What does your living room say about you? Photographer Dominique Nabokov wants to know – and having spent several years now documenting the living spaces of the world’s intellectual and creative elite, she’s more than qualified to find out. “The living room is really a portrait of people,” the French photographer tells AnOther. “It is their window to the world, and to themselves. This is what we show to the world.”
Nabokov cut her teeth assisting Patrick Demarchelier, but it wasn’t until 1995, when she was commissioned by the New Yorker to photograph the lounges of a group of socialites, that she turned to interiors. This week she launches Berlin Living Rooms, a new Apartamento-published book (and accompanying exhibition at Galerie Patricia Dorfmann, Paris) and the third instalment in a trilogy of projects which has seen her document living spaces in New York and Paris. Parts one and two were published in 1998 and 2002 respectively, so it has been a long time coming – but Berlin was always essential to complete the series, she says: “New York, Paris and Berlin are the cities I’ve lived in and loved the most, so I knew from the beginning of the trilogy project that I wanted to photograph the three of them. These are the portraits of people who are making the portrait of my city.”
The German capital’s pervading atmosphere suited her chosen format down to the ground. “I see Berlin in black and white, because of the German expressionism of the 1930s, Blue Angel, Billy Wilder’s movies… So shooting in black and white came naturally to me,” she says. “For the first books, New York Living Rooms and Paris Living Rooms, I was using the Polaroid Colorgraph 691 films. They have been discontinued since, but I found a few expired ones left and used them for Berlin Living Rooms. I always work with films exclusively. And all the photographs are silver print.”
Her chosen subjects over the past 20 years include the likes of Veruschka, Thomas Struth, Saint Laurent, Jeanne Moreau and Allen Ginsberg, lending a thrilling diversity to the revealing photographs on show. And revealing they are – there was only one rule for her chosen subjects, Nabokov concludes: “Don't hide anything”.