photographer and filmmaker

When I look at all the photographers who capture images of life, war, illness and human relationships at their extreme, giving us a glimpse of what happens outside of our safe environment, I realize the insignificance of my work. My work is mainly dedicated to developing narratives and capturing beauty within those ideas.

Here is outlined a history of that work without any pretence.  Every one of these years was one of exploration always an adventure.

My ambition now is to see if I can go beyond my linear vision and explore and push myself to break my instinctive boundaries.  We will see where this takes me.

Another adventure.

ABOUT

denis piel was born in France on March 1st 1944, raised in Australia and educated in the United States. He currently lives in the southwest of France. He is an internationally acclaimed award-winning photographer and filmmaker primarily recognized for his influential approach to fashion photography in the 1980s. Piel is currently working on personal international projects.

1944
Piel was born in France during the Second World War to Serge and Lilly Piel, activists in the French Resistance. At the end of the war, Piel’s parents emigrated with their children to Australia to begin a new life.

Piel started his career in Brisbane in 1961. He subsequently opened his studio in 1966. Meeting with early and sustained commercial success thanks to a couple of early mentors, he worked for a diverse client base shooting various subjects, from industrial subjects to portraits and fashion for a department store.
A modest assignment with Vogue Australia prompted him to move to Melbourne, where he specialized in fashion photography, working for Pol and Vogue Australia. A Sydney based editor at Pol, Robyn Batey, became his mentor and encouraged him to move overseas to explore his creativity further.
The 1970s found Piel in Paris, London and Milan with occasional stints in Hamburg, primarily shooting fashion and some advertising. His fascination with the potential of holographic images led him to experiment during this period with three dimensional constructed models.
In France, Piel began to discover his family background, which was unknown to him until then. His grandfather was Jean Piel, the editor of the intellectual revue Critique; his extended family also encompassed the renowned psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan and the Surrealist painter Andre Masson.

1979
In the late 70s, Piel’s desire to explore new horizons took him to New York and his first assignment in the States with New York Times Magazine. This shoot in 1979 came to the attention of Alexander Liberman, editor with Condé Nast publications. After several initial assignments with Vogue, Piel contracted with Condé Nast, an agreement reserved for a select few such as Penn and Avedon.
Piel worked as a Condé Nast photographer for a decade and shot more than 1000 editorial spreads for US, German, Italian, French, English Vogue, Vanity Fair, Self and Gentlemen’s Quarterly. Including many celebrity portraits ranging from the film stars Geena Davis, Nastassja Kinski, Andie McDowell, Darryl Hannah, Isabella Rosellini, Goldie Hawn, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lillian Gish, Donald Sutherland, Jeanne Moreau, and Uma Thurman, to the directors and film producers Brian de Palma and Sherry Lansing to politicians such as Mario Cuomo, the writers Joan Didion, Erica Jong, to artists as diverse as Man Ray, Willem and Elaine de Kooning and Jasper Johns and the choreographers Mark Morris and Merce Cunningham to name a few.
Although appreciative of Avedon, Penn, Newton and others, Piel cites a more substantial influence from filmmakers; Stanley Kubrick, Satyajit Ray, Bertolucci, Antonioni, Cassavetes, Bergman, Kazan, Truffaut and Kurosawa. Press photography also influenced his work. The essential qualities which interested Piel were narrative and emotional engagement. Piel has always been drawn to new technologies, keen to explore the potential of a developing medium.
As Piel’s career progressed, his working method as photographer-director transmuted into a committed interest in film directing inspired by experience as a technical advisor on the James Toback film Exposed (1983). Starring Rudolf Nureyev and Nastassja Kinski, the actor Ian McShane plays fashion photographer Greg Miller, a character directly modelled on Piel.
In addition, he has created and executed commercial beauty and fashion projects for Anne Klein, Revlon, L’oréal, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Fortune magazine, Sheraton, Guerlain, Helena Rubenstein, Bergdorf Goodman, Ultima, Estée Lauder, Max Factor, Elizabeth Arden, Chanel, and more.

1985
In 1985, he founded and ran Jupiter Films, an internationally successful film production company. He directed and wrote many commercials, notable the iconic New York campaign for Donna Karan and The Wool Board campaign, Australia. Piel’s work won numerous international awards from New York,
To Sydney, to Cannes. His many commercials clients include Guerlain, Donna Karan, Jade cologne, Johnson & Johnson, Revlon, Schweppes, Sparkasse, Alegra, Cannon, AMP Society, Luberderm, Dewar’s, J.C.Penney, Jacques Fabre, Ann Klein, Telecom Australia, Telecom New Zealand, Telekom Germany, Perfum Guy Laroche, Wool Board, Shell, Galaxy, Canada Dry, Nescafé, Singapore Airlines, Ansett Airlines, White Pages, Victoria State Government Drug and Alcohol Abuse and many more.
Piel has been a guest lecturer at the New School for Social Research/Parson’s School of Design in 1983, the Maine Photographic Workshops for the Masters Class Workshop in 1985 and the Washington Smithsonian Institute “Masters of Photography” series in 1986.

1987
Piel was awarded the Leica Award of Excellence for his contribution to commercial photography in 1987.
In 1989 Piel left Condé Nast to concentrate on the film. He continued with his commercial advertising work in both film and stills during this period; however, he stopped shooting editorial work except very occasionally.

1991-3.
As a labour of passion, Piel spent over a year writing, producing and directing an independent feature, Love is Blind, an award-winning documentary film. Love is Blind selected for introduction screening 1st look series sponsored by Eastman Kodak Company, the Tribeca Film Center and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Love is Blind has been shown in the USA, Russia, France, Holland, Sweden, Australia, and Canada.
The progression into independent film-making inspired Piel also to set up .coms ‘Umbershoot and theideasbank®, vehicles that would enable people to work together collaboratively, with the concept of cross-pollinating skills to develop ideas.

2002
After 9/11 and the dot.com crash, Piel and his family moved permanently to Lempaut in the South-West of France to live and work at Château de Padiès, a Middle Ages and Renaissance Château which they have been restoring since 1992.
The property comprises the Chateau and also Les Jardin du Château de Padiès. The gardens at Padiès are an experiment in agroecology and developed following permaculture and sustainable development principles.
Padiès and the local environment have become the source of inspiration for Piel and are central to his current photographic practice. 2003
He was a founding member of Front2End, a branding collective aimed at turning ideas that are pure imagination into things that you can hold in your hands or see on your screen.
Piel was instrumental in the development of Culture&Cultures an international film festival concerned primarily with intercultural relationships, both in the making and subject matter of the films
He wrote three film scripts, IORA, SPINDRIFT, FLY ON THE WALL and one TV series, ENCOUNTERS. 2005

PREMIER L’OEIL
“Premier l’Oeil is a celebration, not only of ‘seeing’ in the liminal time between sleep and waking but also a celebration of the sense itself…. They are threshold images, images of the self meeting the visual world each day with new eyes.”
“Ruth MacPherson (writer and photographer)

2007

PLATESCAPES, shot over five years was exhibited in 2007 at the Way of Arts gallery in Lisbon, Portugal, explores a recurring theme in denis’ work: that of capturing the off moments, those moments that stimulate us to imagine the unseen story… in this case, what was the food, the people, the story, the occasion.

…….Platescapes is an accepted interpretation of the still life photograph. The metaphoric bones, the menacing-eyed shrimp, the lonely fork, the sauce asking to stay – there is still life – Piel is suggesting. In the universal activity of man lies a universe of gestures and emotions, a thumbprint of our particular identities, left on tables around the world every day. Perhaps it is not so much we are what we eat as much as we are what we leave over. It is the empty plate as the modern-day fossil record.——–conversations are still dripping on the plates, and emotions are still carved into the knives. Time is a frozen gesture here, and Piel warms our visual instincts to what, in all likelihood, we have frozen out of our frames. Allowing us to see with such piercing clarity what we have consumed allows us to consume what is never very clear: who we are.
Howard Altmann (Poet and Philosopher- New York)
Conversations recorded during these meals play alongside the images. The integration of sound and image is an increasingly vital element within denis’ work.

FACESCAPES
“… like many photographers, from Richard Avedon with his subjects in mental asylums to Lord Snowden who filmed derelicts in London’s doss houses, Denis seeks to explore other dimensions.” “…..starting with his lauded feature-length documentary, LOVE IS BLIND, and now with FACESCAPES, Denis follows a humanist tradition of getting in almost below the surface on his subjects to reveal the traces of life. These explorations into the human condition are the very antithesis of the beauty pictures that made him famous…..”

Phillip Adams ( writer, critic, etc.)

Shot in France, Australia and China.
The series aims to encapsulate peoples’ lives in different parts of the world. The still images are part of an installation that includes multi-screen projections of the subjects speaking about their lives.
Here Piel follows a humanist tradition of getting in close on the subject, creating landscapes of faces, faces as a field, revealing contours and valleys like an aerial view of any terrain. Behind these abstractions, Piel desires to inform the commonality of the human condition, a way of looking at the mileage of the human clock.

The France series and film titled FACESCAPES- latitude 43.533333 longitudes 2.066662 Exhibited in Sydney, Australia, 2007.

France, Australia and China images exhibited along with the preview film on Ageing in Lisbon, Portugal, at the Musee de Traje, 2008.

2012

A Book “denis piel – MOMENTS”, the first monograph of Piel’s work, was published by Rizzoli, Sept 2012. This volume designed by award-winning designer Ruth Ansel features a selection of images taken on assignment for fashion magazines and advertising clients and nudes of breathtaking women who would become the supermodels and actresses of a new generation. Piel’s eclectic approach to his work with a disregard for categorizing work as commercial or personal has generated a diverse body of work comprising projects which sit in dialogue with one another.

2013

ESSENCE.
essence (noun) the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, which determines its character.

Denis Piel. ROVE Gallery, Hoxton Square, London N1 6NN. April 11th 2013 to May 9th 2013.

Essence presents a body of work from Denis Piel’s commercial and personal projects. Food, water and bedding are recurring elements within these images and speak of basic physical needs: eating, drinking, sleeping, sex.

Irrespective of the context in which Piel has produced his photographic images, the abiding essence of the work is a celebration of the sensual, a celebration of the body.

2014

Piel project “Down to Earth” is mainly inspired by his move to the country from the urban. Today rural/urban are not binary opposites, the rural exists in the urban, and the urban exists in the rural; nature and culture co-exist. “Down to Earth” is a celebration of living closer to nature. Photographed over a complete agricultural cycle, “Down to Earth” explores the entire process of life: impregnation, birth, blossom, death and rebirth. “Down to Earth” was shot on location at Château de Padiès.

The “Down to Earth” project was shot with a Hasselblad H4D.
2015

Concurrently to developing and designing the book “Down to Earth”, he also created the book “Filmscapes”, highlighting the cinematic style and artistic process that made his photographs in this genre so enigmatic and unique.

2016

“Down to Earth”, published in November 2016, includes limited-edition fine-art photographic prints from the series.


2017

Lumière Brothers Center of Photography Exhibition February 7th- May 2017 FILM STILLS Denis Piel Fashion photography 80’s
inspired from upcoming book FILMSCAPES

2018

EXHIBITION/SALE of DOWN TO EARTH at PHILLIPS in London 5th-16th February 2018 in association with the Soil Association.

DOWN TO EARTH is a celebration of all essential: nature and fertility, the correlation between our bodies and the earth – growth and death.

The Book FILMSCAPES, the original concept, was the inspiration for the exhibition in Moscow at Lumière Brothers, published in June 2020.

2020

Piel published three books. EXPOSED, FILMSCAPES and PLATESCAPES. Currently available.

2022

EXHIBITIONS  DOWN TO EARTH 

GALLERIA GRACIS – Milano

3rd Feb to 4th March

PHOTO & CONTEMPORARY GALLERY – Turin

8th March to 3rd April

Piel’s photos are in the permanent collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and The Museum of Fine Art, Boston, and numerous private collections, including the BES photo collection and the Antonio Champalimaud collections.

Villa Pignatelli – Napoli

OCTOBER 7, 2022, TO NOVEMBER 20, 2022
THE EXHIBIT “DOWN TO EARTH”

Often, photography is an attempt, maybe the final, to bring meaning to things and make them whole again through a creative process. Photography represents the place where, in that very moment, the chaos ceases to exist after the overwhelming desire and the most tragic loss.

Jacques Lacan showed us the difference between reality and what is real. In the ordinary flux of reality, whether beautiful or ugly, we see repetition, a reassuring routine, a comeback to a series of objects that gives us a sense of stability. The real, instead, shakes this entire frame, something overwhelming that wakes us up from the laziness of the material.

Under this cover, we can place the most recent photographic projects of Denis Piel, whose art has always been able to narrate stories through images conceived as fragments of life, footprints of different existences.

Born in 1944 in France, raised in Australia, and studied in the United States, Piel is an award-winning and worldwide-renowned photographer and director. His masterpieces are in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum of London and the Museum of Fine Art in Boston.

Known especially for his contribution to the world of fashion photography in the 1980s, during his time working with Condé Nast he shot more than 1,000 shots in a decade for the American, German, Italian, French and British prints of “Vogue”, “Vanity Fair”, “Self” and “Gentlemen’s Quarterly”, showing the evolution of costume and society through time.

After the tragedy of 9/11, he decided to move with his family to the South-west of France, in Lempaut. He lived and worked at the Chateau de Padiès, a castel that has been under renovation since 1992. During his stay there, Piel focused his attention on nature and the earth’s work.

Two photographic projects were created this way: “Down to Earth” and “Padièscapes”, which were shown for the first time in a public Italian museum in Villa Pignatelli and conceived like a true hymn to life and the entire cycle of existence.

The first three rooms of the expositive path host a selection of shoots from “Down to Earth”.

Through these masterpieces, Piel made an analysis starting from the observation of the work in the farm surrounding the Castle of Padiès and its gardens, where he began an experiment of agroecology with his son Olivier, according to the principles of pharma culture and sustainable growth.

Conceived as a return to the earth, the essential, and, in this way, as a rebirth, the series is made of powerful picture fragments of daily life, celebrating nature and fertility. It’s a true hymn to life and, at the same time, an invitation to defend the planet from unstoppable climate change.

Through a sequence of shots in black and white, taken with a Hasselblad H4D, the author shows the natural world, revisiting classical mythology and talking simultaneously with the history of occidental art at the end of 800 and the beginning of 900. All this process portrays the similarities between us and the world of nature, keeping a constant filrouge with the art of the past.

Crops, woods, products from the harvest, male and female bodies resting and working, naked like nymphs and satyrs, create parallels with iconic masterpieces and myths. One hand digs the ground, the other hand hands two eggs; in the flower’s corolla, there is a colony of ants; a one-wheeled barrow seems forgotten in the field but gets back to work pushed by Olivier; a naked girl merges with the ground.

Walking through the next locations of the Villa’s first floor, you can find the pictures from the “Padiescapes” series, a project shown in Naples for its worldwide preview, conceived with the same meaning used for “Down to Earth”, but focused on one specific subject: water combined with images of flowers.

Using a plexiglass cube filled with water and mixing the colours as if it were a childish game, Piel reached tridimensionality and, as he stated, to find again that innocence that so many artists want to return to.

The pictures appear as true photography, the triumphant, dead nature of ancient memory, which seems to offer the artist the chance to fulfil a challenge between technology and the return of taking pictures manually. This entire process is enabled through the switch of space and time and the choice of an element, light, which allows us to travel from a flower’s tiniest detail to the farthest and most unreachable dimension.

A photographic search, his own, allows us to understand how much of our attention is focused on specific objects while we explore the environment, making ground of sentimental marks and esthetic indexes that will remain linked in a temporality that comprehends the past in the shape of memory and the future in the shape of awaiting.

A plant or a flower, just like a garden, are aesthetic constellations tracing the map of our evocative objects.

As Michael Foucault used to say, “The tiniest particle is also the world’s entirety”. Heterotopia at its maximum, a place where more imaginative spaces coexist; Nature is a mythical and authentic celebration of the space we live in.

Curator:Maria Savarese

2023

Retour à la page d'accueil

A. Galerie.  4-7 Mai.

A.Galerie expose à BAD+ Art Fair à Bordeaux

CLOVERS in Milan

Padièscapes 4th May – 21st July.

2024

 Galerie

20 March- 4th May

“IT’S ONLY LOVE”

Le célèbre photographe de mode Denis Piel a fêté ses 80 ans le 1er mars dernier. L’occasion pour A.Galerie de rendre hommage à son magnifique travail.

En contrat avec les éditions Conde Nast dès 1979, ses photos de mode ont fait les beaux jours de Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ et bien d’autres, ainsi que le succès de nombreuses campagnes publicitaires.

Denis Piel a su créer un style particulier dans ses photos faisant poser ses modèles comme un cinéaste dirige ses acteurs, en leur confiant des rôles. Ses nus de femmes, toujours extrêmement sensuelles, n’échappent pas à la règle. Lorsqu’on regarde ses pho-tos, on les sent vivre, on les sent respirer, palpiter. Elles sont là, elles sont présentes et font rêver. L’exposition « It’s Only Love » retrace une partie de cette immense carrière. On y perçoit l’amour au sens large, sentimental et physique, avec un petit twist… Happy Birthday Mister Piel !

TODAY

For all enquiries, contact direct dp@denispiel.com

Piel exhibits his work at the Staley Wise Gallery in New York City. email: photo@staleywise.com

and in France, at www.a-galerie.fr 4 Rue Léonce Reynaud, 75116 Paris

+33 6 20 85 85 85 – @agalerieparis

Attention : Arnaud Adida