Artist Mickaël Valli creates dreamy mixed-media imagery starring his kid sister Anna, photographed dancing and skipping through the leafy countryside of Southern France. His work evokes the magic of childhood, where fairies are real and flying is possible. Matthew Holroyd, Junior Magazine’s Fashion Editor, speaks with the artist himself about his own childhood memories, family life and how this has inspired his practice
What was your childhood like?
I was brought up in the Champagne region of France and as a child I was always very free and adventurous; riding my BMX, having a picnic in my tree house, swimming in rivers and lakes. I use to live with my grandparents in a big white ‘60s style house with a big garden (everything looks big when you are a child). My grandmother cooking all day long in the kitchen and my grandfather busy in the garden
What are the rest of your family like?
My family are very supportive. My father use to find me vintage cameras to experiment with and I love listening to my mother – she has very strong opinions on colours, scents and taste. My mother is very sensitive, which has taught me a lot.
Does your childhood inspire your work?
Sure it does. It influences every aspect of my life
What else inspires you?
Love stories and nature. I’m obsessed with alternative art, cinema and music
How did you get into photography?
My sister Maud died when she was 15. Maud was like my twin, we were very close. After Maud’s death my mother became pregnant and had Anna. When Anna was a bit older my mother was working a lot and I had to take care of her. We spent lots of time together and at the period I was experimenting with my camera and that’s how I started taking pictures of Anna. I was still very depressed about the death of Maud, but taking pictures of Anna took my mind off everything. In a way Anna saved me and my photographs are a homage to her.
How old is she?
She is 7 and a half, I say half because that is very important to her!
What does she think about being a model; does she enjoy dressing up?
It’s just like playing for her because she is very girly and loves dresses and shoes
What does she think of your work?
She is very interested in art and is very creative. Anna often helps me with the collages on my photos
There is a dreamlike quality to your photographs, for example the slight blur, the usage of Polaroid, can you tell me about that?
I am really bored with photography looking for perfection, (the perfect light, the photoshopping) it makes the photograph really impersonal and dehumanises the work. Personally I love family photos; they are so charming and precious. I like natural mistakes, because of a faulty camera or because of my awkwardness just like life: full of the unexpected.
What are you working on right now?
I am finishing some photographs for Vague Paper magazine featuring Anna and at the moment I am talking with other magazines and galleries about future projects. But throughout my work I will always take pictures of Anna, forever, if she’s ok with that!
Words by Matthew Holroyd, Images by Mickaël Valli