Voix de Ville.
Started as a personal project, my work around burlesque and vaudeville was featured in New Zealand Geographic.
My gratitude to Lilly Loca and to all the performers who tolerated me over the years.
Much love and respect.
Photos copyright ©2011-2018 Jocelen Janon. All rights reserved
The idea behind the project is to capture the bustle and drama backstage among performers getting ready for a show in the dressing rooms. For Janon, the backstage area represents an interesting transformative space in which everyday life and theatrical fantasy collide.
"I really like being backstage; it's a bit grubby, and there are naked people crossing here and there, and usually something is not working, and it's dark. It's a sort of frontier between real life and the show."
Burlesque has undergone a popular resurgence in recent times, and now the colourful striptease shows are a common, fashionable occurrence throughout the city. But Janon says that was not the case when he first began working on The Entertainers four years ago: at that time, it was still perceived by the mainstream as something naughty, and his decision to go backstage was "even naughtier than naughty".
He got his foot in the door at a Dr Sketchy event on Karangahape Road, where burlesque dancers perform to a room of artists making life drawings of them. That forum gave Janon his chance to pitch the idea - "middle-aged Frenchman wanting to go backstage, nothing wrong with that" —to a producer, and ask if he could come along to a full show.
"The deal was, I would shoot the show for her, and she would let me go backstage. So I did that, and I spoke to everyone and explained what I was doing and why. From there, because I was quite well behaved, I've been allowed to go to more shows. And now they know me and I can more or less go anywhere I like."
The performers' ease in Janon's presence is unmistakable through his collection of candid images, as half-dressed bodies flurry about in preparation, with makeup and costuming frozen mid transformation and provocative jokes shared in front of— and sometimes directed at —the photographer.
"It's kind of bizarre - sometimes I find I'm the only person dressed. I'm trying not to look, but it's almost impossible [not to]; there are naked bodies and mirrors everywhere."
Janon now searches for the more obscure, less-attended shows, where the performers are there out of passion rather than the trend. They're also not too difficult to find now that he has built so many strong relationships with the people in the scene. In fact, when asked what he has personally got out of working on the project, there's no hesitation in his simple response: "friends".