Following my tutor’s recommendation, I have explored the work of this German artist based in UK, who is specialized in portrait photography and explores identity issues far beyond the visual matter, because she looks for connections with the unconscious dimension not necessarily of a particular subject but as a contemporary paradigm.
Each of the series of photographs that Bettina von Zwehl constructs includes different subjects with similar characteristics (gender, age, position, silhouettes, etc.). Both the backgrounds of the scenes and the clothes of the subject that she uses are usually neutral, showing a certain predilection for the colour white; with the exception of the series of girls in the rain, and girls in red dresses. This resource favors that the spectator concentrates in those elements differential in each subject of the typology. To avoid confrontation with the viewer, she also avoids the direct gaze of the subject to the camera, and either the subjects have their eyes closed, are photographed sideways or she simply presents their silhouettes.
Based on printed copies of a silhouette portrait of a young African American woman on which the low-key silhouette is highlighted on a white background, the artist re-photographs the fragments of these photos after having deliberately ripped and cut them. Each of the 50 resulting photos shows a different shape on which the original picture was tear off and a different fragment of the original portrait.
The series could be considered as the result of a performance, in which the artist invites the viewer to make a reconstruction of the original portrait through the multiple fragments. The series that is organized from this simple idea has a great visual power, and is an interesting reflection on the fragmentary character of the personality. These photos are included in the book “Lament”, edited with the collaboration of the writer and psychoanalyst Josh Cohen. Apparently, the performative process is related to the process of psychoanalytic exploration that the artist could know during her residence at the Freud Museum.