Jean Paul Goude
V118: ORCHESTRATING GAGALAND
Toying with perception is one of Jean-Paul Goude’s many gifts. The creative polymath has spent decades tickling the public’s eyes by garnishing photographs with impossibilities so subtle that they often go unnoticed. The pose seen in one of his most famous works—ex-girlfriend and muse Grace Jones, grasping her foot behind her head while holding a microphone with the other hand—is not humanly attainable. It is, however, how Goude wants us to perceive her in that moment, and so we do.
“So, this is the way I work,” Goude begins. “First, the idea and the sketches, then the shoot, then the manipulations, which give birth to the final hyper-realistic computer-controlled picture, that hopefully has the appearance of a spontaneous photograph. A rather painstaking endeavor.” Indeed, Goude’s convincing illusion of impromptu visual miracles has made him one of the most sought-after names in fashion. And yet Goude reminds us that he is not really a photographer.
“My timidity towards photography has to do with the fact that I’ve never considered myself a photographer, per se,” he explains. “Photography is about capturing a rare moment, seizing an opportunity as it unfolds before your eyes. It’s all about being reactive and spontaneous. I’m more of an illustrator of my own concepts, planning rare moments from scratch in advance. I enjoy manipulating my photographs. It feels like drawing, almost like filmmaking.”
“We tried to turn gaga into a living doll, a living icon, like the figurines that people collect and put on their mantelpiece, but life size.”–Jean-Paul Goude
Many of these manipulated photographs feature now-iconic celebrities. It is a subject that, according to Goude, has changed very little during his career.
“I like to do portraits. I did a lot for Esquire at a time when Warhol claimed that in the future, everyone would be famous for at least 15 minutes. Today, ironically, this obsessive craze with celebrity appears to me as a sort of dream come true, in spite of its silliness.”
It made sense then, of course, to pair Goude with one of the world’s biggest celebrities for our cover. But because Lady Gaga is one of the most photographed women, Goude turned to the cosmos and fantastical depths of his mind to create something unique. “With Gaga, we tried to bring to existence a fictitious character, straight out of my personal mythology: a sort of deity and the ruler of her very own Gagaland.” The intergalactic aspect comes through clearly. “[Here, she is a] living icon, like the figurines that people collect and put on their mantelpiece, but life size.”
And so Goude depicted Gaga in a way that was both bizarre and beautiful; extraterrestrial but with a familiar face. Before meeting Gaga, five years ago, he had his reservations.
“With Gaga, we tried to bring to existence a fictitious character, straight out of my personal mythology: a sort of deity and the ruler of her very own Gagaland.”–Jean-Paul Goude
“The truth is that I had been prejudiced towards Lady Gaga,” he admits. “She reminded me too much of my own short-lived experience in the disco business years earlier; just the sound of her name put me in a bad mood.” Gaga changed his mind with one live show. “Her performance took me aback completely. She was great—her voice, her piano playing! I felt like a fool as I swallowed my mistake,” he admits.
And so Goude’s perception changed. Now, through his lens, we’re able to see a woman we’ve seen countless times before in a new light. And suddenly, a star is born all over again.