“Idol” Examines Society’s Obsession With Celebrities (NSFW)

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All images by Lionel Arnaudie. Used with permission.

Photographer Lionel Arnaudie graduated from the ETPA photography school with honors in 2011. He currently lives in France and recently completed a fine art photo series called “Idol.” The series explores society’s fascination with celebrities and idols that we look up to–but it also has a darker side which conveys how society eventually destroys these idols.

We chatted with Lionel about the fascinating series.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.

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Lionel: I got into photography quite late. I have always been interested in visual arts. And I have been drawing and clay modeling ever since I was a child. But photography brings me something more. Thanks to image editing softwares, photography offers an infinite number of creative possibilities. That’s why I entered a photography school in 2008, when I was 21.

Phoblographer: What inspired the Idol project?

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Lionel: This series was not really inspired by anything specific. However, the idea came to my mind while I was doing a lot of research and collected documentation about ancient sculptures, and painting in general. I had never worked with nude models, so that I gathered a lot of information about the body and its movements to be able to choose the right positions for the Idol.

Phoblographer: We’re assuming that these were all done with second curtain flash and with no real amount of photoshopping correct?

Lionel: That is not exactly how it happened. For this series, the post-production stage represented about the three- quarters of the final result. Every model was photographed individually and they were all put together afterwards, thanks to an image editor. The main challenge was to photograph a lot of people that all were to appear on a single image. This technique required me to know very precisely what the series was going to look like before the photo shoots. There was also a long work on the esthetics.

Phoblographer: For years and years, society has always idolized certain celebrities, politicians, athletes, creatives, and more.What specific message are you trying to get at with this project?

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Lionel: In this series, I wanted to evoke the strong influence that public figures in general have on their audience, and, conversely, how the public can end up “destroying” their idols. Everybody needs to identify with somebody or something they regard as an ideal. In a way, the idol embodies what we would like to become and what we will never and cannot be. But these ideals can be very easily and rapidly replaced by new emblematic figure.

Phoblographer: When you went about wanting to create the images for this series, how did you explain it to your models? Did you storyboard the images?

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Lionel: Yes, this is the way I have always been working to design my series and explain them to the models. None of my series’ has been improvised during the shooting. Every project is the result of a long drawing period. After this preparation period, I show the final sketches to the models with an explanation of the project to convince them to work with me, and to give them a clear vision of what I want the final series to look like.

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