Now Reading
Why French Photographer François Halard is Setting His Sights on Asia

Why French Photographer François Halard is Setting His Sights on Asia

After a long career documenting extraordinary artists’ spaces and homes, renowned French photographer François Halard is bringing his works to Asia for the first time.

Casa come me (house like me) is the nickname given by the Italian novelist and poet Curzio Malaparte to his striking red Capri villa, which he designed in collaboration with the architect Aldalberto Libera. Perched atop a cliff on the eastern side of the island, the long rectangular home is almost totally isolated, reachable only by an hour and a half’s walk from the nearest piazza.

(Image: François Halard Studio)

Constructed between 1937 and 1942, Casa Malaparte became something of a cultural symbol in 1963 after appearing in Jean-Luc Godard’s cult film Le Mépris, starring Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli and Jack Palance. Since then, the architectural gem has fascinated and beguiled admirers for its unorthodox features, seen as a reflection of the writer’s personality itself. “I think it’s the most beautiful personal building, because Malaparte really designed it for his own imagination, his own fantasy,” explains Francois Halard, a fan of the novelist since his youth.

Although Halard, the renowned French photographer, has spent a lifetime capturing some of the world’s most extraordinary spaces, Casa Malaparte has always held a particular fascination. “Even though it was built in the 1940s, it’s so modern in the way it was done and the thinking behind it. There’s a special energy in Capri and the house reflects that,” he says.

The opportunity to photograph the house, which is now owned by Malaparte’s great nephew, was a mission that took Halard 10 years. Captured on film in a day, without any crew, his images are on view for the first time in Asia at Villepin Gallery.

Although the series was shot two decades ago, Halard’s images still eloquently capture the poetry of the minimal and linear features of the building, including the so-called “staircase to nowhere” on the roof. Particularly mesmerising are his photographs of the house’s large wood-framed windows, resembling canvases that transform the surrounding views of the island and the Mediterranean into moveable works of art.

Casa Malaparte, Capri (1998) by François Halard

What Halard hopes viewers will take away from the exhibition, which also features his portraits of Cy Twombly’s home and Gaeta and Giogio Morandi’s studio in Bologna, isn’t merely to feel inspired but also to perceive these special parts of the Mediterranean as works of art in themselves.

“I still love these works, even though I did them 20 years ago,” he says. “I still love the fact that the works are true to myself. What’s fantastic about photographing places and artists’ studios is that they don’t age, but fashion ages.” The series also holds personal significance for Halard, as it was one of the first solo projects he undertook after 15 years of working in the fashion industry.

Born in Paris in 1961, Halard developed a love of photography at a young age. Suffering from autism and struggling to communicate, he found solace in expressing himself through images. After studying at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, Halard cut his teeth working as a photographer for the French publication Décoration Internationale. 

Casa Malaparte, Capri (1998) by François Halard

His big break came in 1984, when he received an offer from Alex Liberman, the revered and equally feared Condé Nast editorial director, whose artistic direction is widely credited with catapulting the portfolio to such success. “One day, Liberman called me up and said, ‘We want you to come to New York, and we’ll give you an exclusive contract.’ I thought, why not? Back then, I couldn’t even speak English. But of course, I said yes and left in a flash.”

Tasked with photographing fashion, beauty and interiors for American Vogue, Vanity Fair and House & Garden, the young Halard found himself in the midst of the heyday of glossy magazines, a time when editors had untold budgets for extravagant shoots in far-flung destinations. “It was definitely a certain time,” recalls Halard. “I remember going back and forth from Paris to New York with the Concorde twice a week. I went from one place to another, working for André Leon Talley one day and then someone else. To me, this almost seemed normal.”

Halard’s early experiences saw him working with the stylist Polly Mellon photographing the new couture collections for Vogue, commissioned by Anna Wintour’s predecessor, Grace Mirabella, as well as working with Bruce Weber for his first advertising contract with Ralph Lauren. “But when you start like this at 20, where do you go next?” he says.

“After more than 10 years working with fashion and with all the excitement and the problems of working with high-maintenance people every day, I wanted to do something closer to my heart, closer to my sensibility, closer to art, and to be close to the artists I really admire.”

Halard’s move towards more personal projects has seen him document the studios and homes of some of the most influential artists, architects and tastemakers of our time. From Louise Bourgeois and Dries Van Noten to Maja Hoffman and Anthony Gormley, Halard’s lens skilfully translates the essence of such spaces into intimate, romantic portraits. His images of these extraordinary interiors feature in more than a dozen books, offering a window into his beautiful world.

See Also

With countless exhibitions worldwide behind him, Halard has recently been turning his focus towards Asia. As well as the current exhibition at Villepin, last year he had a solo show at Seoul’s Piknic Gallery and has various works on display in Japan. “I think now is a very exciting moment in Asia,” he says. “I feel the same energy and vibe as when I first moved to New York in the ’80s. There’s a feeling of excitement; people here are eager to do more and to discover new things.”

Casa Malaparte, Capri (1998) by François Halard

Although he says he’s always held an admiration for Asian art, a recent visit to the M+ Museum piqued his curiosity. “I think it’s a very interesting moment for art right now in Asia, which I find here in Hong Kong and also in Korea. I see a trend of artists who are reappropriating their own history and trying to digest the past to do something new about it.”

At 63 and with an incredible legacy behind him, Halard’s enthusiasm for photography shows no signs of waning. He’s still a regular contributor for Condé Nast, for which recent commissions have taken him to shoot the mesmerising Roman apartment of the former Gucci creative director, Alessandro Michele, and the bucolic Cotswold’s home of landscape designer Miranda Brooks.

After years travelling the world, lockdown at long last afforded Halard the time to photograph his own home, something he describes as “a dream come true”. Over 56 days Halard shot his 18th-century hôtel particulier with a Polaroid camera, documented in his recent book, 56 Days In Arles. The intimate shots offer a glimpse into his own life as an avid collector of art and artefacts. “That moment transformed my body of work into having my house as my main inspiration, almost like a muse for still life, painting and photography,” he says. 

He now hopes to spend more time photographing Greek antiquity, eagerly sharing images from his latest book, which include photographs taken in Lebanon’s Baalbek during the pandemic. “I was the only one there and people were wondering what I was doing. I built a Polaroid lab in the middle of the site; they couldn’t believe it.”

But top of the list for the fearless photographer? “The place I don’t know very well is still Asia. So, I’m really looking forward to spending more time here.”

Source: Prestige Online

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Copyright © MetaMedia™ Capital Inc, All right reserved

Scroll To Top