Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Painting Portraits with a Camera

It´s much more of a challenge to take an insecure girl
and change her into Queen Elizabeth."

Hellen van Meene

When she was in her teens the Dutch photographer Hellen van Meene was given a pink camera by her mother and she did what most adolescences would do and took photographs of her friends. Now 40 years later armed with a high end professional camera, 15 year olds are still her preferred subject matter.

As she told Vice ID’s Rory Satran "The faces are so open and you can have different interpretations. I prefer younger faces because it's like an open book."

A fascination she reiterated on Conscientious Extended website saying “I think that young people are so inspiring, and I love to be inspired by them. They’re so open and new and fresh, they have to explore everything, and I love to guide that. Maybe when I’m much older, say in my sixties, I will think about forty-year old models, but not right now.

Van Meene selects her models from the teenagers she meets on the streets.

About which she has said "It has nothing to do with being beautiful or not; it's more about chemistry. And this can be based on the mood they have, or the hair, or the skin, or if they are fat, brown, freckled. It's just there is something inside them that I feel. It's more like I am looking with my belly rather than my eyes…  I guide my subjects a lot. I always ask models that have no experience as models. They’re just girls and boys from the street. Because of that I always guide them, because I think a good photographer should know what they want from a subject. Once you have a model posing in front of you it is good to help them, by telling them in what direction to look or what pose to choose. That way, you can help them to have confidence, and to also feel relaxed with you."

Van Meene also works in natural settings using daylight rather than a studio.

As she says “In a studio I would feel too limited. There, the light has already been set up, and if you would want to change it you are less focused on the model and more on the light equipment in the studio. I like to be more focused on the model, and daylight is so beautiful!

It is a process that gives her photographs a painterly feel.

As she explained to Bleek Magazine’s Olga Bubich “My work also has so much resemblance to paintings because of the natural feeling the way I work with the model creates. Before I finally take a photo, it sometimes takes ten or twenty minutes. First I give my model all the attention she needs, I really look very closely and concentrated at her before I photograph her. This approach is far from just taking out your camera and snaping, snaping, snaping away. What I do is really like a painter working on a painting – looking, making decisions.”

Van Meene’s current exhibition Five is on show at New York’s Yancey Richardson Gallery until the 23rd of January.

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