Montreal-based artists Emilie Mercier and Frédérique Marseille decided to pay tribute to the beauty of the female body with a unique and artistic project dubbed 1001 Fesses.
Emilie Mercier, 29 years old, (the photographer) and Frederique Marseille, 28 years old, (the artistic director and manager of the project) have always shared the same sensibility for art, light, people and friendship. Their unique personalities enable them to work together as a team. Emilie brings with her sensibility and understanding of the shy silhouettes which present themselves to her, while Frederique provokes confidence and self-esteem otherwise hidden in the women that the two encounter. And together they “…try to bring back a sense of rituality in female communication.”
Through this project, the duo captures women’s bums in order to address a widespread insecurity over one’s butt. According to Emilie and Frederique, they are “…trying to create a visual poem by taking pictures of all kind of women…and bums!” And perhaps inspire women to love who they are and the beauty in their female form.
InqPOP! was able to interview Frederique and Emilie as they share more about their project.
InqPOP!: What inspired you to start this project? Why the female butt?
Frederique & Emilie: We have been best friends since we were 12 years old and growing up together was quite an adventure. We have seen our bodies change from childhood to adulthood and this intimacy in our friendship made us think: why not collect pictures of all kinds of bums? Maybe we would discover how crazy it is to hate our own bodies and simply see how unique each and every woman is. And, this way, start loving ourselves a little bit better.
The butt seems to be the body part women hate the most, and we still don’t understand why since it’s so soft, sensual and beautiful. Also, photographing butts helps the concept of anonymous bodies since they are always pictured from the back, which brings poetic aesthetic and mystery. One last thing, butts are funny! It’s not as aggressive as a full frontal picture or other female parts that are obviously sexual, the goal was to desexualize the female body and just show it’s authenticity outside of a sexual aspect.
InqPOP!: Can you describe your creative process for your photographs?
Frederique & Emilie: We are creating what we call a “visual poem”, which is a series of photographies on only one and same subject. Our subject, in this project, is female behinds and, more broadly, female authentic bodies and environments. We have the goal to capture 1001 female buts with our 120mm film camera (Mamya) showing anonymous bodies (we never show faces or identify the pictures with names) of all ages, origins and shapes. We never edit the images or plan the sets and shootings, all the women are volunteers and have no modeling experience. The light is always natural and we like this soft aspect of the images. Also, we wish to create not only images and a final product but also meetings and encounters that feel like feminine rituals. We usually don’t know the woman we meet, so we take at least an hour to talk and share experiences, over tea or coffee, and then do the shooting that takes maximum 15 minutes since it’s film camera. About three clicks are taken per model.
InqPOP!: How do you select your subject? And your venue?
Frederique & Emilie: We never chose our subjects. On Facebook, we have a secret group for female volunteers only and any woman around the world can register. When we are visiting a place, let’s say Philippines (!), we will make a post and say “hey there! We are in Manila! Tell us when and where we can meet and we will schedule an appointment”. After that, everything is improvisation. We never know where this will take us and we always ask the model how she feels, if she prefers a picture in a natural environment, in her bedroom, doing an activity she likes or posing in a shape she prefers. She is the boss and we just follow, depending on the natural light available.
InqPOP!: What is the current status of your project? Are you halfway through?
Frederique & Emilie: We are only one quarter through! And for every quarter done, we organize an exhibition. Last October, we had a big exhibit in a contemporary gallery in Montreal (l’Arsenal) and for the half of the project, we wish to exhibit in NYC. This is a super long term project, we are in no hurry and we always wish to be mentally available when we meet the women, so we take our time and wish to be done in many years!
InqPOP!: Why 1,001 butts? Is there any reason behind the number?
Frederique & Emilie: We don’t know if it’s in every language, but 1001 in French is like an expression to say: A LOT! hehe! So this is more a concept than a real number…but you know what? We will do it! 1001 butts, how beautiful will be the final mosaic when we will see all the images next to each other. A big community of real, courageous, strong and delicate women!
InqPOP!: In doing this project, what is the most memorable experience for you? What is the worst (or can be the most difficult) experience you had, if there is any?
Frederique & Emilie: All the meetings we have with the volunteers are very emotional and unique. This is the one and real reason we put so much time in this project and love to do it, meeting the women and feeling we participate in a big sorority of beautiful beings. What an honor to have unknown women open their intimacy to our camera and share their experience, vulnerability, limits, etc, with us. The hard part sometimes is keeping the anonymity of the models! We would love to tell the world: “look at this! Isn’t X so beautiful??”. But we respect the anonymous part of the project and most of the women don’t want to be recognize so we keep our mouths shut and have a cute, complicity secret with our models!
InqPOP!: Which works by other artists do you really like?
Frederique & Emilie: We like Sophie Calle and her authentic views on emotion and human encounters. We love les Nanas de Niki de St-Phalle because of the joyful and emancipated aspect of the female bodies she shows in her sculptures.
InqPOP!: Aside from 1001 Fesses, are there any other projects you are working on?
Frederique & Emilie: Always! Emilie has a personal career and work as a photographer and she works a lot in film production and casting. As for Frederique, she is a serial entrepreneur, she has started the online art portfolio website where any artist, amateur or professional, can sell and rent their art online. She has a music video company, a travel agency and very soon will open an indoor climbing gym with her family! She is also working on two novels, which is her ultimate goal and passion.
InqPOP!: What are your future plans once you completed this project?
Frederique & Emilie: Well this is really far in the future! We wish to make a photography book out of our 1001 pictures. In this book, we want to publish texts from the models and share pictures of the details of the sets where we photograph them like trees, water, details of the bedrooms, etc. This is a big part of the project, entering the surroundings of the model.
InqPOP!: What advice can you give to aspiring Filipino photographers and artists?
Frederique & Emilie: Just do it! Think about an idea that is very profound for you, that touches your emotional core and that talks about your values. Then get out and do it, in the most authentic way, without thinking about success or what people will like or not. There is always some body out there who shares your values and will feel something when looking at your work.
You can check out their promotion video below: