Israeli photographer Michal Chelbin (born 1974) has spent several years traveling through Ukraine and Spain to explore the connection and tension between youth and uniforms. Internationally acclaimed for her striking portraits of teenagers throughout Eastern Europe, Chelbin recognizes adolescence as a liminal space between childhood and adulthood, a stage of one’s life that can be difficult to represent in all its complexities and contradictions. Chelbin’s teenage subjects embody that contrast to the fullest extent: their youth is apparent despite the startlingly adult contexts in which they are placed, as one can see in her previous work taken in juvenile prisons or traveling acrobat troupes.
In How to Dance the Waltz, Chelbin looks at puberty and gender as a performance that involves as much attention to costumery as any circus act. The subjects in this collection are dressed in military garb, traditional maid uniforms, extravagant debutante gowns and outfits of matadors, all slightly ill-fitting and strange on their slight frames. In each photograph, the teens gaze directly into Chelbin’s camera, seemingly impassive, their world-weary seriousness contradicted by the unmistakable youthfulness of their faces. This imagery hints at the ways societal expectations of gender, especially in regard to clothing and uniform, can inform a teenager’s cognitive development and overall identity. Chelbin’s remarkable portraits simultaneously represent their subjects’ vulnerability and self-possession.
Published by Twin Palms Publishers. Contributions by Etgar Keret.
In The Black Eye, Israeli photographer Michal Chelbin (born 1974) continues to explore the world of athletes and performers from Eastern Europe, Israel and England. The athletes and wrestlers in this series are studies in contrasts: youth and manhood, strength and weakness, tenderness and rigidity, odd and ordinary, splendor and roughness. Presented in a clear and balanced format, the pictures challenge the viewer with their ambiguity. While revealing little about the lives of Chelbin’s subjects, the photos do reveal an internal drama, capturing a tension between the gaze and the presence of each individual. These athletes are exhausted after a hard training session or fight. Some are breathless, sweaty, and fatigued. Chelbin searches for a certain expression in which they have almost calmed their breath but not yet fully regained their self-awareness. It is a moment when they have lifted their mask and surrendered to the camera. Her aim is to expose this moment, and the contradiction between the person and the persona.
In her sympathetic pictures of contortionists, dwarves, ballroom dancers and wrestlers from small towns in Israel, Ukraine, Eastern Europe and England, Michal Chelbin offers a glimpse into worlds both strange and familiar. Her subjects--usually individuals on society’s margins--tend to be portrayed offstage, at home, on the street or in a park, and in a disarmingly direct engagement with the viewer: “My aim is to record a scene where there is a mixture of direct information and enigmas and in which there are visual contrasts between young and old, large and small, normal and abnormal,” she writes. This sense of candid confrontation between subject and camera is particularly disarming when those subjects are prepubescent girls, whose bodies, as Chelbin puts it, “might be still that of a child, [but] their gazes sometimes imply differently.” Chelbin’s palette is intensely saturated with distinctive pinks, blues and greens, evoking a painterly atmosphere, even occasionally making explicit reference to art history. Though her influences are evident--most notably August Sander and Diane Arbus--the compelling photographs gathered in this first monograph have a unique visual and emotional impact.
BOOK FORMAT Hardback, 9.5 x 11 in. / 112 pgs / 33 color / 22 duotone.
PUBLISHING STATUS Pub Date 4/1/2008 No longer our product
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PRODUCT DETAILS ISBN 9781597110563TRADE List Price: $45.00 CDN $55.00