Actress and filmmaker Melanie Laurent (behind the 2015 film Breathe) and actress Audrey Dana are among those who posed for photographer Olivier Ciappa in his series Imaginary Couples. The French artist’s exhibition aims to showcase heterosexual celebrities posting as imaginary same-sex couples “in a realistic and intimate way.” Using famous faces (including Eva Longoria and singer Lara Fabian), Olivier relies on recognizability to challenge viewers and their ideas of sexual identity.
“You’re with the person you love. Not a man, not a woman,” Oliver said of what he told his subjects. “Then, at the session, I disappear, for they are one with each other.”
Audrey and Melanieimages exclusive to AfterEllen/Oliver Ciappa
So far Imaginary Couples has been shown in Paris, Lima, Montreal, Beirut and in varies German cities, but it will be coming to the U.S. for the first time this summer in Los Angeles. Oliver says he was inspired to create the series “because of the hate he had been seeing in his home country a few years ago.”
And it seems like he is pushing the buttons just as he was hoping. Just over the weekend, Oliver’s work was vandalized from where they hung on the gates of the Grand Rond Garden in Toulouse. Images from Imaginary Couples were destroyed with homophobic and hateful graffiti.
“We need to get a message to the attention of those who hammer that there is no homophobia in France,” Olivier said, in loose translation. “I make these pictures to educate people; those who do not want to see even if they think they have open minds.”
After the images were replaced, the new ones were stolen. Olivier responded on his Facebook page:
The first time, they wanted to show their displeasure. The second time, they have totally decided to erase the expo for that no passing Toulouse can’t see her. By stealing all the photos, nothing is visible, as if the expo did not exist.Not only the old photos vandalized that I had held to keep exposed to the sight of all are no longer here, but also all the new panels that had been installed the day before by the town hall! They want to censor this kind of photos that they find offensive? This is not a problem. There’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. There’s the button like, there’s the share button. And we can use them…
Visit Olivier’s website for more images, which he would love for you to share in the name of equality and representation.