“The 183 photos in Hellen's new book are all grown up works, and together they tell a compelling and open-ended story.” — i-D, July 21, 2015
Over the last twenty years, Hellen van Meene has produced a complex body of work, offering a contemporary take on photographic portraiture. Characterized by her exquisite use of light, formal elegance, and palpable psychological tension, her depictions of girls and boys on the cusp of adulthood demonstrate a clear aesthetic lineage to seventeenth-century Dutch painting. Van Meene captures the intimacy in the photographer/subject relationship, bringing out a sense of honesty and vulnerability from within her models and highlighting the beauty of imperfection. She carefully poses her subjects in their environments to emphasize their fragility, adding a palpable tension to the photographs. At the same time, she captures them at deeper, more introspective moments—masterfully moving between the staged nature of the portraits and the real experiences of her subjects. The combination of van Meene’s instinctive understanding of the universality of adolescent experience and the highly intimate collaboration between photographer and model makes for powerful portraits that resonate long after viewing. This book brings together more than 250 images, for the most comprehensive presentation of the artist’s work to date.
Hellen van Meene (born in Alkmaar, the Netherlands, 1972) studied photography at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam. Her work has been exhibited internationally and is in the collections of major museums around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. This will be her fifth monograph. The others include Hellen van Meene: Portraits (Aperture, 2004); Hellen van Meene: Japan Series; Hellen van Meene: New Work; and Hellen van Meene: Tout va disparaître.
Martin Barnes (introduction) is the senior curator of photographs at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. In addition to curating numerous touring exhibitions in the UK, his curated exhibitions at the museum include Shadow Catchers: Camera-less Photography (2010). Barnes writes on contemporary photographers for such publications as Aperture and Portfolio, as well as for exhibition catalogues.