From Louise Bourgeois to Jeff Wall: Portraits and Studio Stills by Elfie Semotan

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I picked up this book at least a year ago at a bookshop sale in a local art gallery.  Somehow though, it got added to my bookshelf and I never really looked at it.  It wasn’t until the other week, when I was having a bit of a clear out, that I rediscovered it.

The book was published as part of an exhibition “Elfie Semotan. Portraits of Artists” in 2010.  Evidently, Semotan spent many years putting artists in front of her camera.  I find this idea fascinating, because essentially, she is switching their roles, making the artist the subject.  Personally, I love photographing people, but I hate being in front of the camera.  So, I wonder how many of her artists had similar reservations.

I think perhaps the thing that strikes me most about this book, is that there is no single, discernible style to the photographs.  In fact, a quick flick through the book, would leave the reader with the impression that it contained a series of portraits from a number of different photographers.  This, in itself, is quite revealing, and evidences the fact that Semotan collaborated carefully with her subjects.  Her intent, seems to be to bring something of each artist’s personality into her images.  These quotes from the preface support this:

“she avoids elaborating a signature style that would make her photos immediately recognisable…Instead, for each occasion she seeks new means that favour the individuality of her hosts”

and,

“the artistic author becomes the picture’s subject and, at the same time, the possible stand in for, and interpreter of, his own artistic idea.”

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book.  It’s just a shame that it took me so long to get around to looking at it.

Semotan, E. (2010) From Louise Bourgeois to Jeff Wall: Portraits and Studio Stills by Elfie Semotan. Hirmer Verlag: Munich.

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