Monday, March 22, 2010

Plate 1 from E. J. Bellocq, Storyville Portraits

3 Bellocq Plate 1

She’s topless, with the gown drawn down from the shoulders to form a shallow ‘V’ underneath the breasts. Her eyeline moves out of the left side of the frame, and she’s sitting at a slight angle to the camera. As is often the case when Bellocq uses a white screen as a backdrop, he doesn’t crop the frame accordingly, so the screen remains clearly identifiable, floating unfocussed in the background. Two corners of the plate are missing, leaving angular, black shapes on the print that cut sharply into the screen’s diffused outline and complement the angles of the gown’s bunched fabric. Her hair is arranged and parted neatly, with only a single loose wisp behind her left ear. Her complexion is clear and even, entirely innocent of whatever history she may possess. She has nothing to protect or individuate herself – no prop or pet or costume – and yet she looks perfectly at ease. Who or what is she smiling at?

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