Primož Jakopin
Richard Forster
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, photo by Richard Forster; published with permission

 
How did you discover photography? What was your first camera?
 
          From my early years, as a baby I was sitting in my stroller, I was confronted with the camera. My mother managed to get one at a time when it was not so easy to own and use a camera as it is now. Influenced by my mother I was interested in images until the day I was twelve years old when I received a camera for my birthday present. It was a Kodak Brownie 127 camera, 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 first 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, Geneva Society of Photography) where I am still an active member.


 
Selfie of Richard on the shore of Elba island, 1965, with a camera in underwater housing of his own making; published with permission

 
How come that photography overwhelmed you so much?
 
          Among the pleasures of photography is the ability to express my own ideas and feelings, being part of the world around me, albeit, over time, in a far more creative way than in a role of a casual spectator. This is even more true when I try to express through my photography the mysterious and elusive power of seduction that a woman is capable of.
 
Or, better yet, the human form?
 
          The human form has always been one of the most fascinating, stimulating and 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 which offered them inexhaustible interpretations of style.
          Nowadays, in the era of supermodels, this obsession with the body has not changed, it is even stronger. Men and even women experience this attraction, both fascination with the subject, the personality of the woman, but also for the woman as a visual object: this is where aestheticism sometimes meets eroticism. I myself succumb to this double attraction of feminine beauty.


 
My muse, 1963, photo by Richard Forster; published with permission

So this is what led you to nude photography?
 
          A female body is the most beautiful expression of nature that I know of and the nude is the ultimate expression of liberty. I fall in love with it only because it stirs my desire and passion, in short, it is a powerful artistic inspiration.
          A nude photograph satisfies me if it appeals to men but also to women. It's a way to assure me that I respect their femininity. I'm not interested in standard glamour photography, I have a higher idea of perfection. My very specific photography must rather seduce, reveal the female body and make it attractive to the full, while steering clear of vulgarity. The body has multiple harmonious shapes. Just one of these can be a feast for the eye. A belly, a back, a chest, a shoulder, legs or pretty buttocks are all elements of the sculpture that I choose to isolate and highlight. Yet if I do favor the nude, charm and aesthetics are certainly not neglected. If I had to give a definition to these three genres, I would sum it up personally as follows:

 
How do you find your models
 
          I choose my models through chance encounters, sensations, scents of the day and of life. I am not looking for stereotypical agency models, but everyday women whom I consider to be entire persons and who more often than not become friends. The proof? I do not pay them, but generously and in digital form offer them images of the shoot for their cooperation, which in their eyes is worth all the money in the world. Over time, bonds of complicity develop between them and me that last until our paths separate. My models must be both natural and feminine while knowing how to express a certain eroticism in their attitudes, in their gaze.
          All the details matter to me and make the photograph richer; a nice skin texture, beautiful hair and of course a harmonious body in which the woman feels good. It doesn't matter if she finds her chest too heavy or small, her hips too wide or her thighs too thin. In fact, for me, the all important is that she enjoys being photographed, participating in my artistic work.
 
How do you prepare a shooting session?
 
          Even before photographing someone, I meet them and talk to them to make them understand precisely what I'm looking for and I know very quickly if they want to go my way, to cooperate. From the start, relationships should be straightforward and unambiguous. With my model, I seek above all the work of artistic creation. I want to use her body to create beautiful images and the mutual pleasure will be even greater if she feels good about herself. However, posing is not always easy. Even if a woman is a novice, she has to be well aware of what she is doing and it requires a lot of concentration. I will help her; she must understand my creative idea, follow it and give it the right feeling, in great partnership of this particular moment. By indicating precisely the attitude or the pose that I want, I ask her to do a lot of physical work. Therefore, I try to make the most of the curves, movements that can make her body sensual and which prioritize beauty, sensuality, eroticism. This experience can be unique and while leading her I also leave a lot of room for her imagination and inspiration. In the end she will get intoxicated with how she can create with her body.


 
Richard and a model on the beach, 1995, Corsica, photo by Richard Forster; published with permission

          After a session of posing, looking at the final results on the computer screen or on paper, she will be very pleasantly surprised at the work done and, at the same time, proud of her body and her femininity. Everybody has a different idea of beauty. And beauty is a tough matter because it is synonymous with youth, freshness, innocence, spontaneity. Of course, teenage girls are obviously very attractive with their ingenuous grace while older women are lavish, more serene.
          When I am planning a session, I prepare myself psychologically and start gathering the necessary accessories. If the session is going to take place outdoors, I go out to find places to study my future compositions, taking into account the best light and time of day. Indoors, I use up to three or four electronic flashlights, because I prefer the multiplication of light sources. But I like it better to work outside, because there I am faced to so many possibilities to which I have to adapt. I choose the moments at the start and end of the day mainly for the quality and warmth of the light that I capture and guide with the help of reflectors, which all embellishes the model. No assistants, stylist or hairdresser; I personally take care of everything - and that makes my job even more exciting. Each nude photograph is also a portrait and that's why I sometimes take care of my model's make-up.
          A photo shoot is more than a pleasant pastime for me. It is a special moment in life when a relationship between two people, with the camera as the only witness, will reveal in an electronic or chemical reaction an unprecedented artistic work that will electrify the viewer's imagination.
 
You also photographed in caves. How come?
 
          In 1987 I met Pierre Strinati during a vernissage of a photo exhibition with photos of Serge Nazarieff and he told me about caving and his nude photos taken in a cave. Some time later, I met Gérald Favre, then technical manager of the Vallorbe caves, whom I asked for 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 in my nude photography, I wanted to explore this topic, 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 of Vallorbe: in 2001, 2004 and 2011. The main difficulties to overcome during these shootings were the humidity of 100%, low temperature of 10° C and the positioning and management of flashlights. It was also necessary to ensure the well-being of the models who, between preparations for shots, wore heated boots and were dressed in a fleece suit. I did another shooting in 2009 with a male model in a smaller cave in the Salève massif, in the Seillon cave.


 
Hollows symphony, 2011, photo by Richard Forster; published with permission

 
You also exhibited your work. On what occasions?
 
          For years, I have participated in many group exhibitions, especially with my photo club. But above all, I organized personal exhibitions around different themes, always in the field of nude photography, except one exhibition on portraits and another one on landscapes.
 
How many personal exhibitions did you have?
 
          Let me try to summarize all the personal exhibitions that I recall and that I like to remember.
Paysages et Aphrodite (Galerie La Mansarde, Veyrier, November 1987) presented nude photos in synergy with landscapes.
Corps en liberté (Galerie des Unions Chrétiennes, Geneva, November 1990) was about photos of male and female nudes.
Rêve entre porte et fenêtre (Galerie Decovision, Grenchen, January 1993) was connected to nudes photographed in facade openings.
Femme (Galerie du Jardin Alpin, Meyrin, November 1995) displayed photos of nudes taken indoors and outdoors.
Femmes de lumière (Galerie La Mansarde, Veyrier, March 1997) - was about light effects on women's bodies.
Miroir de femmes (Dow Chemical Gallery, Meyrin, January 1998) presented nude photos with mirrored reflections.
Portraits d'Américains (Galerie Expo Forum, Geneva, February 1998) showed portraits of indigenous people in the American West.
Filles de la mer (Photo Finish Gallery, Carouge, May 1998) - a palette of nudes in marine environments.
Adam (Galerie de l'Horloge TPG, Geneva, March 1999) showed male nudes in nature.
Promenade en Bretagne (Galerie Expo Forum, Geneva, September 1999) - photos of Brittany landscapes.
Lumières intérieures (Galerie Racines, Brétigny, May 2000) - black and white nudes in interiors.
Encadrements (Galerie Ferme Rosset, Troinex, November 2000) was about nudes seen through different frames, part of composition.
Le miroir complice (Corps et Âme Gallery, Geneva, October 2002) displayed nude photos with mirrored reflections.
Éternel féminin (Galerie de l'Horloge TPG, Geneva, November 2002) presented black and white nudes indoors and outdoors.
Sirènes (Galerie Delafontaine, Carouge, April 2004) - nude photographs in marine environments.
Hot nylon (Galerie O Mots Doux, Geneva, October 2004) was about nudes in stockings and nets.
Graffiti sexy (Galerie Ferme Rosset, Troinex, February 2008) presented nude photos against graffiti and tagged walls.
Roches sensuelles (Galerie La Mansarde, Veyrier, March 2009) showed nude photos in environments of stones and rocks.
Femmes sublimes (Galerie de l'Horloge TPG, Geneva, October 2010) brought nudes in nature, indoors and in the studio.
Ondines ( Galerie Le Clin d'oeil, Corsier, October 2020) - photos of nudes in an underwater environment, collected over a decade.
 
Which exhibition was the most memorable?
 
          All my exhibitions were attended by a pleasing number of visitors. With the large number of photos presented (71 images), the Sirènes exhibition was one of my favorites because it showed my models in natural aquatic environments that I particularly like. 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 gives me endless possibilities for creation. I was also very happy with the Ondines exhibition. In over ten years I had accumulated a large number of underwater images that I wanted to present to the public some day. This was made possible in-extremis during a period when the grip of the pandemic eased a bit (October 2020) but when the wearing of sanitary masks was however still required.
 
What were the reactions of the people on exhibition openings? What was the most funny or interesting?
 
          During the openings, visitors of course congratulated me on my works but some were surprised at the originality of the photos. But it must also be taken into account that nude photography is a particular area that attracts people and also makes them react. Yet I never had comments from visitors who would find a photo obscene or offensive. On the contrary, they appreciated the way I treated the opposite gender: with love and affection.
 
Did you later get any further echo, oral, via letters or in the press?
 
          Often people would ask me when I was going to organize an upcoming nude exhibition. Some, meeting me later, congratulated me again. News articles appeared either before my exhibitions or during them but never after.
 
How did you get the FIAP distinction?
 
          Over the years I participated in many national (Photo Suisse) and international photo contests which were recognized by FIAP, International Federation of Photographic Art. When such contest was over, the organizers would send me a card or a sheet certifying my participation with the points obtained by my images. I have dozens of such cards. As I participated a lot in Photo Suisse contests, several photos received "Award Winning" mentions which meant that they were the best in the "Nude" section. I thus obtained several diplomas as well as Bronze and Silver plaques. And as my images were also accepted or awarded in foreign competitions under FIAP patronage, the organization in April 1993 awarded me the title AFIAP (FIAP Artist).
 
When did you start to travel?
 
          My first trip took place in 1957 when I went with a friend to the French Riviera, where I also took my first underwater photos. Subsequently, my destinations were multiple: Germany, Italy, Middle East and the rest of the world, until today.
          My travels, very numerous, can roughly be categorized into three periods. The first spanned the time from my twentieth year until 2007, the year of the death of Anne-Marie, my wife. The second the years following her death, till 2015, when I met my new partner and the third in the years thereafter.
 
Can you tell more about your voyages?
 
          After my summer stay on the Côte d'Azur, I had a great desire to undertake new trips, discover new horizons, meet other people. But traveling at that time was expensive and that's why I worked during my school holidays as a gas station attendant to make some pocket money that I regularly put aside. In the summer of 1961, I hitchhiked with my backpack on the roads of Germany, to Hamburg. This trip was so enriching that I planned a new much more substantial journey for the summer of 1962. Still with the backpack on my shoulders and my thumb raised in the air at the roadside, I crossed Italy, the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, to its east, heading to the Syrian border through the region of Cappadocia. On return I took the road through Antalya, Konya and Izmir, followed by the same route which I used to come, yet 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 set off, the following year, on the roads of Europe as far as Scotland, still with backpacks and thumbs up. During the summer of 1964, we set out to tour Switzerland with our bikes and the camping tent in order to visit the Expo 64 exhibition in Lausanne. We got married in 1965 and our honeymoon took us by train to Portugal, still with our backpacks and camping tent, to the most western point of the continent in 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 holidays in France. Until 2007, the year of my muse's death, the destinations we visited without our children were Switzerland, Sicily, Cyprus, Venice, Paris and the American West in 1994 and 1999.


 
The pleasure of a bath in the desert, Ksar Ghilane, 2006, photo by Richard Forster; published with permission

          After the loss of my beloved, in order to crush my pain and rub shoulders with other people, 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 shoot with a model. In 2010, it was Morocco, Paris again and Japan. In 2011 I departed to India (Rajasthan) and I 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 photograph it. In 2014 my destinations were Brussels, Spain, Peru, in 2015 Myanmar, Tokyo and Brittany.
          After getting to know my new partner, Marie-Louise, following an evening at the Société genevoise de photographie, 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, as you can imagine, we traveled across Switzerland, where we discovered quite a few very special places.
 
How were your travels arranged? Was it with a travel agency, or on your own?
 
          My close trips were often organized at the instigation of friends or after consulting the internet, while for distant trips, I would use the services of a travel agency. My mascot Lapinou accompanied me most of the time. I have never been on sea cruises which, to my taste, would certainly be boring. The discoveries of new lands and the unexpected encounters of the natives certainly made my travels fascinating and fully satisfied my curiosity as a photographer.
 
What is your favorite place, where you would always like to return?
 
          The place I would definitely go back to is Delicate Arch in Utah, 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, 1994, photo by Richard Forster; published with permission

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 lived them to the full with the complicity of Lapinou. For example, I had very warm contacts with the locals of Cuba when they were much more difficult to reach as opposed to those of the country of high mountains and light warm beige sand, people who systematically refused to be photographed or who begged for money outright.
 
Who is Lapinou?
 
          Lapinou is my mascot which was made and given to me by my wife just before her death in 2007. In memory of her, she 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, February 2013, photo by Richard Forster; published with permission

Portraits seem to be the best part of your travel photography. Do you agree?
 
          When I am traveling, I like above all, to meet the natives, young, old, men or women. In my approach, Lapinou helps me a lot because people are intrigued by him and are curious to get close to him. He therefore allows me to easily get in touch with them. An exchange of smile and the ice is quickly broken with a few kind words, even if we don't understand each other. My portrait photography gets very easy once I obtain the confidence of the other side. Portraits are therefore 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. I know that I have already placed 24 portrait collections on my site aphroditephoto.net (since 2007) 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; photos by Richard Forster; published with permission

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.
 
On your site aphroditephoto.net you never changed the title photo. 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 VIMEO 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 and to thank her for the great commitment I assured her that I would place her photo at the top of my personal website.
 
What about the matters of the heart?
 
          A few years ago a new lady entered my life. She shares my travels and gets involved in my photographic art.
 
Do you have an advice for the nude photo newbies?

 
At the end two a little different questions. 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, with his hit: "Rock Around The Clock".
 
And your favorite color?
 
          It's red! It was the first color that man mastered and which embodies might and power. But for me, she rather embodies happiness, beauty, passion and pleasure. Often I intertwine it into my artistic compositions.


 


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