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In Sight: Contemporary Dutch Photography from the Collection of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

  • This catalogue has been published at the occasion of the exhibition In Sight: Contemporary Dutch Photography from the Collection of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, held at the Art Institute of Chicago March 26 - May 8, 2005.
  • Concept and Editing: Hripsimé Visser, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
  • Texts: Carol Ehlers (Curator, LaSalle Bank Photography Collection) Femke Lutgerink, Hripsimé Visser
  • Design: Thonik, Amsterdam
  • Published by Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2005)
  • ISBN: 9050061699

Hellen van Meene is mentioned on page 20. A text and three photos are on pages 108-113.

Hripsimé Visser on Hellen van Meene (p. 20)

Lastly, Hellen van Meene projects her memories of adolescent angst and uncertainties in staged images of children, particularly young girls. Her gaze is merciless: pimply skin, podgy folds of fat, greasy spikes of hair, the awkwardness of a growing body are recorded with razor-sharp accuracy. The girls who she chooses are not especially beautiful, but particularly introverted; their poses often theatrical, their clothes carefully selected. For her, puberty is first and foremost synonymous with imprisonment.

The catalogue on Hellen van Meene (p. 108)

Hellen van Meene (Alkmaar, 1972) almost always photographs girls on the line between childhood and adolescence. They stand alone, against a wall or in a natural setting; looking shyly toward the photographer, or introverted, blank. Often she chooses what in film would be called a 'medium shot', revealing some of their surroundings, while at the same time suggesting intimacy and prox´mity. The girl's poses are stiff, awkward, and sometimes outright melodramatic. Strange undergarments and dresses accentuate a certain disorientation; the photography records the tiniest details of the skin, the fabric and the way it falls, and the caress of the light.

Van Meene is not interested in the personalities of these children, but in the uncertainty of the individual's identity, which is most poignant at the beginning of adolescence. The girls, with their puberal fat, pimples and pale skin suggest vulnerability and doubt. Her approach involves a certain degree of ruthlessness. The photographer selects and poses her models so that they are almost personifications of feelings of adolescent powerlessness. Other times she photographs lively Dutch lasses, such as the plump girl in the lettuce field, with her old-fashioned print dress. Here the North Holland polder figures in the background, with its green fields, low horizon and fantastic skies.

Among other projects in recent years Van Meene did a series on young girls in Japan. The look of adolescents in that Asian land does not seem to be essentially different from that of their Western European contemporaries. As always in her work a staged, theatrical vision of the dreams, fears and desires of puberty prevails.