Michele Bisaillon is one of those 21st artists who have chosen Instagram for publishing their artworks. But she’s more than another cyber-artist. In her feed you will find many selfies, but with a very different and challenging perspective. The pastel colors, her fluffy cat and the suggestive reflections of her own body in little mirrors are the highlights of her very personal and distinctive photographies.
What is your background?
I was born and raised in Silicon Valley, California. I started taking photos at a pretty young age. My mom gave me this really cute Barbie camera as a gift for Easter when I was around 5. I remember never wanting to put it down. I would mostly take pictures of objects, I don't really remember turning the camera on people very often. I have this distinct memory of taking photos of airplanes at the airport. I remember getting frustrated because the photos didn't turn out like I had hoped. The viewfinder was really far away from the lens so my pictures were always cut off. I think that was were my desire to take photos was born.
Where do you find inspiration for your photographs nowadays?
I really try to find inspiration wherever I can. Nature and color are the most essential forms of inspiration for me. I'm really inspired by music as well. It fuels my desire to be creative. Prince is my hero. I really feel a huge loss now that he's gone. I cried for three days, I've never cried over the loss of someone I've never met before. He was a person I always hoped to meet, or at least to have been in the same room with. His desire to be himself and create his own image makes me feel like I can do that too. He is a constant inspiration to me to be the truest version of myself.
The most distinctive aspect of your pictures is that they are reflected in mirrors. How did this obsession begin?
I grew up loving science. We had a telescope when I was little and I would just marvel at the stars. I didn't realize until a little later that it was mirrors making the amazing view possible. Seeing images the Hubble space telescope brings back to us thanks to mirrors set at very specific angles is something that I'm completely in awe of. Mirrors help us see ourselves and others, we use them every day. They're so simple but they allow for so much. My obsession for them has only increased the more I've realized how vital they are for knowledge.
How is your creative process? Is it spontaneous or do you plan your shots?
It's definitely both spontaneous and planned. Sometimes I will have a blueprint of an idea in my mind, which may or may not work out the way I hope it will. If it doesn't work out, instead of giving up I try to reform the idea in the process. I try different approaches to see what might work. It's fun to engage in a more spontaneous way of creating because you never know what you might end up with.
What attracts to you from self portraits?
I think self portraits are a way for me to share myself in a creative way. I've struggled with self esteem issues a lot throughout my life. The way I take pictures today allows me to create an image of myself that I enjoy and that I'm proud of. I think sometimes, when you use your body in a creative way, you forget about your insecurities because you're more focused on your creative goal. It makes me feel more in control of my image, which is something I can't really do in daily life.
What do you think has changed in self portraits after this selfie-mania?
I think we all have a desire to share who we are and the selfie is like a sure-fire way to do that. There's a lot of focus on the selfie today because it's still a new term and social media is still a relatively new phenomenon. Reading statistics that say more people die in selfie-related incidents than shark attacks is pretty terrifying. Stories about animals being killed (like the baby dolphin in Argentina) for the sake of a selfie infuriate and depress me. I don't think people had such a frantic desire to impress the world via their self portraits until now, and it seems like that desire can be pretty insidious. I hope that as social media gets older, we can learn to be more creative with our selfies without hurting ourselves or others.
What do you want to reflect with your pictures?
There's lots of things I want to share. I like to make people laugh, but I also hope I can get people thinking. I like the idea of parallel worlds. My goal is to give the idea that there is always more than one perspective. Even if we agree on something, we will still see it differently because we're all in different bodies and occupy different spaces on the planet. I want to remind myself that the way I see things isn't the only way to see them.
Why did you choose Instagram to publish your artwork?
Instagram is really fun for me because it's such a large and varied community. I love getting feedback right away and being able to participate in others lives and creative work in the process. I get to share myself, and I also get to see what others share. I get to know people I never would have known otherwise. It can be a difficult place to do those things at times because sharing online can give the idea that the concepts and photos are free for the taking. You have to take the good with the bad, as we do in so many situations in life.
How do you feel having so many followers, it is important for you?
That's a really good question. I think the follower count is a bit of an illusion. It might say I have a ton of followers, but only a fraction of those people interact with me. It's hard to tell how many people actually see my photos. It is important to me to share my photos, and it makes me feel good to know that a relatively large group of people is seeing them. It's weird because it seems like no matter how many followers you have, you always want more. I do appreciate the amount of followers I have and I'm grateful anyone wants to see my photos at all.
Would you like having your pictures printed?
Absolutely! My goal is to share my work IRL more often. Nylon Japan was kind enough to approach me for photos for their June issue, so you can catch me in print there!