Shoebox Studio, their first days
Maryna, I, 2006 © Stéphane Coutelle
Gerogina, XIII, 2005 © Stéphane Coutelle
Masha, I, 2008 © Stéphane Coutelle
Olivia Lebrun, IV © Stéphane Coutelle
Adriana V, 2006 © Stéphane Coutelle
Aomie, VII © Stéphane Coutelle
Eniko, XII, 2005 © Stéphane Coutelle
Kaja, I, 2007 © Stéphane Coutelle
Katrin Thormann, VI, 2005 © Stéphane Coutelle
Alisa S, VII, 2006 © Stéphane Coutelle
Barbara Garcia, IV, 2006 © Stéphane Coutelle
Like all photographers working in fashion or advertisement, Stéphane Coutelle receives fashion models hoping to get hired for a photo session. Amateurs or beginners, these young girls often come from far away countries, speak very little English, almost no French, and know almost nothing, or absolutely nothing, about the work they are dreaming about. For five years, Stéphane Coutelle took pictures of them in his little studio, his Shoebox, during a brief session, with only a minimum of accessories, resulting in unstaged portraits.
The situation is not that of the master confronting his model, rather that of the master with his student. Even in this limited environment, his professionalism is prevalent, establishing the limits of the session: one knows, the other is on the verge of knowing or at least knowing what there is to know. Stéphane Coutelle’s approach is contrary to the photographer seeking a face for an advertisement, or a body for a particular picture. Their meeting is quick as he tries to capture a psychological moment, a story, before the more or less professional habits kick in, before even their meeting develops into complicity. The artist works freely, without preconceived ideas, open to possibilities.
We are sometimes uneasy looking at these portraits, attributed to what may be perceived as Coutelle’s voyeursim or harshness. A form of solidarity nevertheless emerges. It isn’t the photographer who is harsh, but the world in which these two protagonists evolve. In reality, they are like shadow and body: inseparable, existing only one for the other, their destiny is played out in these restricted photographic sessions. Shoebox Studio is a major project whose portraits reveal the path from individual psychology to the contemporary human condition seeking recognition and the overwhelming desire to be part of society.