Catching Myself Red Handed with Romain Berger

Artist Romain Berger

Words Tom Czibolya

I make contemporary art. It’s colourful, quirky, sometimes funny, often kitschy but above all gently provocative. I don’t try to shock but I do like to draw on my fantasies” – Romain Berger is a photographer with an unusually bold visual approach towards the world. His photos take us to all sorts of extremes, but they’re doing it with the right amount of humour, creating scenes that seem to have come right off the silver screen. “It is difficult to give a precise definition of my universe because it is very different from what we are used to seeing. I make films but with photography.”

When asked about his major influences, Romain names American photographers David Lachapelle and James Bidgood. One of them became famous and the other did not. What I like about Lachapelle is his staging. I have always tried to build my own sets the way he does. James is rather a little known artist’s artist. What I like about him is the homoeroticism and the beauty of the bodies he portrays.”

Eroticism and sexuality are elements that Romain loves to play with, often pushing them to the limits. “When looking at one of my works, I would like the viewer to feel a sexual attraction towards someone. I would like them to say to themselves that’s really sexy and then to discover the message I wanted to express.”

Although as an artist, he’s internationally recognized, he’s constantly running into walls in France where he’s currently based. “The biggest challenge I face in France is the lack of artistic openness and the lack of queer places to show art. We are rather classical people and when someone proposes something different, people are afraid. French art galleries regularly tell me that I am too shocking to be exhibited” – says Romain adding that his next big step will be moving to Berlin in hopes that he’ll be a better match with the local scene. “I’ve had exhibitions in Vancouver, soon in Rhode Island, but in France, it’s not possible. People often say Paris is chic and Berlin is underground. So my art has no place in the chic, it’s too colourful and sexual. I hope Berlin will want me in its galleries.”

Finding a voice is one thing, amplifying it is another. Romain’s ambitions are unquestionable and his methods are just as bold and fun as one might expect. “I used to be very afraid to contact magazines to present my work, but since I started getting published on a regular basis, I dare a lot more. I sent emails to the agents of French and English celebrities that I love, asking them to pose for me. I also contacted Jean Paul Gaultier. It’s a bit crazy and probably pretentious of me to think they might be interested, but one can only hope.”

Romain’s latest project is called Bizarre and it’s the only photo calendar that we would ever need. “I’ve never done this before, it’s exciting but a lot of work. It’s going to be a representation of the queer universe, through simple portrait photos but also sensual and provocative stagings.”

When asked about what love means to him, Romain didn’t disappoint us with his answer. “I’ve been single for four years and I’ve thought a lot about love. For me love is sharing good moments with friends and family, enjoying every moment. It’s giving people a smile. It is also about being free and honest. I believe in polyamory. If everyone agrees with the situation, if no one is betrayed, then it is something beautiful. That’s what love is for me, sharing with everybody without depriving yourself.”

Photography @Romain Berger

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