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Oh, Tumblr. Since my heady discovery of the micro-blogging platform back in 2009, my mind has been opened and subsequently blown by all of the incredible art curated there and the talent to which it has given rise Sure, I’ve got my problems with Tumblr; it’s frustratingly rife with un-credited art–I can’t count the times I’ve seen a lovely photograph, illustration, or collage marked as “source unknown” or “anonymous”, when a five second Google reverse image search will turn up a satisfactory answer for you, easy-peasy. But enough of that, I’m not here to scold anyone, and more to the point–some of my favorite artists today are those whose creations I have stumbled upon in that context! And searching out the additional body of work of a fascinating, new-to-me artist is honestly one of my greatest pleasures in life.
Enigmatic collector of ephemera, Colette Saint Yves, is one such discovery whose work captivated me early on and which I still see re-blogged and re-posted all over the place many years later (sadly, it’s still usually sans credit.) Mysterious collages of gleaming starlets in celestial settings, melancholy children traversing fragile landscapes in unsettling black and white photographs; her imagery is that of whispered, lyrical, melodrama, invoking a disquieting anomaly of memory or which recalls the foggy tragedies of a recurring dream.
It was the love of photography that came first to Colette Saint Yves, in the form of a Kodak disposable camera around the age of 8 or 9. With regard to her process, and how her concepts occur, that she notes that “… in photography, it can be really prepared, from the dress, to the model’s posture. I write my ideas on a book to have all the details in mind the right time. But I also like to take strangers and situations taken on the spot, natural and spontaneous,” though, she notes wryly,
“… from the moment there is a frame, there is nothing natural anymore.”
“Most of the time for both of my practices, collage and photography, it’s quite like a puzzle I have in mind and then brought the elements together. About my collages, generally, I have a scenery in mind, for example I find a landscape in an old magazine, and then I add the other elements. Sometimes it’s the opposite I find a beautiful face or hand, and try to find the landscape that could match. ”
A collector of images from the time she was a child, she confessed that she should probably calm down her collecting frenzy before choking under old books and photographs…! And with the passage of time, she still holds great admiration for that imagery from films and books which first inspired her. But while she was initially very much into black and white photographs, in recent years she tends to take color photos. Regarding her current inspirations: “I like exaggerated or faded colors you can find in Paul Outerbridge’s work. I recently rediscovered the work of André Steiner. He has a very sensual way of photographing the body. And of course, Edna Bullock is still a huge inspiration for me.”
Struck, softly, reverently, by the evocative locations featured in her work–the rocky sea and the placid dunes, ominously towering stalks of corn in a shadowy field,, or a serene meadow of softly waving wildflowers– I asked the artist about the role that nature and these natural spaces play in her art: “… I take photographs around my parent’s house, in the the Picardy countryside. The dunes and the north sea are from about two hours car drive from where I live. I’m fascinated by the landscape there, it’s both very melancholy and unreal. Nature, I mean, the sea, rocks, sand, trees… are a huge source of inspiration. I believe that all landscapes are moving, beautiful or ugly. I believe that, it is a true reflection of the soul.”