October 6, 2015

Jean Jacques André, with love

Member since 2010


"The Jewel is in the Lotus"

To me, it is after all, inspiration, emotion, awe and appreciation for the model which has contributed to the evolution of what has become a very personal style.

The Jean Jacques André's bio is not a simple one, and so far from : it's a wonderfully written page of the history of Photography since the 50's.

Reading him carefully, as I use to do it for each contributing artist, I've learned many things. About him, of course, a kind man I admire since a long time, but also about fine nude art viewed by a great and worldwide renowned photographer.

Thank you Jean Jacques ! Working with you was a pleasure and a wonderful honour.

"No Escape"

the 1950’s

"In the mid Fifties when I began figure photography straight photographs of the nude alone were not fully satisfying to me. In my mind, regardless of composition, form and lighting, they did not have great artistic value. They lacked meaning. Their use was that of a sketchbook, notes, poses, and angles to be developed later into a body of work with more depth and creative merit. By 1956 I began to experiment with photomontages.

Dark room “magic” opened the doors to what was to become a life-long dedication.

This was an absolute revelation. A way that could enable me to express emotions and experiences stored away from my youth to the present, a way to communicate and share the joy of discovery.

"Après la fête"

Born in 1932, raised and educated in Marseille, I was seven or eight years old when my first fascination with women began. I was obliged to attend the Opera on Sunday afternoons until the age of twelve, quite an ordeal but the ballet, for me, was a true miracle. There, were beautiful creatures, women who could not exist in this world, floating angels from another dimension. I was in love with them all !

"Blue twins"

The greatest influence on my work was that of my Father. He was a painter, a symbolist. Our house was filled with his canvases : nymphs and satyrs, Templars, and troubadours, myths and legends inspired by great poets. His palette and composition were dramatic and unique. In his paintings the human figure was dwarfed in fantastic settings and Dantesque landscapes. Those impressions have stayed with me throughout my life.

Other influences were my passion for nature, which drew me to the exploration of caves. There I could discover some of the dramatic tableaux and lighting effects which left such a deep impression earlier. Old castles, dark mysterious stairways, ruins, canyons tormented landscapes, these strange mysterious, places left an indelible mark in my photography. In 1951 I immigrated to Western Canada.


By 1954 I began my career as a photographer. Where I was living, I had no access to examples of photomontages, but at least I could find some of the best work from the Masters of the period.
Among them was Peter Basch with his dynamic and action nudes, the sensitive work of John Rawlings, and a rare edition of the superb Betty Biehn who was probably the first fashion model to be photographed nude by the great names in fashion photography : Fernand Fonssagrives, Philip O. Stearns, Frederic Smith, and others. In spite of this isolation, my early works were well received in photo salons and publications abroad.


the 1960’s

The mid-Sixties were for me a time of positive influence from other painters, friends and photographers. Among the big names Sam Haskins is on top of that list. Along with the outstanding beauty of his models was his talent as a graphic artist, and his darkroom wizardry. In contrast was Lucien Clergue with the simplicity of his images. Jerry Uelsmann was one of the very few who used photomontage techniques I had adopted ten years earlier. Some of the best photographers of that period dealing with the nude were Phillip Halsman, Jean Loup Sieff, and Don Ornitz.

These artists reinforced in my mind the endless possibilities, styles, and creative opportunities available in working with this single subject, the female form.

"Angie ghost"

"Garde du corps"

It was a very creative period, intense, stimulating, and honest. It was also a historical turning point in the liberation of women. The hippie movement revolutionized the hypocritical attitudes toward nudity. Freedom and celebration of love and life were the themes of the times.

In the early 60’s I ended the profession of photographer to pursue my career as a museum designer, thus saving photography for the sheer joy of it !

"Crossing the Styx"

the 1970’s

This was a significant decade for me. A great choice of models who enjoyed the new liberated status were available at that time. It was an ideal environment for figure work.

A very intense period, painting and photography in tandem with my full time profession as a museum designer was most demanding. The pressure took its toll. Painting was my escape, and this aspect improved more than my photography which did not reflect a leap forward in creativity during that period. I could in painting express my feelings and emotions better than with photographs.


During this period, lack of time did not permit me to continue my work on the experimental montages I enjoyed producing so much. The photographs done then failed to translate the emotion I intended. This was a significant “wake-up call”. It demonstrated my lack of ability as a photographer to communicate with the straight, unmanipulated image, what I could do with the photo-montage. Certainly with the camera to depict grace or sensuality of beautiful models is easy, but it is not enough. It can so easily fall into the banal, trite or deja vu.

I wanted to go deeper, know and understand the subject, translate emotions and feelings.

Only dark room magic allowed me to do that freely and with competence. Frowned upon by “purists”, photomontage was not always accepted, and yet to me, if a picture tells a story that is what really counts. The technical process is secondary to the message. The reaction the picture provokes is what motivates me. Not to be accepted by the “Purist Club” added even more incentive to pursue my individual style.


My collected photographic work of the seventies was to be a great resource for my book on photomontages which has been in the works since the end of the sixties.

"The Beyond"

the 1980’s

The 1980's saw great changes in photography. We cannot ignore the “cheese cake” magazine trade. In most publications the pendulum swung away from what had been an exciting display of competitive representations of the nude in its beauty and sensuality. Instead, it fell into vulgarity and degradation, in many cases representing the female body as no more than a sex object devoid of beauty and soul.

I felt distressed to observe a crumbling of values and ethics into what was to branch out a decade later into an unbelievable market for open pornography.


"L'Ange Noir"

The recent law authorizing photographic representation of pubic hair, a non-issue at first, eliminated at last the overly retouched bodies—sterile, plucked, “epilated” forbidden zones. At long last here was the real woman, complete, mysterious, sensuous. Sadly, for some, this was not enough. In a short time, a race began among publishers to see who could be the most daring, to destroy that triangle of mystery, turning it into a pictorial gynecologist’s manual. The spiral downwards began—from glamour, to erotica, and into obscenity.

"Fallen Angel"

My work during this decade is highlighted by a shift to a newer form of expression and photographic presentation, the multi-media “experience”. Multi-slide projection was a direct by-product of my museum design work. Here was the unique opportunity to test, create, and discover possibilities of presentation which could be applied to that work while remaining totally personal and experimental in their content. The multi-screens and multi-projectors, ranging from three to twelve projectors, together with all the electronic hardware, sound mixers, tape decks, turn tables, etc. delivered quite an impact. This created an extensive and costly build-up of electronic “goodies” which was a far cry from the three-enlarger dark room I had graduated to over this period. It provided a leap forward in creativity and performance. Here, I could write entire shows, and prepare rough storyboards which required me to switch the format of my photography to 35 mm colour slides, a major change from the years of black and white work with the Hasselblad.

"Guardian Angel"

Colour was exciting to work with, however, the mounting process was lengthy. Glass mounts and masks had to be prepared for each image. Most of these productions were experimental, with nude montages, often to be dismantled after viewing only a few times. It was pure fun and an excellent exercise in creativity. Sound, colour, motion, all added a magic dimension to the human figure. Furthermore these exercises helped me to apply the experimental techniques of multi-media production to museums that we were designing at the time, “sans le nude” obviously !

"Last call"


the 1990’s

This was a great decade for me, I was able to devote more time to photography and work with some excellent models.

It was also the very beginning of the greatest technological revolution that introduced new means of reproducing images, digital photography, changing forever the manipulation of the silver images. Impassioned by photomontage for four decades, the use of the digital darkroom revolutionized the process. However, the many years of doing it the “hard way” has remained an invaluable experience to supplement the new technology. The transition to digital image processing was not easy at first and transferring, even a small portion of my photo library to digital became a lengthy process ambushed many a time by my lack of knowledge.

"Last Glance"

On the world stage, this is the decade where fashion’s “top models” take the limelight, and go nude for the camera. Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Laeticia Costa, Helena Christensen to name a few, and also “our own Canadians”, Estella Warren, and of different “top” fame, Pamela Anderson, originally from close to home on Vancouver Island. All barriers are broken. The best of these top models are now showing themselves in all their beauty through the lenses of many great photographers. Again, Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts, Patrick Demarchelier, Dominique Isserman, and many, many more work with the nude figure.

But, in spite of the sensationalism and shock value to show the bare body of top fashion models, few had little artistic merit. By contrast, far away from slender fashion models, in a class of its own, the unique world of Jan Saudek won well deserved notoriety for his unique approach, style, colour, humour, and the absolute simplicity of his studio backgrounds.

"Hors corps"

This is also the decade of the greatest revolution in communications, the internet, where the flood gates burst open providing an unprecedented marketplace for nude photography, and, along with it, soft core and pornography : “the good, the bad, and the ugly”.


the new Millennium

A start with a bang into the new millennium !

Great changes are taking place. Digital photography is now taking over of the silver image. In less than the first five years of 2000, film manufacturers are closing their doors. Floods of digital cameras invade the market place, and so does nude photography. Digital photography and the computer programs associated with it are an absolute revolution in image making.


The internet and the communication web it has created open the doors to many unknown photographers from every part of the globe, at least not accessible before. This of course is a great opportunity to all. First it provides exposure, communications and contact with fellow photographers sharing the same interests. The internet also opened up a multitude of “ virtual “ galleries where imagination and talent flourish. On the other hand it also, sadly, opened the doors to a flood of soft core and pornography far beyond what was already displayed in the news stands decades earlier.


Another revolution is the change in the human figure itself.

The ideal "classic" female body is, in my view, becoming an endangered species. Men and Women have chosen to alter, even mutilate their bodies to various degrees. Tattooing is a first example. While some tattoos are discreet personal signatures, others are invasive blotches impossible to cover up or even retouch. Another example is body piercing, here again from eyebrow to nose , lips , tongue, breast, navel etc….. And yet another change to the body is the shaving of pubic hairs. Gone is that triangle of mystery and sensuality. These alterations, tattoos, piercing, and shaving have become a true trademark of our present society but create a real handicap if the figure is to be represented as a timeless icon. Fortunately hair will grow back, piercing will heal, only the tattoos will remain as the mark of yet another passing fad.

"Fish Tale"


With all the technical possibilities at hand today, will the pendulum swing back to the celebration of beauty and creativity pure and simple or… will it fall deeper into an artificial world where models will become 3 D digital creations eliminating even further personality and soul! I hope not.

To me, it is after all, inspiration, emotion, awe and appreciation for the model which has contributed to the evolution of what has become a very personal style.

This is why I do photomontages. It permits me to recall past experiences, create new ones, search back into memories, and look forward into an imaginary future. And, if at times my “damsels in distress” are chained or tormented, I am here to rescue them, to take them back to that world of imagination where they belong, in their immortal youth and beauty, unspoiled by the present trends.

It would be difficult not to give full credit to the models who, for over half a century have shared with me the celebration of their being !"

Jean Jacques André in my town, Marseille, France, where he lived :

1 comment:

Anca Cernoschi said...

love love love his work :)