A woman stands with her back to the camera, watching an orange sunset over dark mountains. She wears a pale dress, and her hair is worn up, with tendrils outlined in shadow.

The visual poetry of Maud

Confident, strong, yet vulnerable, the women in Maud Chalard’s world are reminiscent of movie heroines from a bygone age. In this world, nostalgia takes on a certain poetry, using a visual language that evokes freedom and romance, and the sense of being taken on a journey to a place where time does not exist. It’s a good place to be.
“Women are the most beautiful creations on earth, they represent life itself. Their sensitivity and vulnerability embody life in the purest way. My sister was my first muse, and it was the beginning of everything. I'm very close to her and when she was young, she had a confidence issue. It was hard to take pictures of her because she didn't like herself. But when she saw the results, she would say: ‘Wow, I'm beautiful in your pictures’, and started to enjoy it. It created so many good memories between us. This is something a lot of women have told me, that the pictures I take of them make them feel beautiful and confident.
My father used to take a lot of family pictures of us when I was young. So, visual communication was something I was always surrounded by and naturally drawn to. One of the first pictures I took, when I was around 10 years old, was of my dog. I loved the experience but was very attracted by the ‘click, click, click’ sound of the camera. However, I didn't want to be a photographer at first, I wanted to be an Art Director in advertising and was hired by one of the biggest advertising agencies in France after I had finished my studies. But I soon realised that I wasn't happy and would go home and cry every night. My weekends were spent taking pictures and this was how I found myself again. I finally quit my job in 2015, which was a hard decision and very challenging, as I had no help or financial aid. Then, my boyfriend and I bought a van in Montreal and travelled across the US for three months to take pictures. We made a book about the road trip and held an exhibition. It was a crazy experience and the start of my photography journey – and the beginning of freedom.

Left: A portrait of Maud Chalard. She is outdoors in autumnal surroundings and wears a heavy brown jacket with a fur collar and a hat and holds a camera. Right: A quote that reads “beauty is in the simple things”

I am a nostalgic person. When I see pictures of other generations in books or on the internet, it's a way to relive a time I didn't live in. During the 70s, the liberation of women and their bodies was happening, and I would have loved to have lived in this generation. I really like this statement of freedom and the idea of recreating it in pictures. When I was a child, I was very free and happy in my own body, but I lost this as I grew up. When I reached my 20s, I realised how important this was for me – to be free and not shy in my own skin – and began to return to this sense of freedom and happiness. We all have the same body, it's simply nature, and it was very important for me to find this confidence again. I don't know why it can become so complicated so quickly.
Beauty is in the simple things. I don't like the aesthetics of our generation. The mobile phone, modern cars, the plastic – I hate it. I'm in love with another generation that is not mine. I try to hide objects in my pictures that might give away when the picture was taken, so they can be more timeless. There is no time in my pictures. A lot of people tell me that I capture a romantic version of the truth. I really love cinema and movies, so I think this translates into my pictures. I am very sensitive, so I feel there is poetry in my images – a sense of sensibility and nostalgia. This poetry comes from the truth that I try to include in my pictures.

A woman stands with her back to the camera, watching an orange sunset over dark mountains. She wears a pale dress, and her hair is worn up, with tendrils outlined in shadow.
Maud’s friend Faustine dances in the moonlight against a stunning backdrop of French mountains. © Maud Chalard

I live in Paris and knew I couldn't stay there during quarantine. I have a small apartment and have suffered from anxiety in the past, so it wouldn't have been a great idea to stay there. Instead, I decided to rent a small chalet in the mountains with a couple of friends, including Faustine, who is in the picture. Faustine is the kind of friend we are all looking for. A friend that you can call for adventures at any time, hitting the road together without knowing where you are going. As women can be quite shy, it's hard to find friends like that and I'm very happy to have found an adventure partner like her. Someone I can be free with. We drove to the top of the hill to see the sunset and found a spot to make a fire and enjoy some beers, wine and food. Watching the sunset, the stars were so beautiful, and the moon was huge. Faustine was wearing a white dress, and she was dancing, free and happy. She had been through some rough times and was starting to get better, so this moment felt like a new beginning, simply enjoying the moon and embracing a sense of hope.
Photography changed my life. I'm pretty lucky because my clients usually call me for my unique photographic style. They want something untraditional and unexpected, so I'm often given quite a lot of freedom. However, I keep coming back to simplicity. I like to see the beauty in the simple things and in the natural. I am drawn to true moments. I celebrate the bodies of women, who represent the beginning and life.”
Discover more of Maud Chalard’s ‘visual poetry’ on her website.

Written by Maud Chalard and Cecilie Harris

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