top of page

Joël Alain Dervaux


Joël Alain Dervaux, "Improvisation II 191", 2019; "Improvisation II 34", 2017; "Improvisation II 149", 2019; "Improvisation II 187", 2018; "Improvisation II 155", 2018; "Sans titre 12", 2020.

Q: As a portrait maker, do you seek out and discover a person to portray, or do you let that person come to you?

A: I would say that there are dual dynamics here. In my opinion, this is all about actual encounters. I precisely started taking photographs in order to meet others. Within the adapted psychoanalytical protocol I had set up for the Improvisations project, I asked my models to let any postures and gestures they might inhabit come to them and to associate to them freely. Therefore they are the ones initiating things. As for me, I choose the gestures and postures I find to be significant. I can catch an expression, a glance or a gesture and record it. This particular relationship provides the potentiality of a genuine encounter.

Q: If you as a maker look at the portrait you made, do you see a reflection of yourself despite another person in the image?

A: The first thing I see when I watch each photograph separately is each model’s image. Yet, if these are associated as part of an exhibition, a book or a web page, an intention then emanates from that association which clearly is the artist’s testimony. I was repeatedly told that a feeling of interiority emanated from my photographs. I believe it to be true.

Q: Is a portrait always the outside of an inner world?

A: I definitely do not think so. Considering the history of photography, many portraits that have been made are completely staged and even staged with a specific intention in mind. In my case, I often search for a psychological dimension. In my main project to this day, I am transposing the psychoanalytical ‘frame’ to my photographic sessions plan. On the coach, patients are invited to associate recent or older memories in their utterances. In my photographic sessions, my models are invited to associate gestures, movements, postures or expressions through their naked bodies and I record what I consider to be ‘bodily’ signified. This is how I feel that authenticity may emerge.

Q: When you make the image, are you considerate of the fact that it will eventually be in the public eye?

A: Not at all! I press the trigger when something meaningful springs to my eyes. I often get it wrong and sometimes – seldom – I really manage to grasp something. It is complicated enough for me to disregard the opinion of the audience who will see the image on social networks or during an exhibition. On the other hand, the model has the possibility to veto all images they wish not to be published or exhibited when they sign an image reproduction right contract. Naturally, whenever I post a fully frontal nude on social networks, I censor everything explicit in those images.

Q: Is a portrait meant to be looked at for a long time?

A: In my eyes, a really successful portrait can turn into an object of fascination, forcing silence or even recollection. It leaves an everlasting mark on memory. Several portraits in the history of photography play that part in my opinion. Amongst others, I’m thinking of images by Diane Arbus, Francesca Woodman, Cindy Sherman and Robert Mapplethorpe. I watched them for a long time when I got the chance to see them in exhibitions. I also watch them for a long time when I open a book in which they are represented. I really wish I could create such images.


Recent posts

bottom of page