There would be nothing new in a woman posing as a femme fatale, surrounded by feathers and lying languidly all covered head to toe only with jewels. But in these photos taken by Irina Ionesco, the femme fatale is a child. The opulence of decorations, the excess of luxury objects, the decadent beauty and the laziness of the models were the remarkable signs of Irina Ionesco photography, obsessed by Vanitas symbols like mirrors and skulls and inspired by Victorian era.
Irina Ionesco, a Romanian-French photographer, used her daughter Eva when she was 4 and until she was 10 as her favorite model for erotic and fetishist photos. She soon became very popular for that and the explicit content, almost child-pornographic, of her photos made the little Eva so famous that she was the youngest model featured in Playboy, at the age of 11, and then in Penthouse.
Even if Eva was completely unaware of what her body naked could evoke, her mother knew it well and was able to exploit the ambiguity of a baby-sex symbol for easy and predictable commercial gains. So Eva appeared in softporn movies, heavily criticized at that time, like Spermula (1976) and Maladolescenza (1977) in which she appeared naked.
Some aspects of Eva can remember the character of Violet, played by Brooke Shields in Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby (1978) which is said to be inspired by Eva’s real life. Personally I see significant differences between the two: Violet is more aware of her sexuality, she knows how to use her body while Eva is reluctant and subdued by her mother’s stranglehold.
Despite the undeniable beauty of these shoots, we can recognize a kind of perversity in using a child dressed like a whore: the little Eva was robbed from her childhood, her innocence was stolen in the name of her mother’s career. The artificiality of posing, the forced naughtiness and the unnatural sexuality create a sordid atmosphere, a sort of violation that make us feel as voyeur of something we are not allow to see.
What the little Eva was feeling when she was posing? Was she happy? Today Eva Ionesco is 45 and says to have no happy memories of her childhood. She tried three times to sue her mother for emotional distress and to obtain the original negative of the photos, but the trial is still going on through various courts in France. In 1998 the French police confiscated from her mother’s appartment hundreds of photographs in which she appears at the age of five in suggestive poses and in complete nudity.
In her directorial autobiographical debut, My little princess, presented this year at Cannes, Eva Ionesco show us her story through her point of view. Maybe a revenge on her mother, a way to tell what she felt and couldn’t say, the movie is the story of the sick relationship between the mother-photographer Hannah, played by Isabelle Huppert, and the daughter Violetta, played by Anamaria Vartolomei. I can’t tell you more as in Italy the film is still unreleased, but I saw some pictures and I’m longing to see it. The movie is also remarkable for costumes, conceptualized by Catherine Baba, who dressed Hannah with floor-length satin gowns, furs, feathers, elaborate jewels and hats, like a crazy lady with a ‘40s Hollywood fixation.
more photographs by Irina Ionesco of other models
sources:wikipedia.com; fantomatik75.blogspot.com; MissPandora.fr; Eva Ionesco’s interview