The 2015 winner of the prestigious Prix Pictet (the global award in photography and sustainability) Valérie Belin has, since the mid-’90s, photographed a series of brides, packets of potato chips, bodybuilders, and mountains of Venetian mirrors that meet in incongruous juxtaposition. Her “Still Life” series approached Pictet Prize 2015 theme of “Disorder” with a divine mess of kitsch paraphernalia-mannequin VS shower heads, glittery Christmas decorations, plastic flowers and kitchen bowls-furthering her career-long commentary on vanity, beauty stereotypes, perfection and the elements that crash it. As if thrown by your local supermarket, these obsessive consumerist collections a 21st-century memento mori threaten to drown the viewer in a pile of plastic clutter, ultimately stifling any sign of life, or beauty for that matter. It’s a clever nod to current environmental dangers, and one steeped in irony given the reigning immortality of non-biodegradable plastic.
Elsewhere, such as in the 2013 series “Black Eyed Susan”, the French photographer superimposed brilliantly Photoshopped flowers on images of classic, perfectly coiffed beauties in pearls, the whole so colorful and glorious that it touched on spooky. How realistic are our ideals, and how much is that flawless, consummate beauty a sheer illusion? There are plenty of layers of creative vision and technical skill to peel off in Belin’s work but there are also layers of societal stereotypes and suppressed psychology to unmask behind those glossy magazine covers and polished superficiality that surrounds us. Just keep on looking…
The sixth cycle of Prix Pictet Disorder will be on display at the Old Municipal Gallery of Athens, Greece, until 30 September, featuring the work of the twelve shortlisted photographers.
“Arcotis Fastuosa (Namaqua Marigold) – 2013 series Black Eyed Susan”
“Still life with pearls”
“Astrantia Major (Ruby Wedding) – 2013 series Black Eyed Susan”
“Still life with shoes”
“Still life with mirror”
“La demi-poupée, 1970”
“Still life with mask”
“Giant Exhibition Aureole- 2013 series Black Eyed Susan”
“Still life with dish”, 2014