During a residency exchange between CALQ and the Christoph Merian Foundation in Switzerland, Nathalie Daoust created a series of images set in an ambiguous world where dream and reality clash. Here memory and introspection build a labyrinth of illusion and mystery. These photographs allowed Ms. Daoust to consciously reconstruct a time in her past, piece-by-piece. Filling the gaps in her memory with visual portrayals of fantasy, she depicts a life-like tale, based on real events.
Her concept was driven by the desire to freeze certain moments in time in order to preserve them intact, like works of art, while also giving them the possibility to move, to change position, and redeem themselves, thanks to an unexpected second life offered through art. This concept arose from the feelings of discomfort, abandonment, and desolation she felt when facing a landscape that appeared flawless. To escape, she physically created a new realm, one we sense but cannot physically inhabit. Thus, women in the photographs clash and lack synchrony with their environment, and the seemingly ambivalent images pulse with a sensation that falls somewhere between lightness and restlessness.
Nathalie Daoust’s project, Tokyo Hotel Story, continues her exploration of female sexuality and subversion of gender stereotypes. Spending several months in the Alpha In, one of the biggest S&M “love hotels” in Japan. Daoust photographed 39 women in their private rooms, surrounded by the specialist equipment and dressed in the regalia that helps define their trade.
“In this series I have documented women of all ages in the role of Dominatrix. I aim to give a different insight into the woman as a dominating being, which conflicts with the Japanese image of femininity, where women have become more passive beauties.”
Daoust believes that numerous challenges still exist in terms of confronting deep-rooted stereotypes of gender-roles, not only in Japan but in the world. Her work helps her to delve beyond taboos while showing the universal human desire to escape reality and create fantasy worlds that often oscillate between dream, reality and perversion.
Context and environment are so important to Daoust that she photographed the 26 empty rooms in 3D anaglyph to “give the viewer the feeling of being there.” Her developing and processing technique are equally significant. There’s no digital trickery at work here - all images are shot on analogue film and hand printed in a darkroom, allowing her to manipulate the negatives more closely to the images she “felt and saw” in her mind’s eye at the time of shooting.
The result is a series of photographs that underline Daoust’s passion for the surreal and the sensual, and which shine a light into the darker shadows not only of femininity but human sexuality in general.