Beauty comes from Switzerland
Richard in Geneva, 2018
Who are you, Richard Forster?
I was born on November 8, 1940 in Geneva and I live in Veyrier (canton of Geneva, Switzerland). My father Walter, linotypist and my mother Marie born Wohlgemuth came to Geneva in 1939 from the canton of Solothurn, also in Switzerland. I spent my childhood in Geneva until 1952 when my parents moved to Carouge. I attended the primary school in Geneva from 1947 to 1955.
After a preparatory education at the Modern College of Geneva (Professional School of Geneva) in 1955-56, I apprenticed as a precision mechanic at the Geneva School of Mechanics from 1956 to 1960. From 1960 to 1965 I continued my engineering education in mechanics at the ETS Superior Technical School - now Haute école du Paysage, d'Ingénierie et d'Architecture (Hepia). I graduated with the diploma thesis focused on the construction of a machine tool and obtained the title Ingénieur en mécanique (Mechanical engineer). From 1965 I began my professional life in different areas of industry: chemical construction development, electromechanical and machine-tool sales, armament development. In 1981 I started working at the Department of Public Instruction in Geneva, in the Technical Vocational Training Center as a teacher of the following subjects: technical drawing, mechanics, physics, mathematics, business management and industrial organization. I retired in 2005.
Richard as a mechanic apprentice, 1957
How did you discover photography? What was your first camera?
From my early years, as a baby in my stroller, I faced a camera quite often. My mother managed to purchase one at a time when it was not so easy. Influenced by my mother, I became interested in images and at twelve years old I received a camera for my birthday. It was a Kodak Brownie 127, for black and white negatives on a 4 cm roll film. With this rudimentary camera I discovered the world of photography by immortalizing landscapes and my classmates. My more sophisticated cameras were the Rolleiflex 4x4 (gray) for black and white photography and the Voigtländer Vito BL for color photography. Following my mother's recommendation, in 1958 I enrolled in the photography course for beginners at the Société Genevoise de Photographie (SGP) where I am still an active member.
Richard on Elba island, 1965, with a camera in homemade underwater housing
Why did photography overwhelm you so much?
Among the pleasures of photography is expressing my own ideas and feelings, being part of the world around me, in a far more creative way than as a casual spectator. This is even more true when I try to express the mysterious and elusive power of female seduction.
Or, the human body?
The human body has always been one of the most stimulating and yet controversial subjects. Since the dawn of time, women have been the allegorical figure of grace, beauty, sensuality and of course eroticism. From the beginning of the photographic era, around 1840, the followers of this new medium began to explore this theme using their daguerreotypes and calotypes and exploited its many facets, offering inexhaustible interpretations of style.
Nothing has really changed ... Nowadays, in this era of supermodels, the obsession with the human body is even greater than before. Men and women feel attraction to one another in regard to fascination, personality, and seen as a visual object. It is here that aestheticism meets eroticism, as much for me as anyone else.
My wife, my muse, 1963
So this is what led you to nude photography?
A female body is the most beautiful expression of nature that I know of; the nude is the ultimate expression of liberty. I am enamoured with it because it stirs my desire and passion; in short, it is a powerful artistic inspiration.
I am pleased if a nude photograph appeals to men, but also to women. It assures me that I am respecting their integrity and femininity. I'm not interested in standard glamour photography, I have a higher level of perfection. My photography seduces, reveals the female body and makes it attractive, steering clear of vulgarity. The body has so many harmonious shapes. Just one image can be a delightful to see. The belly, the curve of a back, chest, shoulder, legs or buttocks are all elements that I choose to highlight. Charm and aesthetics are never neglected in my photography. If I had to give a definition to these three genres, I would sum it up as follows:
How do you find your models?
I choose my models through chance encounters. I am not looking for stereotype agency models, but everyday women whom I consider to be whole persons and who often become friends. Proof? I do not pay my models, but in exchange offer images of the shoot, which is worth all the money in the world! Over time, lasting friendship develops. My models are natural and feminine and know how to express eroticism in their attitudes, in their gaze.
Details matter and make the photograph richer; skin texture, beautiful hair and of course a harmonious body in which the woman feels comfortable. It doesn't matter if she finds her chest too heavy or small, her hips too wide or her thighs too thin. In fact, it is all-important that she enjoys being photographed, participating in my artistic work.
How do you prepare a shooting session?
Before photographing a model, I meet her / him and describe what I'm looking for; I quickly sense if they will know how to cooperate. From the start, relationships should be straightforward and unambiguous. With my model, I seek above all the work of artistic creation. I use his/her body to create beautiful images; the mutual enjoymenet is greater if she feels confident about herself. However, posing is not easy! Even if a model is a novice, he/she must be well aware of what she is doing - it requires a lot of concentration. I will coach her along; little by little he/she will understand and follow my creative idea. It becomes a great partnership. By precisely explaining the attitude and the pose that I am looking for, I try to make the most of the curves, movements that make his/her body sensual - that which prioritizes beauty, sensuality and eroticism. This experience is unique and while leading him/her I also leave a lot of liberty for their own imagination and inspiration. In the end, my models are astounded by what the body can create in emotion.
Richard and a model on the beach, Corsica, 1995
After a photo shoot, looking at the final results on the computer screen or on paper,
she will be pleasantly surprised and, at the same time, proud of her body and
her femininity. Everybody has a different idea of beauty.
The deffinition of beauty is a difficult because it is often synonymous with youth, freshness,
innocence and spontaneity. Teenage girls are attractive by their innocent grace, while
older women are just as attractive, but are sumptuous, serene.
When I am planning a photo shoot, first I prepare myself psychologically and then start gathering the necessary accessories. If the session is going to take place outdoors, I find interesting places and study my future compositions, taking into account light and time of day. ln my studio, I use three or four electronic lighting devices because I prefer multiple light sources. But I like better to work outside. There I am faced with so many possibilities to which I have to adapt. I choose the start or the end of the day mainly for the quality and warmth of the light. I capture and guide it with the help of reflectors, which embellish the model. No assistants, stylist or hairdresser! I take care of everything myself - and that makes the job even more fun. Each nude photograph is also a portrait and that's why I sometimes do the model's make-up.
A photo shoot is more than a pastime for me. It is a special moment when a relationship between two people, with only the camera as witness, produces either an electronic image file or a chemical image footprint on film, an unprecedented artistic expression that electrifies the viewer's imagination.
You also did photo shoots in caves. How come?
In 1987 I met Pierre Strinati at a photo exhibition vernissage of Serge Nazarieff and he told me about his nude photos taken in a cave. Some time later, I met Gérald Favre, a technical manager of the Vallorbe caves, to whom I asked permission to photograph nude models in this underground environment. It was he, accompanied by another caver, who assisted me with lighting. As I am always looking for new challenges, I wanted to explore this experience, which, to my knowledge, had only been carried out by Pierre Strinati. At the time the underground world was completely unknown to me. I did three shootings with three different models in the cave: in 2001, 2004 and 2011. The main difficulties during these shootings were the humidity of 100%, low temperature of 10° C and the positioning and management of lighting. It was also necessary to ensure the well-being of the models who, between preparations for shots, wore heated boots and a thick fleece jumpsuit. I did another shooting in 2009 with a male model in the smaller Seillon cave (Salève massif).
Hollows symphony, The Vallorbe caves, 2011
You have also exhibited your work. On what occasions?
For years, I have participated in many group exhibitions, especially with the SGP. But I have mainly organized personal exhibitions myself around different themes, always in the field of nude photography (except one exhibition on portraits and another on landscapes).
How many personal exhibitions have you had?
Let me see ... The ones I recall are:
Paysages et Aphrodite (Galerie La Mansarde, Veyrier, November 1987) - nude photos with landscapes.
Corps en liberté (Galerie des Unions Chrétiennes, Geneva, November 1990) - male and female nudes.
Rêve entre porte et fenêtre (Galerie Decovision, Grenchen, January 1993) - nudes photographed in facade windows and doors.
Femme (Galerie du Jardin Alpin, Meyrin, November 1995) - indoor and outdoor nudes.
Femmes de lumière (Galerie La Mansarde, Veyrier, March 1997) - light effects on women's bodies.
Miroir de femmes (Dow Chemical Gallery, Meyrin, January 1998) - nudes with mirrored reflections.
Portraits d'Américains (Galerie Expo Forum, Geneva, February 1998) - portraits in the American West.
Filles de la mer (Photo Finish Gallery, Carouge, May 1998) - nudes in marine environments.
Adam (Galerie de l'Horloge TPG, Geneva, March 1999) - male nudes in nature.
Promenade en Bretagne (Galerie Expo Forum, Geneva, September 1999) - Brittany landscapes.
Lumières intérieures (Galerie Racines, Brétigny, May 2000) - black and white nudes indoors.
Encadrements (Galerie Ferme Rosset, Troinex, November 2000) - nudes seen through different frame compositions.
Le miroir complice (Corps et Âme Gallery, Geneva, October 2002) - nude photos with mirrored reflections.
Éternel féminin (Galerie de l'Horloge TPG, Geneva, November 2002) - black and white nudes indoors and outdoors.
Sirènes (Galerie Delafontaine, Carouge, April 2004) - nudes in marine environments.
Hot nylon (Galerie O Mots Doux, Geneva, October 2004) - nudes in stockings and nylon veils.
Graffiti sexy (Galerie Ferme Rosset, Troinex, February 2008) - nudes and graffiti.
Roches sensuelles (Galerie La Mansarde, Veyrier, March 2009) - nudes in environments of stones and rocks.
Femmes sublimes (Galerie de l'Horloge TPG, Geneva, October 2010) - nudes in nature, indoors and in the studio.
Ondines ( Galerie Le Clin d'oeil, Corsier, October 2020) - nudes in an underwater environment, a 10-year collection.
Which exhibition was the most memorable?
All my exhibitions were attended by numerous visitors. With the large number of photos (71), the Sirènes exhibition was one of my favorites because it showed my models in natural aquatic environments. The same can be said for the exhibition Roches sensuelles (68 images) where I presented my models in rocky environments. I always say that nature is the largest studio available, the one that allows endless possibilities for creation. I was also very happy with the Ondines exhibition. In ten years I had accumulated a great number of underwater images that I wanted to present to the public. This was made possible in-extremis during a period when Covid pandemic eased a bit / October 2020/, but when wearing sanitary masks was still required.
What were the reactions of the people on exhibition openings? What was the most funny or interesting?
During the openings, visitors congratulated me on my works, but some were surprised at the originality of the photos. I explained that nude photography is a particular area that attracts people and provokes a reaction. I have never had comments from visitors who have found a photo obscene or offensive. The models have always appreciated the respect given them during the shootings.
Did you get any further echos?
Often people ask me when I am going to organize a new nude exhibition. Some, meeting me later, congratulated me still again. News articles have frequently appeared prior to exhibitions. Who knows? Maybe a new exhibition soon ...!
How did you get the International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP) distinction?
Over the years I have participated in many national and international photo contests which were recognized by FIAP, International Federation of Photographic Art. When the contest was over, the organizers send me a card or a certificate of participation with the number of points obtained by each image. In the past I have participated a lot in Photo Suisse contests, several photos having received "Award Winning" mentions indicating that they were the best in the "Nude" section. I also obtained several diplomas, as well as Bronze and Silver plaques. My images have also been accepted or awarded in foreign competitions under FIAP patronage. In April 1993 I was awarded the title of AFIAP (FIAP Artist).
When did you start travelling?
My first trip was in 1957 when I went with a friend to the French Riviera, where I also took my first underwater photos. Later my destinations were: Germany, Italy, the Middle East and the rest of the world.
My numerous travels can be categorized into three periods: the first spanned the time from age 20 until 2007 (the year my wife, Anne-Marie, died). The second period was the years following her death, till 2015, when I met my new partner Marie-Louise, and the third, over the years thereafter.
Can you tell us more about your trips?
After my stay on the Côte d'Azur, I really wanted to take more trips, discover new horizons, meet other people. But traveling at that time was expensive; that's why I worked during my school holidays as a gas station attendant. In the summer of 1961, I hitchhiked to Hamburg, Germany. This trip was so enriching that I planned a much more substantial journey for the summer of 1962. Still with the backpack on my shoulders and my thumb raised in the air, I crossed Italy, former Yugoslavia, Turkey, to the east, to the Syrian border, through the region of Cappadocia. On my return I took the road through Antalya, Konya and Izmir, and the same route that I used previously, but with a prolonged stopover in Italy, on the beaches of the Adriatic and with a visit to Rome. That year I also got to know Anne-Marie, my beloved to whom I passed on my passion for traveling. This is how we started our relationship, on the roads of Europe next year, as far north as Scotland, still with backpacks and thumbs up! During the summer of 1964, we set out to tour Switzerland with our bicycles and our tent to visit the Expo 64 exhibition in Lausanne. We got married in 1965 and we went on our honeymoon by train to Portugal, still with our backpacks and camping tent, to the most western point of the continent, to Sagres. It was on a deserted Algarve beach that I took the first nude photos of my muse. While camping on Elba in 1966, I continued to photograph her by the sea. With our young children, sons Gilles (1967) and Luc (1970), we then traveled for years to the Mediterranean to spend our holidays in France. Until 2007, the year of my muse's death, we visited Switzerland, Sicily, Cyprus, Venice, Paris and the American West in 1994 and 1999 - without our children.
Richard enjoying a bath in the desert, Ksar Ghilane, 2006
After the loss of my beloved, in order to quiet my pain,
I escaped alone to destinations near and far. In 2007 it was Tunisia. In 2008 I traveled to Venice
for the carnival, to China, to Paris, to Kyrgyzstan and to Egypt. In 2009 I visited Vietnam,
Kenya for a photo safari, and Lanzarote for a photo shoot with a model.
In 2010, it was Morocco, Paris again, and Japan. In 2011 I left for India (Rajasthan), then
rediscovered Cappadocia and Corsica. In 2012 it was Alsace and its vineyards, followed by two
destinations on the opposite sides of the globe: Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia) and Cuba.
In 2013 I visited Iceland and Basler Fasnacht
to take pictures of the festival. In 2014 my destinations were Brussels, Spain, Peru and in 2015 Myanmar,
Tokyo and Brittany.
After getting to know my new partner, Marie-Louise, whom I met at the SGP, one evening, my travels continued with her. In 2016 we went to Paris, to Thailand and to Jordan, in 2017 to Corsica, in 2018 to Berlin, South Africa, China and Tibet. In 2019 it was South India and Colombia, in 2020-21, Covid oblige, we traveled across Switzerland, where we discovered quite a few special places.
How were your travels arranged? Was it with a travel agency, or on your own?
My trips nearby were often organized at the suggestions of friends or on the internet. For distant trips I use a travel agency. My mascot Lapinou accompanied me most of the time. I have never been on sea cruises which, to my taste, would probably be boring. The discoveries of new lands and the unexpected encounters of the natives made my travels fascinating and fully satisfied my curiosity as a photographer.
What is your favorite place, the place you would always like to return?
The place I would definitely go back to is Delicate Arch in Utah, the American West. I visited it twice with my muse, in 1994 and in 1999, to photograph her in these sumptuous natural settings.
At the Delicate arch, Utah, 1994
What was your worst and your best travel experience?
I cannot say that I have had good or bad experiences in my many travels. Each trip had its peculiarities that I shared with the complicity of Lapinou. For example, I had warm contacts with the locals of Cuba, as opposed to coutries with high mountains and warm sand, inhabitants who violently refused to be photographed or who always begged for money.
Who is Lapinou?
Lapinou, a stuffed animal, a rabbit, is my mascot! It was handmade and given to me by my wife just before her death in 2007. In her memory, Lapinou accompanies me most of the time to the four corners of the world and allows me to easily come into contact with the native people that I meet.
Lapinou in the snow, Geneva, 2013
Portraits seem to be the best part of your travel photography. Do you agree?
When traveling, above all I like to meet the natives, young, old, men, women and children. With my approach, Lapinou helps me a lot because people are intrigued and are curious to get close. It allows me to easily get in contact with them. One exchange of a smile - and the ice is quickly broken with a few kind words, even if we don't understand each other's language. My portrait photography becomes easy once I obtain the confidence of people. Portraits are the best part of my travel photo collection although I also enjoy my landscapes and reportage photos very much.
What made the biggest impression on you while shooting portraits?
In my travels, I have often been struck by the great kindness of the people I approached and their complicity when I framed their faces in my viewfinder. The only times I encountered hostility was during my trip to the already mentioned Magreb countries, but it still didn't stop me from bringing home some beautiful portraits.
How many portraits do you have in your collection?
I have countless portrait photos. Since 2007 I have placed 24 portrait collections on my site aphroditephoto.net with more than 2000 images and I hope to add many more.
A little girl in Kyoto, 2010, and an old man in Agra, 2011
And how many portrait exhibitions?
Not so many as I should. Actually I have organized just one such exhibition, of portraits of Americans that I created during my trip to the West of the United States.
You have never changed the title photo of your site aphroditephoto.net. How come?
The image of a young woman languishing on the white rock has been there since the creation of my site because it has a great sentimental value. This model, Barbarella, who can be seen on several of my YouTube slideshows, is a fantastic person with whom I had a great relationship of confidence in the years 2004-05. With her, I explored all the areas of nude photography; to thank her for her great commitment I assured her that I would place her photo on the homepage of my personal website.
Do you have any advice for the nude photo beginners?
Here we are, at the end of the interview, with two different questions. What is your favorite music?
When I was 16-17 years old rock'n roll was very popular with young people. I was part of a group of dancers and we performed in the dancing halls to the sound of, among other things, the music of Bill Haley and his Comets, of the hit Rock Around The Clock.
And what's your favorite color?
Red! It was the first color that man mastered and which embodies might and power. But for me, it rather embodies happiness, beauty, passion and pleasure. Often I intertwine red into my artistic compositions.
Hudojnazar Mustafojevič Zokirov, son of Mustafo of BoyBuloq, December 2021
Evgenij Sakulin, loves caving and travel, January 2022
This page and the text by Primož Jakopin,
photos by Richard Forster, published with his permission. The text was reviewed and vastly improved
by Ann Richter, not only its in places too baroque writing style.
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