Feeling Alive


A still painting says a thousand words. Imagine how much more can a moving image say? As promised, we talk to another visionary of his time, who indulges in the bespoke art of creating alive portraits - Mr Nicolas-Richard Giacobetti.

By: Veronique Poles, Luxury & Fashion Consultant

Posted on: May 10, 2011

A still painting says a thousand words. Imagine how much more can a moving image say? As promised, we talk to another visionary of his time, who indulges in the bespoke art of creating alive portraits – Mr Nicolas-Richard Giacobetti.

Is it art? Is it decoration? Is it design? It’s a combination of the three and it’s a luxury bespoke product.

For centuries, kings and their families, Maharajas, famous and powerful personalities were handed down to posterity through the talents of painters who made their portraits. Visit any castle or palace and the situation will be the same: walls and walls covered by varied sizes and types of frames which tell us about the history of generations.

Then came the camera and the art of taking photographs. And three years back Nicolas-Richard Giacobetti, with his magic eyes and hands, launched an exclusive concept - live digital photo portrait - an exclusive way to make photos alive, that we are delighted to introduce to you as the bespoke product selected for LF May issue

Thanks to his father, NRG, as he is more often called, became familiar with a camera at a young age of four. He had adopted an early inquiring approach on the world around him and felt the urge to convey his atypical and eclectic vision.

NRG wished to give life to creations which take inspiration from both, the elitist pictorial tradition and contemporary art. Thus, as surprising as it sounds, he creates portraits in which the canvas and the stretcher are replaced by modern formats such as flat screens or video projectors. I caught up with the visionary and forward thinking NRG and posed my most curious questions to him.

Veronique Poles: How do you feel being almost born with a camera in your hand?
Nicolas-Richard Giacobetti: Very early, when I was just a kid, my father put in my hands a camera, and I should say ‘in front of my eyes’ too! He was himself passionate about photography. I guess this is how I started comprehending the world in different ways, and above all, this is how I started developing my creativity and my own imagination.

VP: Starting  from shooting with your cameras, to your devotion for Magritte, the surrealism art movement and finally becoming the creator of alive portraits, can you tell us about the gradual evolution of your work and how you developed your unique expertise - which is a fusion between traditional concepts and digital techniques
NRG: Above all it has been an initiatory journey. For several years, I shot hundreds and hundreds of photos, in order to link my camera with my mind perfectly. At the same time, I have been always fascinated by the work of famous painters from the surrealist movement, in particular Magritte and also by the work of classic and Neo classic portraitists who used to immortalize nobleness. Hence came the idea of pursuing their art using new technology which is at our disposal in the 21st century. When the whole Universe is going digital, there is no harm in exploring digital media for paintings as well! This is how I started creating ‘alive portraits’.

VP: What are the specific values of your artworks and in particular your creative work
NRG: For each order, I have a session with my client discussing about the universe he wants me to use to present him. For example, if it is an industrialist, I can work on developing a background with the first company he started and his favourite car and  house...

VP: What are the different steps before finalizing such artwork? How long does it take?
NRG: The first step is to work on the specific message that the buyer wants to communicate through the artwork. Together we will define the feelings to express and the background which will be created. Then the second step is the shooting session, to get the shots which will be used in the animation.

The third step, which we can call - like in the movie industry - ‘post production’ step, is all the work of mounting the several sequences to finalize the artwork. I make my characters ‘alive’ by using digital techniques, including morphing. I will add some elements in the artwork which symbolise time running. For example, in the  background, I can use a clock or a watch with moving hands. Or,  I can set the moon or sun in motion or clouds moving in the sky. Hence the artwork is ‘alive’ and one can enjoy seeing it using a LCD or a video projector.

The fourth step is when I come to deliver the artwork and the LCD to the buyer, to show him the result, and also to see his reaction in front of this artwork, which in some points becomes like a mirror (smiles).

As every artwork is made to measure, each creation needs minimum one month of work.
You may find this very strange, but each artwork is really a kid’s game for me now! (smiles) And I  really like taking the time I need to familiarise myself with the universe of the buyer and to develop it at each step of its evolution.

VP: Being solely responsible for each unique project, what do you love the most about your job and what is the most challenging aspect?
NRG: Each artwork is a challenge as I have to really understand buyer’s requirements, what he wants and why, without sometimes having him expressing all of them. But the best in each project is to see  the surprise and the satisfaction of the client discovering his ‘alive portrait’ and having it in real in front of him when I come to deliver it. I really love that step. It s really  an emotional moment.

VP: Can you speak about your experience when you travel the globe to visit some of your foreign clients for a shoot? Any interesting experience during one of your travels?
NRG: The most touching experience was when I met a client who was on the way to be left by his wife. To re-conquer her and to express to her how much he loved her, he ordered three artworks of him alone in three locations which expressed the best of their love story. The message we had  to express through the artworks was that without her, he was nothing anymore. When I went to deliver the three artworks to the wife, she was so touched that she started crying. You know what? The result was that they came back together.

VP: Have you got some weird or funny requests by customers? Any interesting stories you can share with us?
NRG: Some clients ask for a family portrait with their late grandmother or grandfather. For example, just to give you an idea, once I created a portrait of a family, and in the background, I inserted the late person  in motion , by blinking eyes. That way the family was complete and immortalized for ever.

The most amazing experience creating a made to measure artwork was the day I had a client whose favourite dog passed away. She loved him more than anything else in her life. She ordered an artwork which makes him ‘alive’ for ever!

VP: The frame and the painting become a LCD  screen. Where is usually this new form of art used by your clients?
NRG: ‘Alive portrait’ is a new form of art and a luxury product. You can display ‘alive portrait’ anywhere - from residence to office conference room or the lobby of a hotel. I work closely in collaboration with interior designers and architects and increasingly I am getting requests for second homes and yachts.

VP: You have started working on a personal project which is very dear to you - The great men and women of this world - with the idea of organizing an exhibition. Can you speak with us about this project?
NRG: Yes, I would love to immortalize the great personalities of our world, the ones making an impact and contribution either because of their genius or  their audacity, or their creativity in the world of Arts, Sciences, Business or Sports. I want to set up an exhibition with the artworks all together in the best museums in the world (smiles).

VP: Do you plan to make a portrait of an Indian personality? Who would be your dream personality? Any royal personality in mind?
NRG: Yes, there are so many personalities in India I would love to have the pleasure to immortalize. Just to give you some examples, I would love to be able to make an alive portrait of the cricket team who brilliantly won the world cup. I love this idea that 20 men made more than one billion people happy!

From the  business world, I would be delighted to immortalize one of your best Industrialist families. In the sector of art, I would love to have Anish Kapoor who, with Jeff Koons, is one of the greatest contemporary artists in the world.

And obviously I would love to shoot and immortalize one of your Maharajas and would love to shoot the Maharaja of Udaipur with his fantastic vintage car collection.

VP: In addition to this project, you are collaborating with art galleries. Can you speak about this new challenge?
NRG: In addition to made to measure artworks,  I have also started developping personal works, translating my feelings on the Western society,  religion, day-to-day basis and combine art and design. I have also designed a new furniture named ‘Furniture T’, which allows you to see ‘alive portrait’ in style.

VP: You came to India two years back and made a couple of alive portraits. Can you tell us about your experience?
NRG:
When I came to India, I met a lot of people and it was really a great experience. On a human aspect, I should say it was a very rich experience to meet all of them. I also had the great opportunity of creating alive portraits and among them one for Sabira Merchant and one for Captain Vinod Nair.

VP: What is luxury for you? 
NRG: (Smiles) Luxury is to be with the ones you love the most only and drinking a great bottle of our French wine discussing and recreating the world with spirit!

Véronique Polès is a freelance fashion and luxury consultant based in Mumbai, with more than 15 years of extensive experience with luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Givenchy and Waterman/Gillette Pen Company just to mention a few. Bespoke creations, however, are her first love. For LuxuryFacts, she unveils some of the best-kept secrets in the sphere of ‘word of mouth landmarks’ for connoisseurs of products with substance. They are greatest creations, made by artisans of excellence and guardians of tradition, who work with passion for details and quality to make your dreams come true.

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