Back to Writing / 7-27-2004

Click any image to view the pop-up gallery slide show.

The intense costumes, make-up, lighting, colors and characters in the art of SF photographer Blioux result in piercing, fierce and mesmerizing pieces. She spoke with us about her process, philosophy and fashion sense.

Sez G: Where are you from and where are you based?

Blioux: Cornbread and corn fed in the fabulous midwest in Chicago. I'm now based in San Francisco, but plan on relocating to New York City in about a year.

EZ: How did you get into photography?

Blioux: I started shooting around 12 years old. My Mom had a Minolta 35MM camera that I would sneak into her bedroom to hold and look through the lens. It took me a while to convince her I wouldn't break it!

I remember being fascinated by fashion magazines and wanted to make pictures that looked like what I saw: sleek, shiny and perfect. I see now how that fantasy could have been an escape from the rundown and imperfect urban world around me. Unfortunately I didn't have models or clothes or really anything I needed to achieve what I wanted. So I photographed color and shapes.

Then I started dressing up friends and taking pictures. And it was all uphill from there!

EZ: So you pretty much stayed on course after that as a fashion photographer?

Blioux: When I attended The School of the Art Institute, Chicago I felt pressured by the documentary photography community to put aside fashion and portrait photography. I spent years working on black and white documentary photography. It was a satisfying experience and I learned a lot about exposure but I always felt like I should be doing something else. I just didn't understand what.

10 years after school I finally came back to photography and taught myself lighting and working with color. Sometimes I regret not doing what I truly wanted from the start. On the other hand I have come to except that all my experiences over the last 10 years have led me to where I am now.

EZ: You capture a lot of the darker side of sensuality and the human psyche. Why did you become drawn to this?

Blioux: I think in a subconscious way I decided the world was already saturated with saccharine images of typical personalities being sexy in stereotypical ways. I think we all pose aspects of archetypical personalities. Bitch, monster, badass, submissive robot. There seem to be a lot of unexplored areas of sexuality. I hope that my work is more than sexual. Not that sex is a small matter. I hope to address larger ideas about the hidden ego we all carry around living it's own secret life.

EZ: What's your relationship to fetish?

Blioux: Nudity never turned me on. I have always been more attracted to the ways in which humans adorn their bodies. I feel we all look too much a like with our clothes off. Skinny, fat, short, tall, male, female, dark or light. There are just too many similarities for my taste.

Maybe I just get bored too easily. People are so much more interesting and beautiful when they wear something interesting and beautiful. I suppose I have a clothing, makeup, and big hair fetish. But who doesn't?

EZ: Where do you find your models? And who does their awesome costumes and makeup?

Blioux: My models can come from anywhere. They are mostly portraits of friends or people I'm drawn to. The makeup, hair and styling is divided between myself and coconspirator Jason El Diablo. I'm always looking for stylists to work with. Artists who know how to use color fearlessly and aren't afraid of expressing bold ideas.

Costumes are handmade by myself and are part of some preexisting wardrobe. I'm also able to do a lot of the styling with a little help from technology (wink wink).

EZ: Walk me through a shoot. First, you start with they styling?

Blioux: There really isn't a typical shoot. It usually takes anywhere from 3-4 hours. Styling can take 2-3 hours alone. For my portrait of "Adrian," the spot makeup took me almost 3 hours! [Ed Note: See lead image] I think styling can be undervalued by many photographers. I won't shoot unless the model has at least TWO coats of makeup.

EZ: So when they're properly painted, how do you get the lighting set up?

Blioux: Lighting is very important to me. I feel it's the primary medium of my art. I capture light and its reflection. I was pretty inventive using minimal equipment in the beginning. Now that I have more equipment it just gets more and more complicated!

EZ: And then you're off. How much direction do you give the models?

Blioux: It really depends on the styling. For "Natasha 1,2, & 3" Natasha was stapled to the wall by her hair [Ed Note: See the last image in the pop-up gallery]. She couldn't move at all. That shot was all about her expression. Natasha is really talented at being able to express herself so I felt she was a perfect fit for this image. I take great pride in getting the shyest subjects to open up and give me what they've got!

EZ: What's coming up for you in the future?

Blioux: I've got a lot of commercial projects planned until November. Then I can take a break and start some new portraits. I want to find more artists who can help fabricate some of the elaborate ideas I have. I would love to learn metal working. Or find someone that can make me bionic woman parts. I'm really into hybrid humans right now.

EZ: Anything else? Dark desires, inspirations?

Blioux: Almost too many to mention! My darkest desire is to be incredibly wealthy! Inspirations? Well, my long time partner Natasha is a constant source of inspiration. I would love to have a show of all the images we've collaborated on. I'm incredibly inspired by technology. I could see my images becoming more like illustrations as I become more proficient using technology. It will help me realize the images I see when I dream.

Blioux - by Sez G.