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Irina Ionesco

Ma Réalité Rêvée

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The book has five different themes: “Fafa Métamorphose”, “Miroirs”,”Le Nu, L’Érotisme, La Théâtralité” and “La Mort dans l’Art”. Dubbed “the ‘grande dame’ of photography erotica” by The Independent, Ionesco’s work is a tribute to femininity in all its meant theatrical excesses. Ionesco, who lacked technical knowledge but admired highly skilled luminaries such as Cecil Beaton, and later Robert Mapplethorpe, achieved to turn this initial problem into an advantage. It allowed her to create her own visual language unburdened by conventions and mainly based on alternative modes of lighting (candles) and exposure (putting a 400 ASA film on 800 ASA). From her first experiments with the medium she also kept the habit of using a Nikon F camera, the same model she had received as a Christmas gift from her lover, Belgian COBRA artist Corneille, in 1964. Ionesco’s models often look directly into the lens defiantly. The dolls they hold and the fetishistic accessories they wear work to heighten their nudity as they stand, sit or lay down. They seem to play roles in clichéd fantasies. Some of the props and dresses hint at exotic cultures whereas backgrounds might remind one of Victorian photography settings, and hairdos of Rossetti’s paintings. Alice in Wonderland meets Richard Avedon, Orientalist painting and Symbolism. As French surrealist Andre Pieyre De Mandiargues once stated: “Irina Ionesco’s sexual world belongs to a place where there is no licence to touch. It is the world of dreams.”

For the book, Matthias Harder, writer and chief curator of the Helmut Newton Foundation Berlin, and French journalist Pierre-Paul Puljiz devoted themselves to this world of dreams in a collection of exclusively penned essays.

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