Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Haunted World of Dorothée Smith

In the 1992 documentary Visions of Light cinematographer William Fraker comments on how director Roman Polanski chose to shoot certain scenes in Rosemary's Baby—such as a scene in which we the audience eavesdrop on a telephone conversation—deliberately off kilter, with more than half of the figure hidden behind a partly open door, in order to evoke a paranoid sense of conspiracy and Mia Farrow’s sense of isolation and exclusion.

French photographer and videographer Dorothée Smith uses palettes stripped to the bone and oblique compositions for the same effect—deliberately clouding her subjects’ gender to render them mysterious and somehow protected from our intrusive gaze.

Her subjects pose in profile or with faces turned from the camera, further signifying their unavailability to us secondhand "voyeurs"—the opposite of commercial fashion photography’s invitation to look, own, and absorb its recumbent, dazed, and deadpan models.

The end result is the sense that these are photographs of another realm—where distinctions of person and sex belong only to the subjects themselves, and we, the onlookers, are mostly excluded, left straining to comprehend the mystery of their quiet allure.

These photographs come from Smith's 2008 series Dniepr, Spree, and Loon. You can find more of her work on her website here.

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