John Paul Bichard and the festival exhibition – Unreal Worlds

Unreal Worlds is a joint art exhibition that brings together the extraordinary worlds of Helsinki based art duo Atelieri O. Haapala and Stockholm based artist John-Paul Bichard in an extravagant interpretation of the contemporary burlesque scene.

The works appropriate traditional forms of portraiture to uncover the expressive world of contemporary burlesque and cabaret. These worlds utilise sexuality as a creative medium and play with the power balance of objectification, giving choice to the performer/subject and demanding a new stance from the viewer.

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John Paul Bichard is an artist who is fascinated by people, places and how stories are made. He investigates the way people construct identity and the means in which these identities and roles are contextualised in contemporary society. He engages places in which unusual events have occurred, real or fictional and brings the two together in fragmented fictions: places that could have existed, stories that might have been told. Works in this show are from Bichard’s Exquisite Identities: a growing series of photographic works that capture the creativity, personality and aesthetics of some of the great artists in the contemporary burlesque scene.

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The gorgeous Laurie Hagen

The works are a collaboration, with Bichard opening up a dialogue between the viewer and the fantastical world of the performer. John Paul works closely with his wife the acclaimed artist and performer Fräulein Frauke. The duo have built a reputation for extraordinary photographic artworks through their brand ‘Bichard Studios’. They also run Sweden’s top burlesque and Cabaret club, the internationally renowned ‘Fräulein Frauke Presents’ at the exquisite Nalen Ballroom in the heart of Stockholm. The duo are running this years Stockholm Burlesque Festival.

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Fräulein Frauke by Bichard

John Paul you work extensively in the burlesque and cabaret world what is so special with this field?

The people I have had the pleasure of working with are exceptional: lively imaginations, larger than life personalities and a means of externalising their internal worlds. What I enjoy most is collaborating with a performer to reach an image rather than simply projecting my ideas and a concept onto a subject.


You have shoot some extraordinary talent and often in public or unusual places, do you have a favorite memory or something funny happening during shoots?

Every shoot is an adventure: from a crazy derelict factory in the heart of Berlin, to a 16th century chapel just north of Stockholm to a gorgeous stately home in Cambridge. I can think of two particularly amusing/odd moments: one was with Marlene von Steenvag in Sanoucci Park, a beautiful 19th century palace and park. She was standing naked on an empty plinth in a beautiful formal garden: the cyclists who happened to be passing, barely missed colliding with each other and heading off into the bushes when they noticed I wasn’t photogrpahing a statue. The other was a rather brave moment when I shot Hedo Luxe on top of a tower block in Hamburg on a huge revolving Mercedes Benz sign in a snow blizzard: no complaints, just his extraordinary surreal personality filling the space even though he was quite terrified.

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Marlene von Steenwag

What is it in yor work you want to come across?

I’m not sure really, I don’t set out with a particular goal, I just want to open up a space to explore an aesthetic with someone I respect in a place I feel will add to their character. Perhaps I would like the viewer to feel that they have a dialogue with the character who has been conjured up, rather than with me as some sort of mediator.

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Festival headliner Mr Pustra


Lastly, you area co-producer of this festival as well, what are you most excited about for the weekend?

Two things particularly: to see the mix of styles and creative excellence that we have the pleasure of bringing together and the belief that we are helping to promote people who are not treated equally in society, to strengthen their voices and show that there are other ways of seeing sexuality and creativity.

Read more about John Paul Bichard here