The Wild and Wonderful World of Pierre et Gilles
The work of Pierre et Gilles first caught my eye when I picked up their book at Wacko on Melrose. I was probably 9 or 10, and vaguely remember being intrigued by/scared of the erotic content, and totally in love with the colors and detail. Although the artists are French, the aesthetic has always seemed so perfectly LA in the late 80’s/early 90’s to me, and that’s still what it evokes.
Revisiting their work gives me a new appreciation for their immense creativity. Working together for over 35 years, the two artists have created some of the wildest imagery in pop culture - incorporating religious iconography, gay eroticism, sailors, Greek myths, and everything else they take a fancy to. They have worked with everyone from Marc Almond to Madonna, but seem unfazed by celebrity, just as happy to work with an unknown model.
Their creative process is really fascinating and inspiring. They conceptualize the shoots together, and then more or less divide responsibilities though they work together throughout. Pierre Commoy is the photographer, and handles all the lighting and other relevant elements, while Gilles Blanchard creates the three-dimensional sets by hand with both found and bought materials. The images are captured on film retouched by hand (no Photoshop!), after which Gilles adds sparkles and other elements to the finished print with paint. They do ALL shoots in their own home and have since the beginning of their career when they lived in small spaces. Oh, and they’re a couple. Yes, I’m a little jealous.
The lighting in their work is crucial, but there’s no showboating. It’s neutral and restrained for the most part - even and diffused - acting in a painterly way to serve the sets, costumes and make up.
Here is a really insightful interview with them about they way they work. And because I can’t resist, here are some photos of the interior of their home.