Gilles Bensimon

Hamiltons Gallery has represented Gilles Bensimon’s personal work since 2012. Famous for his fashion photography and for his tenure as International Creative Director of Elle magazine, Bensimon’s watercolour photographs combine the ideals of aesthetic serenity with bright colour and vivacity. 

Gilles Bensimon's Watercolour is a series of images that Gilles began to create in 2011, and continued to explore for two years. The works mark a significant departure from his well-known earlier figurative oeuvre, from his decades of work in photography, fashion and culture.


Fascinated by the natural beauty of flowers, and by their intimate associations with myriad varieties of cultural expression around the world, Gilles has both literally and metaphorically submerged himself - and untold volumes of freshly cut blooms - into pools of water to create amazing blossoms of colour.


The resulting images present a range of wonderful palettes, each created from three key elements which Gilles combines to startling effect: the ravishing bouquets, his swift movements, and the chance reflections of light, filtered through a gauzy, watery surface.


Blurring the lines of abstraction and representation, these pictures yield a new perspective on the traditional notions associated with the depiction of the flower in art. Whether portrayed in the precision of Dutch still-life manner, the broad brushstrokes of the impressionists, or the formalist lenses of modern masters of the genre like Penn and Mapplethorpe, the flower has maintained and even enhanced its reputation as a marker for the transience and beauty of human existence.


Gilles has taken this notion in a new direction, setting himself and the resulting images apart from their traditional anchor, even as the historical references are reinforced. He remarks: "As soon as the flower is cut, it dies -- even though it retains its inherently life-like characteristics. But when I plunge them into the water, they are briefly reborn. It is as if I am bringing them back to life; the water helps me capture the essence of their living beauty one last time before they wilt and fade."


The colours are magical, taking new shapes and forms far beyond the purely representational nature of the blooms themselves. It is this inherent quality that Gilles seeks to tease out of the elements with his lens: these amazing prints give us a way to hold on to that special moment where light, water and colour combine to offer a unique, transformative experience.


An interview with Taylor Harris from WWD can be viewed here.