Interview by Jean-Yves Goar

The eyes are always drawn to nudity, though they often turn away just as quickly. Gaspard Noël knows all about this, because he often appears completely naked in his photographs: sometimes alone, sometimes multiplied. And, for all that, there is no trace of a narcissist or exhibitionist about him. I chat to this young father, whose body, though omnipresent in his work, is never the main subject.


JEAN-YVES GOAR: Gaspard Noël, the footnote “featuring the artist” has never been more true than in your case, as you feature in every one of your photographs. Why did you choose self-portrait as your favoured mode of expression?

GASPARD NOËL: Because I feature in my photos, you can technically say that they are self-portraits. But I am only a feature, nature is what takes centre stage. I started photographing beauty at a very early age. I travelled with my family whom I featured in my photos; there were no self-portraits back then. Just when I started taking a lot of pictures, my family got sick of posing. So, I needed to take over to continue what I’d started [laughs]. It wasn’t a choice, but rather a necessity which turned out to be a blessing, because it is much easier to be your own model than to take photographs of other people.

Why pose naked?

GN: I posed with clothes on in 2012 and created crazy characters who were scattered across my photos. On a trip to Scotland, the beauty of the landscape stunned me and I took my clothes off to be at one with nature. That was how my first nude photos came about, and it was the start of a process that took me a while to reveal.

Do you work alone?

GN: Yes, always, with a tripod and a self-timer. I use a Nikon D850 and three fixed lenses: 50, 100 and 300.

Gaspard Noël

How do you prepare for your pictures? You often appear in spectacular landscapes.

GN: I plan my trips down to the finest details: the places I am going to visit, the poses I want to take, and the pictures I want to achieve. But, once I get there, the world is never how I imagined [laughs].So, I often end up having to improvise. I produce a series every year, always abroad. I produce around a hundred pieces in 15 days, and then I work on them for 6 to 8 months.

Aren’t you interested in cities?

GN: I might come back to them, but cities are so dirty… Working in the great outdoors is much nicer.

We live in a very image-driven society. You are 34 years old and have an athletic build. How do you see yourself aging?

GN: My body is bound to change over time. At the moment, it is quite stable because I swim and climb. I’m looking forward to it being different so that I have another subject to photograph. I change my exercise routine regularly to alter it.

JYG: Does that mean that, in a few years’ time, there will be an older, naked Gaspard Noël in your pictures?

GN: Yes, I’m planning on dedicating my life to self-portrait.

Have you ever retouched any aspects of your body?

GN: I’ve noticed some wrinkles, some folds on my body, but I don’t retouch them.

What role does seduction play in your work?

GN: I’ve not tried to seduce anyone in years. Seduction is the art of making oneself desirable to someone else and, personally, I think that means taking an interest in that other person, rather than highlighting one’s own assets. So much so that I believe my self-portraits have no seductive value. As for the ratio of power that might exist in seduction, I have no idea.

I imagine you must receive some signs that there is a kind of seduction at play, nevertheless?

GN: I believe you need to have eye contact in order to seduce. I do not seek out that eye contact, because I work with my body in my pieces. The only seduction that I am interested in, vis-à-vis my audience, is aesthetic or intellectual seduction. The alluring, even erotic, dimension of my work is a possible side-effect, but I believe it only concerns the spectator in their own privacy.

What is your definition of beauty?

GN: Beauty is something that makes me want to take out my camera, which never happens, unless I’m travelling. So, perhaps it’s just a state of mind.

A lot of artists in the theatre or in films say they have no problem performing naked, but that “in the city”, they are prudish. Is that the case for you, too?

GN: Absolutely. I get no pleasure from the idea of being seen naked. And the idea of taking my clothes off in front of people is extremely uncomfortable for me. However, once a photo is taken, I disassociate myself from the being who appears in the pictures.

JYG: There are plenty of people in the city, but do you ever come across other people when you’re working outdoors?

GN: In Ireland, an old lady saw me on the edge of a cliff and went running off, screaming with indignation. I was sorry about that, because my aim isn’t to shock. I have come across hikers when I’ve been travelling in Iceland, but the wild character of the island means that it’s not a problem. I’ve just got back from the Canaries, where the nudist culture is very strong, so I had no problems there either.

JYG: The Canaries, are they the photos you have been publishing recently?

GN: Yes, exactly. I took 18,000 photos there, and will release 117 pieces from them.

JYG: What is your next destination?

GN: I don’t know just yet; the world is my oyster…

Gaspard Noël

Gaspard Noël has been a photographer since 2011 and features in all of his own photos. He shows his work on his website and on appointment at his studio. /


Jean Yves GoarJean-Yves Goar

A communication coach, Jean-Yves Goar believes in the virtues of image and words, the impact of our appearance and the words it reflects. A specialist in beauty and medical aesthetics, he pays great attention to aging well and having a healthy body and mind.

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