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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sylvie Blum: Natural Beauty

In her work, you can see the mark of Sylvie Blum’s fine-art influences, like Mapplethorpe, Lindbergh and Gorman. She works with her camera, lights and models like great sculptors work with clay.

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Sylvie Blum's images are graphic, but not in any lascivious sense. She explores the form of the human body, often pushing her models to act as gymnasts in front of the camera until she achieves a balance between form, negative space and subtle texture. She works with both color and black-and-white, as well as both men and women, but her new book, Naked Beauty, distills her portfolio to its essence with a collection centered on the monochromatic beauty of the female form. "No dress can come close to what you have naturally," she says.

As a teenager in Germany, Sylvie Blum had a photograph hanging on her bedroom wall created by famed Hollywood-based celebrity and fine-art photographer Greg Gorman. Decades later, she not only would join the ranks of world-renowned photographers, but she would be enjoying a glass of GKG Cellars' wine created by Gorman while they sat poolside at her studio in the shadow of the Hollywood sign. At this get-together, Gorman revealed that he had created the cascading waterfall that plunges into Sylvie's pool for a shoot he did with Brooke Shields the year before. Talk about a small world.

The bumpy road to successful fine-art photographer began for Blum on the other side of the camera. She modeled for photographic luminaries, including Helmut Newton, Andreas Bitesnich, Jan Saudek and Guenter Blum.

DPP: Everyone takes their own route to being a successful photographer. How did you get started?

Sylvie Blum: Since I was four years old, I knew I was going to be an artist. I was always into art, beautiful things. I later studied fashion design; then when I was 19, working as a model, I met photographer Guenter Blum in Frankfurt at a casting. He came from painting and sculpture, and his photography was nudes. He was very inspired by Fritz Lang's Metropolis. He built huge crazy sets and made nude photographs inside them. I was so fascinated by him and what he did. He was 20 years older than me. He was really cool and very artsy. He was the artist I imagined that an artist would be.

DPP: Did you get the modeling job?

Blum: Yes, of course! I not only did the job, I became his muse, his lover and eventually his wife. He passed away from cancer in 1997.
Since I was four years old, I knew I was going to be an artist. I was always into art, beautiful things.
DPP: He had a huge effect on your life on so many levels.

Blum: I was absolutely stunned by the way he saw things, how he approached things and how he could make something extremely beautiful out of nothing. He was the all-around artist. He built the sets, sewed the costumes and made the backgrounds. He taught me how to develop film and print in the darkroom. I went to school for that, as well. In Germany, we have a bit of a different education system for learning a trade. You go to school for three years, but you work practically, as well. I worked in a photo studio that had a shop that sold cameras and supplies, and I took pictures of events, people and weddings. I also had to go one day a week to school and take tests like you do for a driver's license.


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