Frédéric Fontenoy (1963) is a well-established French photographer living and working in Paris. His formative years as an art photographer started in 1988 when he showed his first series Métamorphose ("Metamorphosis") at the Cinquième Triennale Internationale de Photographie (Fribourg, Switzerland • 1988). Since then, he has participated in many personal and group exhibitions and art fairs, mainly in Europe and China. His works were already presented to the Slovene audience in his solo show in Ljubljana (Galerija Fotografija • 2014). His photographs were recently included in a group exhibition Foreshadows/Prefigurazioni (2019), curated by American-Italian artist Victor Kastelic (1964) at his gallery Kspaces in Turin.
Frédéric Fontenoy's prime focus has been on the representation of the human body. Since Métamorphose (1988), he has been pushing boundaries in challenging a traditionally accepted norm that photography as a medium is only reserved for representing reality. His work looks very much through the lens of the Dadaist and Surrealist approaches to treating nature through distortion. Fontenoy shows a profound homage to the distorted and haunting vision of Hungarian photographer André Kertész (1894–1985), most explicitly demonstrated in one of his most famous series, Distortions (1933). In this series of some 200 photographs, Kertés made use of three mirrors as a device to portray two female models, Najinskaya Verackhatz and Nadia Kasine, as nudes and in various poses, with their reflections caught in these distorted mirrors, while in some photographs, only particular floating, elongated limbs or characteristics are visible in these mirrors. Instead of using mirrors to reflect their subjects, Kertész used them to create a sense of unreality. Another source of inspiration in Fontenoy's practice is the book The Anatomy of the Image (1957) by German artist Hans Bellmer (1902–75). Bellmer was one of the most provocative and non-conformist artists of the 20th century, whose book Die Puppe (1934), with ten erotic drawings of mutated adolescent mannequins, was declared to be Entarete Kunst (“Degenerate art”) by the Nazi Party.
In 2006 Frédéric Fontenoy began working on a fictional series of intimate scenes where he combines the history of the artistic and political avant-garde of the first half of the 20th century with a subtle yet powerful eroticism. As the artist says on his website, Fontenoy is a master of “scenes of the darkroom”. He is not only a photographer (the viewer) with a large format camera but also an actor (the participant in the frame) in his intimate compositions, charged with erotic energy as an expression of beauty. His artworks overflow with symbolism evoking WWII and surrealist art. As Fontenoy says, “space of photography fits well in time and simultaneously uses the collective unconsciousness. [...] Grand officer of these stagings, this double devilishly imaginative and wicked madness seems to make its most ambitious expression, which is Art”. Frédéric Fontenoy’s room is an optical device representing the author’s mental space.
Out of the chimeras of seduction, far from the immediacy of enjoyment, Frédéric Fontenoy breaks through the mirror of fantasies resorting to the exploration of the venomous entanglements of sexual tortures and of relishes as a divine way of initiation to the secrecies of voluptuousness. Through meticulous pictorial compositions... Frédéric Fontenoy allows the viewer to indulge in an erotic hide-and-seek game... in quest of knowledge about what goes beyond visibility, about the quintessence of delight.
– Cited from Véronique Bergen. “Frédéric Fontenoy, the Host of Desire”. In Inside: Frédéric Fontenoy (Paris: Alkama Editions, 2007) 5. © Frédéric Fontenoy/Alkama Editions