At the end of shooting the series “Girls In Paradise” (directed together with my friend Julien Janin), I remember that one of the 15 selected models wished to ask me a few questions that seemed very important to her. In fact, she had informed me of that request upon her arrival at the shooting sight and I slightly feared her interrogations.
Her first question was rather disturbing and kind of saddened me. I strongly reacted, answering that I was a ‘normal’ man and that my male fantasies didn’t go beyond the ‘simple’ desire to explore female sensuality.
This young woman, who ironically became one of my best friends, was asking me if I masturbated myself in front of my photos, and if I pinned them on the wall in my bedroom. Felt as a real uppercut, this question considerably put me down. Then I went on to explain that I wasn’t a teenager anymore and that my artistic quest for femininity was far from this notion of sexual pleasure that many would see as unhealthy or even perverse.
Obviously, it’s not the first time that I perceive this expression of doubt or unease on the face of the women that I come in contact with. In this part of the world where I live, nudity is taboo and is usually associated with pornography (see: bill on pornography voted by the People’s Consultative Assembly -30 October 2008). In fact, in many countries, the concepts of ‘vulgarity’ and ‘beauty’ are mixed due to of a lack of comprehension and artistic education or simply because it is intellectually easier.
But this was the first time a model dared to question my ‘normality’ right up front! After all, what is ‘normality’? Am I a ‘normal’ man? Are my relations with women, with my models and with my wife ‘normal’?
In the dictionary, ‘normality’ means ‘to conform to the norm’ or ‘what is considered as a normal state’. The same glossary defines the norm as a ‘rule’, a ‘principle’ or even ‘criteria’ on which are found all judgements.
If my work on sensuality is transgressing the rules, the principles or the criteria on which are based the judgement of the majority, then I am not a normal person.
And what should we say about Terry Richardson, a quite famous American fashion photographer known for his sexual harassment of models? Despite being blamed for abuse he apparently continues to be fully booked by the greatest magazines and the most famous publicity agencies. Is he a normal photographer?
How about all these other men, not photographers at all, about whom we talk in the newspapers and local magazines, directing criminal aggressions or ‘chauvinistic’ comments to women? Are they normal men? If only they had had the same chance as I did to study the female through an artistic medium, would they have behaved the same? No. I have the firm conviction that they wouldn’t because my work helps me understand and love women.
There is however a number of “fake” photographers who take advantage of the models’ weakness or naivety. I had the occasion to discuss with some models who had been victim of such practice in Singapore and Bali. Some photographers for example offer a high fee for a photo shoot plus a moment of ‘affection’; or more wicked ones threaten to put the photos on ‘adult’ websites to force the models to sleep with them; and others attempt inappropriate touching during the photo session. Such supposedly photographers act against the ‘normality’ of the profession and endangered the rest of our community because the relations between models and photographers are based on trust and respect.
On the other hand, some models don’t lack imagination, to the extent that a number of photographers started publishing a chart of behaviour on their websites. From the model who takes the photographer for a photo booth, to the one who insults him and finally the apprentice-diva who demands to choose herself the photos to be published. Who talks about ‘normality’?
Modestly, I feel that I am still a ‘normal’ man, not because I like women but because I respect them. Some of the models I have interviewed recently confirm that opinion:
« Dominic is very professional and he’s an excellent photographer. Thanks to him I felt comfortable with myself and it was pleasant to work with him. I also realised that his work was not based on pornography but borrowed on sensuality”. Simone (Indonesia)
« Dominic helped me sense a new dimension in my life. From a common girl unaware of my inner charm, I became more lucid about my sensuality and gained self-confidence.” Henny ( Indonesia)
« Dominic is funny and very professional. His passion for photography has taken him to a high level of competence. His ideas are unique and his work is wonderful. He’s probably one of the best photographers I’ve worked with.” Ayesha (Philippines)
«With Dominic, you’re not a naked woman in front of his camera, you’re an artwork.” Cristina (Rumania)
«Dominic is one of my favourite photographers because of his attitude and his respect for his models.” Helena (Indonesia)
«Dominic is very nice and considerate towards his models.” Rose (Indonesia)
«Working with Dominic is something magic because he can catch the profound and ultimate beauty of his models. He listens to them, gives them encouragement and guides them to explore their intimate femininity.” Mutiara (Indonesia)
These flattering comments only show an angelic image but the other side of the coin probably shows women who appreciate neither my work nor my personality. And of course, I’ve not always been nice to all of them, sometimes frustrated when facing narcissistic models or others who pose just for money, showing no respect or little interest for the artistic matter.
Does respecting women mean that one is normal? I have never raped or forced anyone to have sex with me but I must admit that I’ve slept with some of my models, pushed by mutual feelings of attraction. Those ‘deviances’ happened mainly during my first years of sensuality exploration and throughout test-shoots, which remain soft memories.
Finally, the goal of this article is not to justify myself as a ‘normal’ man – because after all, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” – but an effort to explain how I work and communicate with my muses. I have nothing to hide because my exploration on femininity and sensuality is not a secret and I’m ready to receive criticism. However I cannot accept insults as unfounded and hurtful they might be.
This article contributes to a reflexion on the communication to adopt in this quest for Ultimate Beauty, aiming to a better appreciation. We can smile at it but the misfortune of the world has nothing to do with the artistic torments of a few privileged people (of whom I am one) and my friend Ardista makes me laugh with her caricatures of some of my photos.
Women remain one of the main artistic, intellectual and even mystical themes. Close to such essential considerations, I tend to measure my quest for Absolute Beauty to this need for a benevolent goddess, to whom I unconsciously dedicate this initiatory journey. Could scrutinizing perfect aestheticism be an attempt to quench one’s thirst of the Divine, in order to reassure oneself for the life beyond? A life where serenity and peace would be a guarantee to all those seeking the Truth?
Is Art a path towards this serenity and this peace? I believe it is. Beauty calms me down because beauty is fluid, sensual and feminine. Women are Ultimate Beauty so they are divine. Women definitely lift you up to this Serenity and inner Peace.
I’m a normal being because I believe in Women, so I believe in Sacred Femininity.