Guitar Aficionado

From the Magazine: The Foxy Lady Project

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By Adam Perlmutter

More than a few volumes have examined the guitar in exquisite detail, exploring the complex topography of cracked lacquer, oxidized nickel, and warped plastic that adds patina and personality to treasured vintage instruments. But until now, no book has done so using photographs that depict guitars in full, and at life size. The Foxy Lady Project ( dwarfs most others with the scale and detail of its images. This colossal new tome depicts 61 different instruments and is the largest ever to be published in multiple quantities.

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The Foxy Lady Project is the brainchild of Gilles Devicq, a Paris-based image and brand marketer, and photographer Maxime Ruiz, both of whom are longtime music and guitar devotees. “A while ago, Max made a life-size enlargement of a guitar photo, just to see how it looked,” Devicq says. “We thought about turning the idea into a series of posters or limited-edition prints, but it wasn’t until years later that it occurred to us to create a book.”

In conceiving of the book, Devicq and Ruiz compiled a list of all the guitars they found important or striking—about 220 instruments in all. To get their hands on these guitars, they appealed to players and collectors, mostly in Paris and New York. Upon learning about the project, Brian May of Queen volunteered a unique treasure: the Red Special, the solidbody guitar that he and his father built in 1963 with wood from an 18th-century fireplace mantel. “We flew to Brian’s house in West Sussex [England] to photograph that guitar,” Devicq says. “It was amazing to see such an iconic instrument up close.”

Devicq and Ruiz ended up photographing some 110 guitars in total, ranging from a 1904 Martin O-21 to a 1958 Gibson Les Paul Custom to a 1965 Fender Stratocaster, along with more recent instruments, including a 1997 Monteleone Radio City, a 2007 Teuffel Niwa, and a 2010 James Trussart Steelcaster. Devicq played all but one. “We got special permission to photograph a Selmer played by Django Reinhardt, which now resides in the Musée de la Musique in Paris,” he says. “Four guards wearing white gloves overlooked the shoot and were very anxious about the instrument, so we couldn’t even lay a finger on it.”

Ruiz shot most of the project on Fuji Velvia film using a Plaubel Makina camera with a Fujinon 240mm lens, pulling out a Hasseblad with a Leaf Aptus-II 12 back when the situation called for it. Each single image in the book is a composite of two to five pictures photographed with different light positions to highlight specific aspects of construction. The results lend the photographs a three-dimensional quality. “The pictures in the book are like hyperrealist painting from the Seventies,” Devicq says. “Beautiful representations of beautiful pieces.”

Once they had assembled all the images, Devicq and Ruiz had to decide how to organize everything. They could have used a standard narrative and presented the guitars alphabetically or chronologically, but instead opted for a freer approach. Devicq explains, “We put all the prints on the studio floor and determined an order that was purely aesthetic, allowing for a complete surprise and change in design world from one page to the next.”

After an exhaustive search, Devicq and Ruiz found a manufacturer in Hong Kong—Midas Printing—that was equipped to manufacture The Foxy Lady Project. The end result, with its red silk cover and sumptuous paper pages, is downright gorgeous. Measuring 18.5 inches wide by 43 inches tall, the book is meant to be displayed leaning against a wall. And with a weight of around 26 pounds, its heft is the same as three solidbody guitars. Devicq says, “I wouldn’t recommend carrying the book around for two days on a subway like I did on a visit to New York.”

The right page of each spread showcases a full-frontal shot of a guitar on a white background, while the left page features text, written by music historian Christian Séguret, that details the instrument’s importance as both a music-making tool and art object. In addition, most entries include a Quick Response code that, when scanned with a smart phone, will link to a video showing the guitar in action. Devicq says, “Although this is an analog product, we wanted to include a bridge to the digital world.”

The Foxy Lady Project is limited to 2,500 copies worldwide and is available in three packages: the Museum Series (30 copies; $1,975), which includes a museum-quality print signed by Ruiz; the Collection Series (305; $975), with a signed book-size poster; and the Standard Series (2,165; $445), whose included poster is unsigned. Devicq says,” We could have easily charged $2,500 for the Standard Series alone, but then none of our friends would have been able to afford it. In the end, we wanted to have this luxury item be accessible to all lovers of these beautiful objects that are guitars.”