by Rich Moreland, March 2014
My thanks to Ludovic Goubet for his permission to examine a portion of his work. The reader is directed to Ludovic’s website for the information sources and samples of his photography referenced in this article.
Europeans are far less sexually intimidated than Americans. To put it another way, across the pond dissonance over sexual expression and the prevailing sociocultural ethos is minimally pervasive by comparison. Statesiders tend to run for the cover of social propriety when the erotic trickles into consciousness. Consider Miley Cyrus’s twerking, Janet Jackson’s nipple, and Britney Spears’ lip lock with Madonna. These pop idols quickly became pariahs endangering small town wholesomeness with their careless frivolities. In American entertainment, sexual expression is never quite able to scoot around the salacious image.
With this thought in mind, meet Ludovic Goubet, a self-described ArtVenturer whose photographic style drifts in and among the whims of the female form. Though “artist” describes Ludovic, “visionary” is better suited. He captures a sexuality that is eroticism dancing on the edge of the hardcore. His women celebrate their sensuality with a personal expression that forestalls the explicit.
Currently living in his native Paris, Ludovic remembers his father provided him with a camera when he was a troubled nineteen-year-old. A few shots of a girl he met followed, but the cost of photography was prohibitive for a youth with limited means. Besides, other issues were elbowing their way into Ludvic’s self-contained world. The young Frenchman had an urge to wander with a love for music always in tow. Martinique, Spain, and the Canary Islands marked the beginning. Eventually jazz and the blues were destined for a rendezvous that would take him to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and a club called The Chukker that once hosted the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix.
In those burning early years, sound and vision possessed Ludovic, churning a mind that would later mature into visual expression. At this time in his journeys, youthful adventures occupied center stage; photography was a moment in the past, its return at least a decade away.
A Gothic German name, Malthilde melds the sacred feminine with Freya, the goddess of love, fertility, sexuality, and war. The essence of male awakening, she is the relentless hormonal push spurring boys to seek their manhood, the primal urge that weaves virility with a self-absorbed passion to exploit sexuality for personal satisfaction. Lessons of praise and honor are yet to be learned.
Malthilde is female presence. She is the fiery red haired Bouddica, the Iceni queen rebelling against the Romans, and the gentle grace of Lady Godiva, Anglo-Saxon noblewoman protesting oppression with her infamous ride. The ancient Greeks believed that Eros and aggression are animated opposites, complements of each other. Ludovic’s Malthilde embraces both.
Like so much of erotic art, Malthilde is archetypal. With reminders of Aphrodite emerging from the sea, Ludovic’s camera glimpses this goddess caressed by an orgasmic surf and later captures her with a lover, their sexuality playful and powerful, not degenerate.
Perhaps the most powerful image also defines the archetype. Malthilde is the wilderness, the peaceful return to nature that comforts the human spirit in a modern world often torn with strife and little understood. Magically contradictory to an ever fickle commercialized and cosmopolitan standard of beauty, Malthilde is timeless and breathless, natural and unshaven, red tresses her signature.
Ludovic returned to photography upon meeting his second wife. The year was 1998 and his new “soulmate,” as he describes his women, was a triathlete. Lithe bodies are the energy of triathlon and the artist’s wife was at the front of that line. Her passion for the sport is typical of its devotees and Ludovic summarizes what all lovers of triathletes know, “triathlon junkie” is an addiction of its own. Her “incredible body” and “splendid nakedness,” fired his enthusiasm, as did the practicality of low cost digital photography.
The model Enzo appears on his website under the title Madonna and Child. She represents the next stage in the growth of masculine appreciation for the female form. Like Malthide, Enzo is red haired, but with the cropped look of an athlete.
She represents transition, revealing what a young mother means to her lover. Her gaze piques a lust for the reproducing woman he can guard and possess. Made all the more alluring with an athlete’s grace and nipples of arousal, Enzo holds her baby and prioritizes the moment. “I have a child to look after,” she whispers, “perhaps later.”
In 2004 ugliness reared when Ludovic’s marriage collapsed. Dysfunctional times followed. A return to the primordial dominates Ludovic’s art, revealing that Malthilde, unlike Enzo, never grows old. Even as a man approaches middle age and wedding rings corral wanderings, his reveries cavort with the phantoms of his youth.
With the years comes the need to create a story of the self. Ludovic metaphorically uses his camera to explore his own. “Most people say that I have a great respect for the way I show the woman’s body,” he relates in an interview for Taschen Publications. “I also like to tell a story with my photos, and I put the models in a situation where they have the feeling that they can be themselves with confidence.”
Most of his models are strictly amateurs, he says, and he finds them in the haunts of Parisian night clubs and the city’s fetish underground where a powerful eroticism owns the night. Reflecting a past filled with meanderings and excursions, Ludovic also uses the internet in his search. What persuades a model to shoot for him is the desire to entice the camera, Ludovic says, because money is a commodity he lacks.
The unconventional is a perfect fit for a primitive sexuality that roils the mind and forever promises to renew the aging body. Presently much of Ludovic’s work traverses the variances of the BDSM culture Paris nurtures. Bondage and discipline is the new invigorating frontier because the erotic forever nudges capricious desires to act out a respectful maliciousness. Remember Eros.
Yet, a question lingers. Is Ludovic Goubet erotic or pornographic?
Pornography is Seldom Erotic
“I think that the erotic can be pornography, but pornography is seldom erotic,” Ludovic comments in his Taschen interview. There are boundaries, he insists, which keep pornography at bay. The Malthilde collection illustrates his point. Porn lacks imagination, he declares, does not respect a woman’s body, and entertains individuals (males, we assume) who “see sex as a violent way of affirming themselves.”
Though his assertions will spark debate, Ludovic concedes that all porn is not undesirable, referencing the “Porn Art” of adult filmmaker Andrew Blake as a powerful example. In his own work, Ludovic insists on parameters. The “‘moral limits’” of his models dictate the scope of his vision. Though his subjects control the content of their shoots, Ludovic never forgets that the definition of art covers countless expressions of what is sexual.
In examining his web portfolio, pay particular attention to the swirling and consuming that enlivens the erotic between and among lovers. The images avoid perfection because for lovers that is impossible. Total desire is never sated or singularly focused.
Rather, Ludovic’s camera captures the faces and eyes that thirst for eternal surrender but confess that the human condition can never deliver unfettered happiness. There is a hint of retreat into internal chambers where doors can be gently closed, protecting the hearts within, while a yearning to push them open remains.
The viewer is left with a sensuousness that is not pornographic, an accomplishment that welcomes the sexually charged fragility of the Malthide portfolio. The playfulness of her lover stamps out pure thoughts of the explicit where penetration, not expression, is the goal.
In his interview with Lemague.net, Ludovic explains his reliance on fantasy. He describes the photograph as “timeless and magical moments” and praises the photographer of nudes, suggesting such an artist is “most feared” because of his power over those who encounter his work. Perhaps envy might be added to his thought.
Ludovic responds to an often posed question, does photography create the fantasy or does the fantasy shape the photography?
“I fantasize hugely before encountering a model,” he states, a proclivity he characterizes as “dreamy and utopian.” For aspiring artists, Ludovic offers an irreplaceable affirmation, “fantasy is just a premonition of what can be achieved if you give yourself the means.”
Of course, there is one more thought, albeit a tad provocative. Ludovic is honest: shooting nudes is a fantasy in itself. And he has another pleasure, “the company of beautiful women” who sometimes tell him “their secrets.”
But the connections decidedly narrow because nothing happens beyond that. “[D]o not believe that things are going on between my models and me,” he says. Admitting that some people may want to grab a camera for that excitement, it’s an imaginative scenario Ludovic has overcome and “learned not to have.”
“[I]t’s a fantasy the photo has calmed,” he declares.
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Ludovic Goubet is a life varied and well-lived with spikes of emotional explosions and steep letdowns. Not unexpected because difficult times, often self-imposed and marked with detox, are the legendary temperament of artists. Ludovic’s talent is multileveled and his photographic eye unsurpassed. Asked how he would like to be remembered, the Parisian is direct and uncomplicated, “As a great lover, a good musician, the most diversified photographer, [and] a decent father.”