Having employed primary processes of photography in Valérie Belin’s earlier work, and later used new technology to create pictorial, supernatural images, she walks a fine line between illusion and reality in her work. Belin has long been fascinated with artifice and the significance of appearances. She has often photographed those who are predisposed to theatricality and show such as brides, models, dancers, and bodybuilders. Belin sets out to go beyond what conventional, realist photography can capture, instead exploiting all the possibilities of digital manipulation, to present a type of magic realism, hovering between reality and illusion. She has been described as a “superb designer of Baroque sur-réalité.” In Belin’s own words, she says, “Modern tools have led me to see photography beyond the analogue, as a means of creating a pure image captured directly by me at the very heart of my models. Much more than a figurative medium, photography offers me the possibility of probing the evanescent frontiers between reality and illusion, to reveal the profound supernaturalism of my work.”
From Jason Farago in the The New Yorker (2015): “In her new series ‘Super Models,’ Belin presents store-window mannequins in three-quarter-length poses, their plastic bodies surreally superimposed with raster-dot patterns and concentric circles that recall the intense graphics of the artist Ryan McGinness. This series continues an earlier engagement with dummies: in the early aughts, Belin made creepy black-and-white headshots of mannequins, or else shot a wax Michael Jackson in soft, even light. The Super Models, however, advertise their artifice from the start, with visible arm joints and missing nipples, their images overlaid with all manner of digital effluvia. It’s no longer news that beauty is a construction, that fictions can give rise to the real. But Belin’s return to mannequins—plastic bodies in the real space of the studio, to be dressed up, fetishized, rearranged, thrown away—suggests that even our endless digital-image stream has room for the uncanny.”
Valérie Belin was born in 1964 in France and now lives and works in Paris. She has held numerous solo exhibitions across Europe, the US and Japan and her work is held in collections at the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Bibliothéque nationale de France, Foundation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, the CCF Foundation for Photography, Paris, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, among many others. Widely published, Belin won the Paris Photo prize in 1997, The CCF (HSBC) Foundation for Photography Prize in 2000 and was short-listed for the Marcel Duchamp Prize in 2004. Solo exhibitions include the Huis Marseille Foundation, Amsterdam, the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris. In 2015, Belin was the recipient of the prestigious Prix Pictet with her work for it subsequently being exhibited at museums worldwide such as the Museo MAXXI in Rome. Also in 2015, Belin was honored with the solo exhibition “Les images intranquilles” at the Centre Pompidou in Paris which surveyed various bodies of her work. Today she continues to produce incisive work which probes the notions of artificiality.