Eery Beauty


“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!

Emily Luszowiak


13 thoughts on “Eery Beauty

  1. When I first looked at the picture it most definitely looked like a mannequin to me, at a first glance it is hard to believe that it can be a person but after looking at it for a while you can kind of see it. I agree with you when you say that this image conveys the feeling of being lost and absent. I can not say if this is real beauty or not, I think that everyone has their own definition of beauty.I have seen a similar form of art, which was also very interesting, unfortunately I can’t remember where I have seen it. Great job! I found the links to be very interesting! 🙂

  2. When I first looked at the picture, I honestly could not make up my mind on weather it was a real human or not. In fact, after I read that a human is pictured, I still found it hard to believe. I really like this art piece because I also love the idea of simple contrast and making a huge meaning out of something minimal. It displays talent and it’s a great way to make art. Looking at this art piece and other pieces of Belin’s work, I think she might use minimal editing, especially on some black and white photos, but who knows maybe it is part of her technique to leave us wonder. I think this is her own unique style, definitely different from other photographers. Great art piece by a great artist.

  3. When I first looked at the piece of art I honestly thought it was a mannequin. But if you continue to look at the picture you reqlize all of the detqils like the Adams apple the way his hair flows ect. ect. the artist just did a great job creating a nice backdrop and paid attention to the little details such as him eyes and his skin the way it appears. By first looking at this piece one would think that this is a mannequin.

  4. At the first glance of the picture I was not sure if the model was a woman or a man. After a closer look I was able to determine that the photographed face belonged to a man. I am not an expert in photography, but definitely think that this piece of art articulates beauty. The model displays perfect skin, beautiful lips, and a symmetrical face. The links were very helpful in understanding the artist’s work and ideas. This piece expanded my view and knowledge of photography art.

  5. Well I’m not going to lie I first seen it I thought it was a guy…I honestly didn’t see that it looked like a mannequin. Until I read the posting…but I can see how people may thing it looks like a mannequin. Just the fair skin color or him or her. I love how the eyes and lips looked the most defining to me when I checked out the portrait…it does get me wondering how she does the pictures….this picture to me looks like soooo perfect but of course nothing is perfect..but for a moment taking a look at this it does look as if a person can be absolutely perfect and beautiful…

  6. I would like to first start out by saying your post is very well written. The picture is a beautiful black and white picture. I love how the coloring in his lips are prominent. This picture does have a sadness, disappointment, and distance about it. It is provoking a thought in my mind of being lost in beauty, People can be completely beautiful in looks but be so lost in their thoughts, and out of touch with reality. He appears as if he is posing for something that is just routine for him, and that his mind is elsewhere while be trapped in the routine. I am surprised something so simplistic can convey so many thoughts and emotions.

  7. Upon first glance, I thought the man was fake, fabricated by digital design. I didn’t see him like a mannequin until the description later in the post. I just love how sleek the portrait is and I wonder how Valerie Belin attained such beauty. I ask myself if she played around with any editing such as value, hue, and exposure. She might have even put makeup on her subject. All in all, this is a great work.

  8. The portrait is well balanced and I enjoyed looking at it from a symmetrical point of view. The well defined lines and structure is very sharp almost to sharp, but overall is a great image. I looked at the image and taught of it as real and understood later after reading the blog that the artist intentions were to mix the perception of objects to that of humans. It is a very interesting idea about perception that I’ve enjoyed.

  9. When i first saw the picture i thought the picture was fake and designed or heavily photoshopped. I like how the artist uses a majority of black and white on the canvas which allows the red/pink lips and blue eyes to stand out. I also noticed that she had a light over the top left of the model’s head to cast a shadow under his chin and to shine or highlight his hair. Going back to my aforementioned point its the minimalistic color in the picture that makes it stand out. I would be curious to see how the artist would portray someone with skin of color. The blank expression and the black backdrop really add a mysterious and eerie element to the picture so the artist was able to accomplish what he was aiming for.

  10. I have to say I also first thought this was a guy at first glance, a guy who has been photo shopped every well. I find do very interested that one of the first thing that the photographer was her eyes. they do say that the eyes are gate ways, so I found that very interesting. I do think just because the back ground is all black that really does make her skin look whiter than normal. Especially since she studied in Paris, when I first think of Paris I think of beautiful lights but I do understand the “raw” emotionlessness that was captured in this picture. I have to admit I do not like the look of the hair it does slightly look dirty and oily.

  11. When I looked at the picture, I didn’t think that it was a mannequin, I thought it was a head shot. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. after I read the first paragraph, I looked back at the picture to take another look at it. I then went back and fourth looking at it to see whether or not it could be a mannequin. I like the idea of mixing perception. This was a great piece to share and the links were very informative. The red on the lips were a great touch for this picture. I like the changes that the artist made.

  12. While the photographic elements and model are striking and the result is beautiful, the feeling is very haunting. I really didn’t think this picture was a mannequin. Something about the model seemed too perfect. In looking at some of artist’s other works, I noticed that a large percentage of her models have a distant and detached look. With this model though, despite the attempt at a “detached” look, I feel like I’m intruding on some kind of personal moment or thought that the photographer captured on film. I really like that she didn’t make this a black and white photo like many of her other works. I don’t think she would have captured the same essence of this young man with a black and white photo.

  13. I love how simple this piece is. The obvious contrast between the background and the skin draw a lot of attention to the eyes and the mouth. I think that could symbolize how we need to focus more on what people say, think, and feel rather than just focusing on the materialistic things such as their perfect hair, flawless skin, or fancy clothes.

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