« Beauty emerges with happiness»
Sonia Sieff is a fashion photographer. For fifteen years, she has worked with the greatest magazines in the world. Her picture series Les Françaises (The French Women) - where she had 32 women pose naked - became a book published by Rizzoli and many exhibitions including one in Munich opening March 8 2018 . Interview in Paris with a joyful woman.
Sonia Sieff, what does “Nude” inspire you?
Nude is the closest to what we really are. This trend exists because the extreme opposite exists - with excessive makeup, unattainable body ideals … Things have toughened on both sides: on the one hand, perfect girls with Brazilian keratin treatments and flawless appearances followed by millions; and on the other, natural girls. We also went too far with Photoshop and plastic surgery. Some actresses are frozen in time, we no longer know if they are young, old or at Madame Tussauds. As far as I am concerned, I am pro-wrinkles! I don’t mind them, but I wouldn’t be against slowing their appearance! In short, I believe Nude is there to balance the extreme opposite - completely artificial.
Indeed, your work on the nude goes in that direction.
It is no coincidence that I had 32 women pose naked. I only enjoy direct no frills relations. Excess of politeness tires me. We lose time and truth. I do not like free detours or society life’s staging. Nudity speaks for itself. Incidentally, I never retouch the bodies on my picture, only colors.
What do you think about the “Photoshop decree”, which forces to indicate retouches made on model pictures in ads?
It is great. Teenagers watching retouched images imagine that models are naturally thin, but it isn’t true! These images create anorexics and unhealthy behavior. We need to stop with this ideal of thinness. I am not talking about eating more junk food but very much about starving ourselves to fit into a size that isn’t ours.
As a photographer, you are brought face to face with different kinds of beauty. What is your relationship to yours, your body?
I like bodies telling a story. It is difficult to be an active and busy woman and a mother while dieting. I work a lot, I cannot be bony! It is my body, it is slim yet tonic because I have to keep up. I do not forbid myself anything but I try not to overdo it either. And when it happens, I don’t feel guilty about it…
Tell us about your lifestyle and how - in your opinion - it influences your skin’s quality.
Living a healthy life is the base. I think after 35 years-old it is unavoidable to follow an actual ritual. All the common advices concerning the sun, alcohol, cigarettes and rest are good. I never repeat the same beauty gestures every day because I make them evolve with the seasons, travels and contexts. I do not smoke or drink, I go to bed really early… I also sacrifice my night life even though I enjoy dancing and having dinner with friends… Just not every day.
Could you expand?
In winter, I choose richer creams and I do masks on weekends. Every evening, I wash my face. Lierac reached out to me to become the face of their Supra Radiance* range and I immediately accepted. First, because I like the brand but also because it is perfectly adapted to my skin, between work, trips, family life… The range truly answers all my needs from the morning to the evening. First, I use the antioxidants renewing Gel-cream in the morning and the Radiance Eye in small retouches - even during the day - to tone up and bring back some light to the look. At night, I use the detox renewal cream.
With your experience and your job, how would you define beauty?
I think there are two potential answers to that question because there is the beauty we perceive and the one we receive. The one we observe and the one we live. The one I perceive is the one which transcends beings beyond the years. We can have an incredible beauty at twenty years-old and nothing at thirty… The more time passes the more what we are inside transpires. Beauty is what we feel, it is what emerges with happiness when we are in harmony with our dreams. A happy woman is always beautiful.