Pleas note: This article includes some nudity and graphic images of burns.
Clément Marion is a young French photographer with a real affinity for film.
Kosmo Foto first featured his work around two years ago, when he captured a stunning series of black-and-white images of the “yellow vest” protests in Paris. His latest project may be studio-bound, but it is equally dramatic.
The 24-year-old’s latest work is a series portraits of people with severe burns, all shot with the collodion process. The images – some concentrating on a part of the body, some head-and-shoulders, others full-length – are given an otherworldly process thanks to the collodion process, something so visually linked to the early days of photography. Were it not for some of the haircuts and contemporary tattoos, you could easily assume some of these images were more than a hundred years old.
Many of those who have suffered severe burns like the subjects here are reluctant to show their scars in public, and Marion hopes the project will help foster more understanding. He spoke to Kosmo Foto about it.
What gave you the idea to do this series?
“The first contact with this world was during childhood, there was one [patient] in my village. I don’t really know his story, or even his name, and I haven’t really had a chance to talk to him. He wore large dark glasses at all times. From around the age of five, I was a little fascinated, I think.
“Much later, I heard an interview which asked this simple question: ‘When was the last time you saw a majorly burnt person? You haven’t seen any? It’s normal, these people are hiding’. This sentence touched me, so I asked myself how to help this cause, which is the acceptance of others, of difference and which advocates tolerance.”
Who was the first patient you met?
“It was Florine, she had created an Instagram account since her accident to post photos of the photoshoot she had been doing since. I contacted her here, she came to Toulouse, where I had my laboratory to do the shooting. It was great, even though I had chemistry problems, but we finally managed to bring out a great photograph, which marked the first one of the series and also my favourite.”
What was the first photoshoot like?
“It was the unknown! I had done very few full-length portraits, with so much spotlight, and nude, too. I had ideas, I had planned a few poses, but finally after several tests, we found this pose and we continued to dig into that idea. With collodion, you have to think about the poses much more before setting off, because you can only take 4-5 photographs per day. After several weeks of practice I could do 10 a day, but the number is still small.
What are you trying to achieve with this series?
“People are embarrassed about the difference. To share, to show, is to break silences that make you feel uncomfortable. Because what hurts is the look of others, the ignorance. These photographs are a message of tolerance and hope for all people who are forced to live with their scars.”
How many patients have you photographed now?
“Twelve people walked past my photographic chamber. Twelve people, for a series of 12 photographs. But I plan to continue this series, of course, in the future.”
“Wet plate collodion is made up of two main elements, among others, copper collodion and silver nitrate. Separately, they are both used in medicine, for wound healing. Together, these two elements form a sensitive photographic emulsion similar to a thin skin spread on a glass plate.
“This film dries little by little from the preparation for the shooting, until the end of the development of the photograph. Eventually it hardens, retracts, sometimes cracks and often changes colour. The parallel between this texture and that of the scarred skin of severe burns was obvious, so I decided to use wet collodion to treat this subject.”
Had you used the process much before?
“No, I learned the process especially for this subject. But I’ve been wanting to start collodion for a long time. For me it is the quintessence of photography, patience, thoroughness and technique. I loved practicing collodion during the five months that I did this project, and I’m very happy with my art, I think that’s what matters. Also, after talking to the people (who were all very invested, courageous and wonderful in this project) I think it helped them, for sure, so I am all the happier.”
What do you plan to do with these images?
“I have an exhibition coming up, and a book as well. With one of the models who posed for me, we want to publish a collection for therapeutic purposes with her texts and my photos. This book will be distributed free of charge to health professionals who will use it as a support in their care procedures with severe burns. It will soon be available for sale on my site https://www.clementmarion.com/ and on my Instagram.”
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