Friday, December 7, 2012

Sylvie Blum: Natural Beauty

By Mark Edward Harris, Photography By Sylvie Blum Published in Photographer Profiles
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.
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.

DPP: So you learned from the ground up. When did you start defining your eye and your style?

Blum: For all the years with Guenter, I always had my vision of doing things, but there wasn't much time for me to shoot. I was so involved with his work—managing, modeling, creating exhibitions and doing book projects—as well as still doing other modeling jobs. I started to work on my own photography in the late 1990s.

DPP: That was after Guenter passed?

Blum: After he died, it was a really rough time. I thought I had to get some distance from photography. I put an announcement in the newspaper to sell all the camera equipment. People came into our studio that was in an old factory in Frankfurt, but I couldn't sell anything. I said to all these people, "Please, go." They thought I was totally weird. That evening, I took the self-portrait that's on my wall now as a reminder of that time. I decided I was going to be a photographer. The spirit of Guenter Blum would live through my work.

DPP: Yet the nudes you create, even from the beginning, have a very different look.

Blum: I've always had a different vision. This was a time when I was still being booked for modeling jobs. I didn't feel the same in front of the camera anymore. Something changed. I bought an old Polaroid SX-70 camera and photographed myself, and these blurry, crazy self-portraits became my first book and first exhibition.

DPP: It sounds like they reflected the turmoil you were going through at that time.

Blum: Absolutely. It was a very painful time. Guenter and I were a close team, and when he died everything turned around. It took me a while to become a normal person again. As I did, my very clean style developed. Taking a picture, for me, is preserving a moment. Nobody can ever take it from you. It's there forever. If you do a good picture, it will last. It will stand the test of time. I wanted to grow and do something new, so I sold our studio in the city and moved to the countryside and bought another factory and turned it into a studio. It's very romantic and very cool, but if you want to become successful, if you want to get all those good people to work with—models, hair, makeup—it's difficult.

DPP: What brought you to the U.S.?

Blum: I first moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2005 with my second husband because of his job. In 2007, I rented a studio in downtown L.A. and flew back and forth. I like the light in Los Angeles, as well as the attitude here and the models. There's an influx of so many models with so many different looks. I'm like a spider—in the web, I catch these beautiful models to work with.
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