the Existing Beauty
Isabelle Dupuy Chavanat is responsible for the artwork that conveys the world view of “D.W.M.” With ancient Roman ruins scattered throughout, the entire city of Arles in southern France resembles a museum and Isabelle lives in an old limestone house that is quite unique to this area and resonates with a timeless atmosphere. While her pet cat, Keiko, comes and goes through an open window, she spoke to us about her work and what she considers beautiful.
D.W.M. brings out the beauty of
its original appearance
You’re based in Arles. What kind of place is it?
As you can see the remains of ancient Rome are visible everywhere as you walk around the city. Arles is a very Italian city in spite of being in France. At the same time, there is the medieval Romanesque church, post-WWII architecture, and the latest Frank Gehry-designed multicultural facility (Luma Arles), which opened this summer. It can be said that it is a special city where the differing architecture of various eras provides a stunning contrast. All these different time periods form layers like strata with Arles remaining a cosmopolitan city that attracts people from all over including Brazil, Japan, and South Korea. Above all, the people who live in Arles fascinate me. Climate-wise, it is characterised by the strong light peculiar to southern France, that combined with the stormy mistral winds makes it a beautiful yet fierce environment. If you look inland, you will see the rugged mountain range of the Alpine landscape stretching out before you. In this sense, you may say that Arles’ climate is somewhat masculine and wild. Looking at the native Arlésiennes proudly wearing their traditional costumes, I think this is a region with its own strong identity.
Isabelle, your observant eyes often capture people through the lens of your camera, right? In your films, you don’t work on landscapes, but rather document craftsmen and creatives. What are you trying to capture through that viewfinder?
Essentially, I want to tell a story. Craftsmen are people who live their dreams. They make their dreams a reality. I have met craftsmen from different countries such as India, Nepal, Japan and Africa, and they are always talking in the common language of their ‘handicraft’. Since they mostly use their hands to communicate, the dialogue is often sparse and the atmosphere is usually quiet, but when they start to speak, their cheeks swell and they become talkative. I want to give a voice to those craftsmen who often remain silent in their work through the medium of a camera. In this case, on 8mm black and white film.
You are wearing a piece designed by French jewelry designer Marie-Hélène de Taillac. Do you like her work?
For 30 years, the only jewelry I have owned is by Marie-Hélène de Taillac. I’m not a particularly loyal person when it comes to brands, as I’m a very changeable character yet I remain loyal to her jewelry. In fact, I never take it off even when I go in the sea. I don’t need any other jewelry. Of course, natural stones such as lapis lazuli, aquamarine, and peridot all give power, but her jewelry also has the power to attract people. One of my most trusted friends is an interior designer named India Mahdavi. Actually, she wears exactly the same ring as I do. They say, ‘birds of feather, flock together’, but somewhere, you may also meet a person who exclusively wears Marie-Hélène de Taillac jewelry. Her jewelry feels like it’s telling the wearer something symbolic. There are women who travel, women who are independent, free women, and then those who wear de Taillac jewelry!
The pieces designed by Marie-Hélène de Taillac are mysterious, as the stones used harbour energy that has been stored underground for thousands of years and are formed from the Earth’s strata, right?
She keeps her designs as simple as possible to bring out the natural look of the stone. The inclusions contained in the strata are never the same in two pieces and makes you truly feel nature’s transience and, at the same time, its immense power. Her jewelry always remains a close part of my life.
This is similar to the “D.W.M.” philosophy of wanting to draw out the beauty inherent in each person.
Isabelle Dupuy Chavanat
A photographer and filmmaker based in Arles, France who has traveled to India, Vietnam, and South Korea where she made documentary films of her visits to local craftworkers and creatives, recording their way of life and daily routines. This docuseries follows these dedicated and devoted craftsmen who are employed by Hermès, conducting in-depth interviews with them to learn of their skills and attitude to work.
INTERVIEW AND TEXT BY KANAE HASEGAWA
PHOTOGRAPHY BY FRANÇOIS HALARD
TRANSLATED BY LEON POVEY