Overcoming the past, facing the future : two stages in a life that require strength and sometimes the help of art. For Inès Kozic, a 22 years old artist from France and student at the Fine Arts School of Rennes, photography is a tool to ease the vulnerability of a sensitive soul.

Both in front and behind the camera, Inès’ expresses the scars of her past and her very intimate fears with minimalistic yet powerful photographs. Death is the main theme of her theatrical images, oscillating between forensic poetry and dark childhood tales. Gut-wrenching imagery for the beholder and a catharsis for the artist : better than any therapy.

Below Inès Kozic speaks with us intimately about herself and what inspires her work.

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Could you tell us more about you and how you became a photographer ?

I was 13 when I first took a camera in my hands, and during all my teenage years I shot auto-portraits I posted on my blog back then. I was working in a very impulsive way, without looking for meaning, I think I just wanted to stage myself.

Once adult, I’ve become a model for photographers all over the map, which was an excellent apprenticeship for technique, shooting’s organization, model direction and post-treatment, in addition to being an incredible human experience…

But at this time, I couldn’t touch a camera’s body. I was not a teen anymore and I was not ready to endorse my own creations. I preferred to hide myself inside the images of others. And then, just one year ago, my path lead me to photography again, just like a life raft at a critical time of my life : my studies were on the skids, I didn’t have the courage to pose anymore and my personal life was a disaster. I felt a crucial need to create something to overcome the ordeals I was living. And so, I am here today ! I was lucky, my call for help was heard, hence I am here to talk about it…

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There is a bit of fetishism of hair and insects in your work : how do you explain it ?

There are indeed two important series in my work, Hairytales and Crawlytales. Both materials – hair and insects are quite similar, as they are both share a funereal meaning, calling to morbid, ephemeral, and to postmortem imagery. This refers to very classic elements : the fly painted on the Christ of Giovanni Santi in 1480, the holy reliquary holding the hair of Agnes Sorel, a favorite of the King of France, whom died in 1450… It is also a question of the ornament. The hairdo turns into an elegant finery, the insect into a precious jewel, all of this is really delicate and repulsive at the same time. This depth is fascinating me.

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Your pictures are visually strong : what are you looking for in terms of emotion ?

The emotional load is due to the fact that all my work is based on my personal life. Auto-fiction is really present in my work : my images are stones that mark out my life. It’s an introspection of very dark things, such as a friend dying too soon in a fire or the illness of my mother, and her giving me her hair as a precious gift. But there are also things less sad : my grand-mother teaching me to knit and my childhood ladybug farming… Everything is here. I exorcize.

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Do you have precise artistic influences ?

For photography, my first slap was the discovery of Francesca Woodman’s work, almost ten years ago, and her way to stage herself while she was so young, without constraint, without decency and yet in a subtle and delicate way… It shook me.

I have also read a lot of surrealist poetry and to quote writer André Breton, ‘beauty would be convulsive or would not be’ has become my mantra. I’ve also discovered a dance called Butôh, born in the middle of Hiroshima’s ruins. It is very tormented and refined at the same time. My favorite dancer, Carlotta Ikeda, died at the end of September and I’m still grieving…

I also would like to quote 3 movies : The perfume of Tom Tykwer, The Countess of Julie Delpy and Antichrist of Lars Von Trier. These 3 movies are full of a mix of sweetness and cruelty. They are violent, bloody, but never gorey, always ethereal and poetic, in spite of their extreme stories.

Finally, I’d like to quote two women of my age with an amazing talent, the photographer Laura Makabresku and the music composer Soap & Skin.

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Some people have insect phobias. Do you have a phobia ? And, as an artist, do you have a specific fear ?

I’m afraid of crawling little animals… I hate beehives, anthills, gatherings of living insects. But I enjoy working from the shivers it gives me ! I’m searching for those feelings. The primal reaction, of disgust, fascination, attraction, repulsion, from the reptilian brain : this is what I’m looking to bring forth and master in my images. As an artist, I have the angst to live an experience so difficult I couldn’t turn it into creative power.  But up to this moment, my experience has been that every kind of thing, even the saddest, can be turned into a positive form of art.

If you were an insect, what would you be ?

A beetle. An animal hidden under a big shell. Nothing looking fragile.

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What kind of photos would you like to do next ?

One of my teachers keeps telling me that I am too soft, that I need to ‘break in’ my photos, to distance myself from the attractive images of fashion with their pretty lights and delicate models. So I’ve started a more graphic series, without faces, in black and white, quite rough. I’m going to finish it but I don’t know where it will lead me yet…

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