“I think of the body as the product of carnal forces and discourse. The body is always political.”

“colère-n°9” Les Femmes qui pleurent sont en colère © ORLAN

How did you become a photographer? Would you define yourself as a one?

I’m not tied to any one material or technology, whether old or new. I try to say important things about my time by questioning social phenomena. The concept, the process take precedence. I then look for the best type of material, the best form of expression. But I do use and have frequently used photography, whether digital or not, and I’ve often edited the photos using Photoshop.

At the beginning especially, I worked a lot using self-portraiture, so I have a lot of photographic works in my itinerary. All the more so since performance art, the ephemeral, is highly dependent on photography, on video – on the trace.

What drives you as a photographer?

I’m particularly careful not to produce aestheticising or stereotypical photos. I prefer to subvert, to question this type of practice in all ways possible. For example, I’ve worked using augmented reality.

Do you think there is such a thing as a ‘woman’s gaze’ in photography? Is this something you can relate to?

I’ve always said that I am  “Un femme et Une homme”(a woman in the masculine and a man in the feminine). But my biological body is feminine and I’ve always photographed myself as a woman: a woman artist refusing the standard stereotypes of the traditional photograph, a photograph taken by men that view a woman as an object caught in the net of the cheap eroticisation of the female body.

I think of the body as the product of carnal forces and discourse. The body is always political.

At the moment I’m working with photos of endangered animals coexisting with robots built with recycled objects and photoshopped.

Has being a woman influenced your work as an artist in any way? 

My entire body of work questions the status of the body in society amid the various forms of carnal, traditional, religious and political pressure that become engraved in bodies and particularly in the female flesh.

Do you live off your art?

For a long time I wasn’t able to live off my work. I did a lot of small jobs, and then I worked as a teacher in art schools, where I learned to manage my imagination. I was then able to get into the right galleries and make a living through my art.

It is difficult for me at the moment. While all exhibitions have been postponed until 2022, there have been no sales, or very few. We are all wondering how we are going to hold out and how long this is going to last…

Which authors have inspired you? Are there any women photographers among them?

There was Humanly Impossible by Herbert Bayer, which was a big shock for me. Claude Cahun, Hannah Höch and Leigh Bowery, Diane Arbus…

“Masque Phages Virus” © ORLAN


ORLAN, born in 1947 in Saint-Étienne, has risen to become one of the best known French artists internationally. Working with sculpture, photography, performance art, video, 3D, video games, augmented reality as well as plastic surgery and biotechnology, she continues to question the notions of determinism, masculine supremacy, religion, racism, or the status of the body. Her provocative works have received numerous awards:  Grand Prix de l’E-reputation (rewarding the most observed and commented artist on the web, in 2014), Prix de l’Excellence Féminine, awarded by the Italian ministry of Foreign Affairs (2017), or the 100 Heroines award of The Royal Photographic Society (Paris Photo, 2018). In 2003 she was named chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and in 2010, chevalier de l’ordre du Mérite. Her works form a part of numerous private and public collections: Centre Pompidou in Paris, The Getty Museum in the United States, The National Museum of Art of Osaka, etc.)

> En savoir plus sur l’artiste