Bettina Von Zwehl.
Photographs by Bettina von Zwehl. Essays by Joanna Lowry and Darian Leader.
Introduction by David Chandler. Interview by Charlotte Cotton.
Steidl / Photoworks, Gottingen, 2006. 112 pp., 60 color illustrations, 8½x11½".
Bettina von Zwehl’s portraits in series impose
exacting conditions on her subjects. She photographs
them as they wake from deep sleep, as
they hold their breath, as they recover from physical
exertion, drenched in rain or listening intently
to music in a darkened room. She orchestrates a
climate in which they must relinquish control of
the way they are represented. The resulting portraits
reveal not the conscious projection of an
identity but a space between the subject’s private
and thoughtful world and his or her public
appearance. With their pared-down backgrounds
and balanced compositions, von Zwehl’s portraits
have the texture and poise of Renaissance paintings.
Their stillness arrests the viewer and
demands the kind of absorption they depict. The
eye is directed to the slightest details: blemishes,
wrinkles, stray hairs, raised color in the cheeks, a
striking variety of profiles. Surveyed in this comprehensive
monograph, Bettina von Zwehl’s work
forms a delicate and exquisitely detailed catalogue
of human physiognomy.
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