“My subjects evoke the vanity or fragility of our existence.”
The French photographer Valerie Belin excludes the narrative and documentary aspects of the medium in preference to philosophical approach that explores its abstract possibilities.
As she told the online magazine’s Kwesi Adjin “My work is articulated in series of images based on a subtle play of repetitions and variations that explore a form of photographic abstraction. The absolute frontality of the viewpoint, the radical two-dimensionality, the absence of context, and the monumentality of the formats bestow an iconic value on these subjects chosen for their powerful evocation of the uncertainties and paradoxes of “life.” My work transcends issues of identity and probes a more existential realm.”
“I consider myself more an artist than a photographer. I have never worked on the documentary side of photography. I have always viewed my work in the same way a painter would consider painting,” the 49 year old Parisian states.
Studying painting and sculpture at the École nationale supérieure d'art de Bourges in her early 20’s it was her lack of drawing skills saw her gravitate to photography.
As she recalled “From secondary school onwards, I was significantly captivated by lessons connected to creation, literature and the history of art in particular, but I had no specific talent for drawing, I therefore joined the beaux arts (fine arts) with a great lack of awareness! The freedom that I found in this institution very rapidly enabled me to consider photography as a prime tool which allowed me to formalize a relationship with the world… After graduating in 1987, I went to university to study the philosophy of art where I tried to analyze the relationships between American minimalism and the changes in the urban fabric.”
Now with museum exhibitions than span three continents Belin continues to explore her interests of illusion and artifice that has seen her photograph live models, masks, mannequins, body builders, plastic fruit and abandoned computers in a search that questions reality.
As she says “The choice of my subjects is always the fruit of a necessity to portray an autobiographical character. My work may be regarded as an obsessive attempt at appropriating the tangible where empathy with my models plays a major role. I have a marked preference for permanent metamorphosis that objects and people are subjected to by their social environment. In this respect, my subjects become artifacts, provisional displays, fiction; many metaphors of the ‘artificial paradise’ incurred by the globalization and media coverage of living beings.”
Belin’s current exhibition Super Models is on show at Edwynn Houk’s New York gallery until the 19th of December.