the well to do.
Miguel Angelo Badessi (Laurent Elie Badessi’s grandfather), son of Cesare Badessi, was born in Porto in 1904. In 1923, the entire family moved to Paris, France for political reasons. There were 10 siblings in the Badessi family and all pursued careers in painting, sculpture or photography. Miguel Angelo Badessi was 19 years old when he arrived in Paris and quickly picked up the art of photography, as he wanted the follow the footsteps of his father and his older siblings. In 1924, at the age of 20, he started to work as a photographer for one of the most important photo studios of the time, Manuel Frères. Later on, he worked in several of the other prestigious Parisian photo studios Lorelle, Saad, and Piaz that mainly focused on high fashion, celebrities and movie stars.
It was at Studio Piaz in the late 1930s that he met his future wife Raymonde Feugère a photographer who was the daughter of photographer Jules Feugère. While working at Studios Manuel Frères, Raymonde Feugère met Germaine Hirschefeld, known as Cosette Harcourt, who was taking care of the appointments for sittings of the celebrities. Cosette Harcourt created the Studio Harcourt in 1934 with the brothers Lacroix. They hired a part of the Manuel Frères team and Raymonde Badessi joined the newly opened studio, which quickly became extremely famous for celebrity portraiture.
Miguel Angelo Badessi and Raymonde Badessi were married in 1938 while working together at Studio Piaz. Shortly after, they opened their own studio in the XIV arrondissement of Paris. They had one son Elie Badessi (Laurent Elie Badessi’s father) who was born in Paris in 1942. He became also a photographer and worked in the family business. In 1957, looking to escape the fast-paced Parisian lifestyle, the Badessis acquired the renowned establishments Studios Châteauneuf and settled in the South of France.
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