Born in Paris in 1965, Eric Lanuit has always been interested in image, fashion, and photography. His bedroom was full of vintage Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar magazines and his first photo shoot was at the age of 13 with his little sister as a model.
In 1987 he graduated from IPAG, where he specialized in marketing, and later from Institut Français de la Mode, where he finally chose to work in communications, public relations, and fashion images. After 15 years as the head of communications and press relations for various haute couture houses, including Givenchy with John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, he decided to change his direction, and in 2003 he began working with the famous Parisian cabaret the Lido. At the Lido the spectacle of what happens onstage and backstage revived his original interest in photography.
In July 2011, needing both an outlet for his own photography and a showcase for the art and images from others he admired, he created the digital magazine Character.
Character is first of all about the images, the emotions they create, and the stories they tell. Fairy tales, fashion, travels, dreams, sports, daily life, fights, events, or news: Character has it all. Character offers its pages to many well-known contributors and artists as well as new, lesser-known talents: Dana Thomas, Didier Lestrade, Donald Potard, Benoît Missolin, Stephen Todd, Katie Weisman, Fady El Khoury, Justino Esteves, Tom de Pékin, Fred Bladou, Bruno Jacquelin, Philippe Tyberghien, BillyBoy*, and Lala have already been involved in the success of the magazine.
On the following pages we feature selections from Lanuit's studies of a variety of sports and athletes.
The Advocate: The story about using your little sister as a model when you were 13 is very similar to British photographer Cecil Beaton's story. Was your family was supportive of your sophisticated tastes and interests as you were growing up?
Eric Lanuit: At the age of 13, I already knew for a few years that I wanted to work in an artistic field. My interests went from architecture to fashion design, photography, and interior design. My parents let me “play” the artist — at that age nothing was at stake. I was photographing my sister as a model, drawing fashion silhouettes and outfits, making houses and sets for my sister’s Barbie dolls (of which I was very jealous).
At the age of 18, when time came to make the choice for my studies, I hadn’t had the courage to object to my parents’ will. You know, I had done my coming-out at the age of 14, so the relationship with my parents was a bit fragile, and I’m a “good boy.” I didn’t want to be troublesome, so we decided together that I would do business school, then I’d be able to choose whatever I wanted. And after the four years of business school I decided to specialize in fashion and communication at the French Fashion Institute. At the same time I met the boy I’ve been living with for 26 years now and I left the family home to live with him. Then I started to work in fashion as a press attaché for a haute couture house. My parents were proud of me, and a good career was facing me. At this time I didn’t realize that I had maybe missed something by not fighting to do artistic studies, and I still don’t know.
Back when you were 13 and reading vintage Vogues and Harper's Bazaar magazines, who were the artists, photographers, and designers that inspired you?
When I was a teenager, I was spending my pocket money buying the French Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Uomo, and Italian Vogue. I was absolutely fascinated by fashion photography and images in general. I’ve always loved the pictures, arts, and aesthetics of the '50s and the '60s that in fact were fashionable and came back in the '80s when I was 15. I think that it's why I tend to be quite classical in my way of structuring a picture and showing the beauty of a model.
My all-time favorite photographers are Bruce of Los Angeles, Bob Mizer, Walter Kundzicz, Bruce Weber, and Pierre & Gilles. My cultural education has been made with photographers such as Cecil Beaton, Henry Clarke, Horst, William Klein, Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, Paolo Roversi, David LaChapelle, Nick Knight, Jean-Baptiste Mondino ... and I'm sure that I'm forgetting some more.
When I was working in fashion I've met and worked with famous and great fashion photographers, some of them were already famous and others were just new talents. As I'm image-addicted, my cultural and aesthetic references are a mix of different cultures, eras, artistic movements. At the end, it's quite weird to realize the alchemy that makes you create what you create.
Regarding art, I'm sorry, it's very gay, queen, or whatever you want to say, but the only one I would mention is Tom of Finland. I'm well-read but the first name that comes to my mind regarding art is Tom!
Talking fashion, there is nothing more beautiful than haute couture and the golden age that was from the 50's to the '70s: Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Jacques Fath, Yves Saint-Laurent, Givenchy, Balmain, Pierre Cardin, Courrèges. Today no one has such talent and nobody is able to do what they did. Fashion is just business now and it's so sad and boring.
What specifically are you doing in your job for the Lido, and was that an interesting transition from the top fashion houses to a cabaret?
Now at the Lido, my title is manager of the international press and public relations. After working with John Galliano and Alexander McQueen at Givenchy for six years, I was bored everywhere. They were the very last emperors of haute couture, so creative and fertile, so crazy and talented. So, after 15 years working in fashion I've decided that it was time to change and move and have a look in an other field of fashion. But in France it's not that easy. When you've made your career in haute couture, people don't understand that you want to change for sportswear or streetwear. Everyone is labeled and it's very difficult to open the doors.
So when the Lido asked me if I would be interested in working for them, I was surprised, very enthusiastic, and a bit afraid of what I was going to find. And I just fell in love with the Lido, the girls, the boys and the whole show crew. In fact it's the haute couture of cabaret! The Bluebell Girls are so easy to work with after all the top models that I've worked with in fashion. It's not superficial, it's about physical hard work, precision, about giving pleasure and happiness to the public every night, it's all about "the show must go on"! I had a contract for six months and after nine years I'm still here, still happy and fascinated.
We are big fans of Character, your online magazine. What motivated you to create this product? It must be a labor of love, as it is completely free at this point with no obvious advertising.
I've always used a camera since the age of 8. Of course, with my job I haven't been able to dedicate as much time as I wanted to this (expensive) passion. With the arrival of digital cameras, it was easier, and I've started to spend more and more time taking pictures. With my job and my privileged situation at the Lido, I've made so many pictures that nobody has. I've started to show my photographs to some journalists, photographers, and people that I know. They've just loved my work and they've encouraged me to continue and to publish it. I've decided to put an end to my complex and I've learned that you're an artist when you decide that you're an artist. Then I did my website but it was not enough for me. I'm a man of communication and image, I like editing, I like typography, and I experimented with ways to publish a magazine online.
The first issue of Character was a test, a way to show my photographs in an other way. I've taken so much pleasure in editing it, I knew that it was good, I don't know why because I'm more someone who always has doubt, but here I knew that I was right.
And it worked. Of course my job and my address book has helped me a lot and I've received so many nice and supportive emails from important journalists, photographers, writers, artists, and friends that I couldn't stop the story and just have to continue as professionally as possible.
Then after volume 2 of the first issue, I started to ask to some photographers, artists, journalists, and writers to be featured and to contribute to the magazine. It couldn't be always "Eric Lanuit" in the magazine ! Quickly I've received emails from photographers and artists around the world asking me if I would be agree to publish their work in Character. It's so very interesting to meet new artists, to give them exposure, and I'm so proud and honored to have the privilege to show their work in my magazine.
Character takes all my free time — almost all my free time, as I have to preserve some for my love, my family, and my friends!
I've published some fake advertisements in the first issues to attract some possible advertisers, but I've stopped it as it's not the point with this magazine. I absolutely want to stay free and able to do and publish whatever, whoever, and whenever I want.
Character has no limits, no rules, no taboos, which is sometimes disconcerting for my contributors.
To edit and publish the magazine cost me a bit of money. So I'm going to start to exhibit my work, to sell some exclusive and limited prints on my website, and I'm looking for a publisher to do a book about "10 Years of Bonheur at the Lido" with the thousands of photographs that I've taken over the years.