Stories

Kiki by Stéphane Marais

“With Polaroid it’s moments, and most of the time the beautiful pictures are accidents… There is an energy, there is movement, it’s a bit out of focus, and it’s a magic image for me.” For Beauty Papers Issue Seven GLAMOUR, makeup maestro Stéphane Marais picks his polaroid camera back up to capture his new muse Kiki.

Photography and Beauty
STÉPHANE MARAIS
Interview
JOHN WILLIAM

Beauty Papers: What made you pick up the camera after so many years?
Stéphane Marais: Well we were working on the story and it was Maxine who pushed me to do the pictures myself, and so I said, “Well maybe it’s about time to start again.” Because I used to do Polaroid when Polaroids were the big thing, and then when they stopped the film I stopped doing pictures. I found a camera, and I did a test at home, and I said, “Okay. I’m going to do it. Makeup and images.” Why not? I’ve nothing to lose! Kiki can really play the game with me, and so it’s very much personal work. She was good, good, good. When you work with so many girls… this girl is fire.

BP: Who else have you worked with who is special in that way?
SP: In the nineties models were really, really inspiring. Muses…There are still some models who have strong personalities who are very present in front of a camera – actresses who play ball and give 200 per cent to you. They’re not only fashion models, they’re more than that. They’re inspiring for photographers, for makeup artists, because they’re different and they understand… They have the stance for it, you know?

BP: I do. Do you think that comes naturally or do you think a girl can learn how to do that?
SP: I don’t know, I think there is a lottery based on a hundred new girls, and there are one or two who are different, special. I think it’s also the interest they have in creating an image, not only for the portfolio or their career. These girls will surprise you. They might not be a pure beauty, but they have something that not so many girls have, the plus.

BP: How do you strike a balance between makeup and personality?
SP: I love makeup, but I’m not interested in the lipstick or things like that. Makeup is what the girl’s gonna make with it. You can put garbage on Kiki and she will make it look beautiful and interesting. I love that type of girl, you put the makeup on and they play. They see it, they see themselves in the mirror and they can play any character and become somebody else in front of the camera. It’s very rare.

BP: Talking about actors, living or from the past who would be your dream actor to work with?
SP: There was one French actress I was completely crazy about when I was a teenager. Her name is Isabelle Adjani. She was fascinating and very intense, and this type of girl she can give you 200, she can shock you. We met in the airport and it turned out she was a fan of what I was doing. She told me “You have no idea. Every time you do a show I don’t even look at the dress, I look at the face you have done. I would love to do a face with you,” and then six months later, she called me and said “Stéphane, I didn’t forget you. I’m coming back to theatre. I haven’t done a play for twenty years, so everybody is expecting my return, and I would like you to do my look.” And sure I had never done that but yeah, why not? It was intense because I was doing shows, and after the show, I was going to the theatre for rehearsals. You know, it was a tragic play and she died. When she died she really died, violently on stage, and I was going home almost completely ready to cry because she died in front of me. You know that intensity? I don’t ask anybody to die for me. [both laugh]

BP: To go back to the Polaroid, was it liberating?
SM: I loved it. I loved to have this pleasure again. Why I didn’t start earlier? You know sometimes you just don’t have the courage to do it? I thought “No, I will not be good enough,” but you have nothing to lose. You have no idea the preparation I did, it was crazy. I was painting the walls of apartment different colours. I went to buy fabric, not one fabric, the whole store! Insane. But I loved it, I loved it. I have to say thanks to Maxine because she made it happen.

BP: Do you think you’ll continue then, back with your Polaroid?
SM: Yeah, but maybe I’m gonna start with a different camera. You know most of the time we spend our lives in the shadow of photographers, looking over their shoulder, and I do pretend I have an eye, I do pretend I see things… Most of the time with the photographers I know and I work with, I open my mouth “Just look at her, now, now, now. She’s amazing.” Sometimes they miss something.

"You know most of the time we spend our lives in the shadow of photographers, looking over their shoulder, and I do pretend I have an eye, I do pretend I see things…"

BP: That’s how I started to take pictures. I was a stylist and I kept seeing photographers miss the photograph I would have taken.
SM: Yeah, yeah! And with Polaroid it’s moments, and most of the time the beautiful pictures are accidents. Like the one you took for the cover, sometimes you have a beautiful accident. Because there is an energy, there is movement, it’s a bit out of focus, and it’s a magic image for me. It moved me a lot, this kind of image.

BP: I think that’s what is so beautiful about people like Sarah Moon’s photography. You can look at her contact sheet and every picture is exquisite but then it’s that moment that she’s trying to…
SM: Yeah! It was funny because I wanted to work with her and I talked to Maxine and we contacted her. Moon is extraordinary for me. She’s such a strong woman and she makes it possible. Everything is possible with her. When I shot with her for Beauty Papers I told her “I’ve been a fan from a long time ago.” It took us 35 years to work for the first time together, and so it was a celebration. It was a very sweet moment and we did a beautiful story.

BP: Do you ever get nervous? You’re so experienced. When you are faced with working with a hero, do you ever get the nerves?
SM: Of course you do, but I’ve done many, many heroes. What I love the most is images and to bring my contribution to an image, to bring the mood, to bring the direction. Irving Penn, Avedon, I’ve done them all. With Mr Penn, every time I was working with him I had stomach cramps. Almost exactly like when you go to an exam when you’re a teenager. “Maybe I’m not gonna make it or maybe I’m not gonna be able to satisfy this man.” So it gives you a challenge, it pushes you forward.

BP: What was it like to work with Irving Penn?
SM: You know I was working with Julien d’Ys who worked a lot with him too, and Penn said “You two French men. I like you people. You talk and you give your opinion.” And always when we gave an opinion it was with full respect to Mr Penn. He was not our buddy, but he loved us because we gave the most for him.

BP: Well he was worth it. One of the few people worth giving everything for.
SM: Oh yeah. I could have done a chicken for him, I don’t care! [both laugh]

BP: What gets you excited about working now?
SM: I love when you meet a photographer and they have a signature, a style, emotion. The way they shoot people. They used to. There are some doing it nowadays, and it’s super nice. It’s weird because I’m like an old one now, but I love to get involved with the youth. I’m interested, I’m there and I don’t play the diva. I always feel excited by the luck of getting the right image. The whole process. Makeup, hair, lights, photography.

BP: How do you feel about digital?
SM: You know I’ve been raised and lived on film. I used to love analogue and the print and the grain and everything in black and white. I had an argument with Peter [Lindbergh], “Oh it’s the same, it’s the same,” “No Peter, open your eyes. It’s not the same. Don’t tell me that.” I see the grain. You can’t lie to me, you know, I’m not a baby anymore! I can give you print that I stole from you, then you see the difference, if you have a short memory!

BP: What about glamour? What does that word mean to you?
SM: I think glamour to me, it always goes back to a personality. Most of the glamorous women that I love, they have faces or something stronger than the others.  I think the glamour is the attitude.

“I think glamour to me, it always goes back to a personality. Most of the glamorous women that I love, they have faces or something stronger than the others.  I think the glamour is the attitude.”

BP: When was the first time you came across that attitude and you really responded to it? Was it someone in a film or was it someone in your real life?
SM: Mostly in the films. I grew up in Africa and there were no TV’s, there was nothing, but there were movies.

BP: Tell me one of the first things that had a real impact on you.
SM: I think it was Judy Garland in Wizard of Oz. Also, also, also I have to say Hitchcock, The Birds. All of the women he filmed. Also, it was the quality of the film. I remember the thing called Technicolour, you know at the end of the movie? It fascinated me. You know it was saturated colour, it was beautiful.

BP: And how about when it wasn’t on the screen, when it was in your life? When was your Dorothy stepping into Technicolour moment?
SM: I was studying economy at university in Paris and it took me like ten days to realise it was not for me. I had a vision of myself, in front of a computer: no more hair, super thick glasses… I went to see my teacher of psychology and I said “Okay. I need a scholarship to survive.” So he said, “Okay, I can change your course and you keep the scholarship.” So that’s what I did. And I was making all of these new friends who were in fashion school, art school, photography school. One of them encouraged me to try makeup, and so I did. Things happened very quickly because I had a vision. That’s when I started to work with Jean Paul Gaultier.

BP: You’ve had a long relationship with Jean-Paul. What’s the process?
SM: Jean Paul is like…The guy is…I don’t know which kind of battery he’s working on. The guy doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t drink, doesn’t take drugs or anything, but he’s all the things all the time. It can be very tiring sometimes, he changes his mood all the time so you have to come back at the last minute. But I know how he functions, and although sometimes you go work with other people, what we have it’s like a marriage. He always comes back to me. “It’s not the same without you.” Good! Sometimes with Jean-Paul I’ll find an idea and say “I have an idea for you. Only for you.” Like for one of the last shows, I decided to do the smokey eyes with a burnt champagne cork. He loved the idea and the effect was genius. I love the texture of the cork because it’s not pigment, it’s ash, so it dissolves and it diffuses and there’s something mysterious in the eyes, and it’s a little bit rough.

BP: It has emotion.
SM: Do you know what? I had to drink twenty-five bottle of champagne to get twenty-five corks for the show! So you see my investment. They didn’t trust me. I’m from Brittany I can handle the liquor, okay! I’m a country boy.

BP: [Laughs] You talked about glamour being an attitude. What do you think is the future of glamour in this world that we’re now living in?
SM: I don’t…The funny thing is, if you’ve been in the business quite a time, you know how these cycles. One moment, no makeup. Nothing, nothing, nothing and then you go to a lot, a lot, a lot. It’s always a cycle. Always a cycle. But it always comes back in a way.

“The funny thing is, if you’ve been in the business quite a time, you know how these cycles. One moment, no makeup. Nothing, nothing, nothing and then you go to a lot, a lot, a lot. It’s always a cycle. Always a cycle. But it always comes back in a way.”

BP: When you’re not shooting and when you’re not planning a shoot and when you’re not doing fashion things, what do you do for fun?
SM: For fun? You know what I’m crazy about gardening. I’m a bit like Sam Mcknight I’m obsessed. I just worked with him last week and we were talking about plants. He was giving me advice, I was giving him advice, I said “Maybe I should bring a plant from my countryside and you should bring me one from your countryside.” It’s still beauty, flowers.

BP: What’s the most beautiful flower in the world?
SM: I don’t know. I do love the old Grandma flowers in the garden, you know like the countryside? Like Foxgloves. I love roses. You know I get that from my Mum, she was obsessed too.

BP: Was your Mum glamorous?
SM: She was very alive, very sexy. All the men were looking at her like she was the cherry on the cake! The glamour came from my Great Aunt who travelled all the world, she always had very rich husbands. Living in Africa, living in Vietnam, living all over the planet but always coming back to Paris. I remember being very young, she moved back to France and she ended up in a very old beautiful house in my hometown, full of antiques.

BP: It must have all sown the seeds in you. Last question, where is your favourite place in Paris?
SM: It’s very common. My name is Marais and I live in the Marais and I really love the Marais.

BP: Where should I go to eat next time I’m in the Marais?
SM: There’s two places next to me that I really like. I like also the idea that I can walk to them. There is one place called Les Enfants Rouges, The Red Kids. Really, really good. They have a Japanese chef cooking bistro cuisine. I like a place when I know if I want to go and eat there myself, I don’t feel miserable. sometimes I don’t want to talk.

BP: I think there’s something quite glamorous about going to a restaurant alone. It’s quite a luxury.
SM: Yeah I like that.


Beauty Papers Issue Seven available here
Photography and Makeup by Stéphane Marais at Studio 57
With the collaboration of Kakie at Studio 57
Talent Kiki Willems at DNA Models Management
Styled by Tanel Bedrossiantz Pour la Maison Gaultier Paris
Hair by Olivier Schawalder at Bryant Artists
Manicurist Alexandra Janowski for Kure Bazaar
Photo Assistant Victor Gueret
Makeup Assistant Richard Soldé
Film Director Constance Maillet
Edit Beauty Papers Creates Consults