“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”-a phrase many of us have heard. As you look at this image you may wonder why the artist decided to capture a photograph of a mannequin. Take a closer look for a few minutes. Is it a mannequin? The perfect hair, perfect smile line, perfect skin, and a perfect symmetrical face.
This is no mannequin, this a portrait of a real human…kind of throws you off for a minute right? What is it about this photo that makes you take a second guess? The beautiful absence of a background with a bright contrast of porcelain skin in the foreground? The absent stare trailing into the distance with no sense of emotion? The artist behind this magic, Valerie Belin, thought of all of the above when trying to recreate her vision.
I found Valerie in the Michael Hoppen Gallery online and was instantly drawn to her unique style. Her early years consisted mainly of objects photographed in black and white, with minimal backgrounds. She went to school in Paris and shortly after graduating decided to totally turn around what she learned about basic photography rules (rule of thirds, staging, lighting), emerging art that almost confused the viewer. Her photographs stood out because of the lack of these simple rules everyone was so used to.
I chose this piece because I think it highlights her style and messages she tries to send to the public about how we view people and objects. Her work up until this series has been heavy black and white contrasts of objects and people as you can see in this link. This piece is the changing point of her career. The black and white pieces remind me of imprinting because it is so saturated with dark shadows and bright whites. The fact there is no background noise going on with no shadows also makes it look like a simple image you can draw or stamp. The images are very minimalistic, making the voice of the image, as I like to call it, very easy to convey her message.
I love so many elements of this piece! The first thing you have to ask yourself is if this image is real or not…okay it may not seem so important to everyone but I love experimenting with new techniques and lighting so this is huge for me! I also love that the image is so real yet fake at the same time. It conveys the feeling of being lost and absent but at the same time you realize that this is a person…a beautiful person. Is this real beauty? Can everyone attain the awe and glamour that seats these models on their high pedestals? Are these models happy with their lives? The only thing I don’t like is that I almost want more of a contrast. I admire Valerie’s efforts to keep everything very basic, but I’d love to see her play with the idea of using full body images instead of just portraits. I think it would help convey more a humanistic connection.
I do question how she creates such beautiful black backgrounds. Is it all black backdrops? Does she edit her photos? Does she play with the aperture on her camera? Also, has she always had this vision of contrasting photos? Every photographer has a style but has she always had this one? Finally, are there any other similar art techniques that look like Valerie’s? I am familiar with stamps and carving but I can not think of any others.
If you’d like to read more about Valerie Belin and her work you can click on this link to her biography. It’s interesting to view her early work in the 90′s up into the early 2000′s. I love that you can see her progress and the point in time she decides to try different ways (like including color or excluding metallic contrasts) into her work. More here!