Studying international marketing in San Francisco, modelling, styling photo shoots, working as a photographer's assistant: Malika Mokadem lived several lives before she became a photographer. And a gifted one too, who creates a very personal atmosphere exuding a chic, sexy melancholy. Through her work we glimpse her favourite photographers (Ionesco, Vojnar, Telepnev) and her literary passions (Poe, Baudelaire, Nin). Whatever her subject – portrait, reportage or fashion shoot – Malika's engagement is total. Above all she seeks to understand the person she is photographing, to grasp who they really are, before she clicks the shutter. To her, photography is a conversation, an intimate exchange with her sitter, a relationship that demands complete trust. She explores digital and silver-emulsion processes for black-and-white, Polaroid for colour, and recently began experimenting with mixed media, combining those techniques with writing and painting.
Certain outfits are worn not for the woman's pleasure but for another's. The 19th century's great courtesans – La Castiglione, La Belle Otero, Liane de Pougy, Cléo de Mérode – were especially gifted at that game and so were instrumental in haute couture's development. Gowns exquisitely crafted to mould the figure in opulent velvet, lace, satin and silk left just enough of a woman to the imagination. Undress me, but not too fast, not all at once... The courtesans learnt to master this subtle art of not hiding inside their clothes. They favoured garments that incited caresses: a hand slipping from soft fabric onto a velvety bare shoulder, bows just asking to be undone to reveal a palpitating throat, underskirts to be lifted, corsets to be unlaced to free lily-white buttocks. The acme of sensuality: revealing everything without showing anything, a silent but oh-so eloquent invitation! Let us return a while to the private rooms of La Pérouse, Maxim's and the Folies Bergère to revive those free, independent women always elegant to their fingertips. Sensual, vilified, adulated and damned.
By Maurice Gouiran