Els Van Bosbeke

Els Van Bosbeke


by Els Van Bosbeke (Belgium)

‘Take away my camera and I’m dead, my photos represent my identity’, that I answer when they ask me to describe who I am or why I’m doing it. Through the years I managed to create my own style. This means working with natural light. I try to work a bit in a clair-obscur perspective. What I want to achieve with my work is representing a kind of melancholy.

Portfolio from the Portrait workshop with Richard Dumas, October 2014.

Written review by ANN-CHRISTIN BERTRAND,
Curator at C/O Berlin and head of C/O Berlin Talents program

As Roland Barthes described in his famous book "La Chambre Claire", there is always a triangle when shooting a portrait: the photographer, the camera, and the subject to be portrayed. The interrelation between these three elements thus is the starting point of all photographic portraits. The challenge in portrait photography is certainly how to create and to capture a certain atmosphere, but also how to capture our attention, to create questions, to break the perfectness and allowing us to get behind the surface of a beautiful portrait.

When looking at Els' Portfolio, we can see immediatly that she has already a knowledge in the field of portraiture. Her use of natural light, the constrast and varying shades of grey, the well chosen backgrounds and environments, both indoor and outdoor - Els did understand very well to create and to capture a certain atmosphere in her portraits, as it was the goal of the workshop with Richard Dumas. So this workshop result is a very good one.

It is particularly one portrait which for me is standing out: N°6b, the young man in a park, his hands blurred because they are moving in the moment of shooting the photograph. It is exactly this fact of blurred hands which makes the quality of this portrait: It is not about the perfect, frozen posture, it seems to be shot slightly before or after the final moment and thus bringing in a narrative moment, the question of a "before" and "after".

This creates an immediacy, a positive tension between posing and beeing authentic. The young man seems to be very concentrated on the photographer, searching for the right pose, still in the move, and thus not entirely in his "role" yet. This moment, which appears as a slightly "wrong" moment (shot too early or too late) positively breaks the perfectness of the other portraits, creating a directness which brings in the aspect of time: While in the other portraits, the posture seems to be frozen, esthetically perfect and therefore timeless, the blurredness of the young man's hands makes us aware of the specific moment, which in a second will be past. Or: it makes us aware of the "before" and "after" of a photographic moment.

Here, Els is bringing in a very characteristic aspect of the medium: to be able to capture and to freeze time. It is the fact of a multilayeredness in this picture, which makes it outstanding compared to the other portraits in the portfolio. And which breaks the perfectness, gives a glance of authenticity.

To conclude: The portraits of Els' portfolio are all very esthetically perfect, sometimes reminding of fashion and magazine photography. If this was the goal of Els, this is very well-made. But if ever she would like to develop her work more artistically, and bring in even more strength and power, it would be worth to go one step further in order to try to "break" this beautifulness and perfection.

Always when things are too perfect, they somehow stay superficial, they don't go deeper and thus are not able to really touch us. So the goal and last step to be taken would be, in my eyes, to find ways to get closer to the portrayed persons, in order to receive more autheticity, more imperfection, to create a positive tension between perfectness and somehow imperfectness – as described for the portrait of the young man in a park.

It is certainly a question of time spent with the people, and the talent of a photographer to create an atmosphere wich makes the portrayed people feel well, trusty. Which, to me, means not only to create an atmosphere in terms of esthetics, but also in terms of the relation to the portrayed person. When we can see and feel that the person in front of the camera isn't aware of the camera any more. This will then come through in the portrait, the spectator will be able to feel this special relation. Or, a way to create more deepness would be to add another layer, to find a way how to create a positive tension which somehow tells us more than the pure portrait and makes us keeping that special image in our mind.

This is a challenge for everyone participating in the triangle of a photographic portrait – especially for the photographer himself. But it's worth it. And for Els it seems just a small step.

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