The portraits in this exhibition have nothing in common at first glance. From a model named Birk on his way to fame to Randy, an adolescent boy who grows up in Ely, Nevada.
There are portraits of young people and of elderly people, of broken shopping trolleys and of worn out hands. Beautiful and ugly. But does ugly actually exist? Not in the images of Robin de Puy. She finds beauty in what others regard as unsightly.
Unexpected, moving beauty is what links the photos in the exhibition LOVE ME. And in every image De Puy is present. As a photographer she determines who participates in her photographic world, she is the director. And in her world everyone has a very specific, undeniable beauty.
De Puy selects her models based on a very personal criterion: there must be a sense of recognition between her and the person portrayed. They are not weirdos, as she says herself; she is not looking for the sensation of the deviant, like her famous predecessor Diane Arbus did. De Puy is looking for a mental or physical beauty with an edge. The vulnerability of the individual who sometimes is on the margins of society … Or the deviant beauty of people with a disability or – sometimes literal – scars of life. Robin de Puy is searching for where pain becomes beauty.
She is consistently confronting our preconceived ideas of who belongs and who does not, who meets the social norm and the prevailing ideal image. And last but not least, she is confronting herself. De Puy recognizes herself in the people she portrays. The vulnerability that you feel as an adolescent, when you are insecure and anxious and you wonder whether others will accept you. The fear that life sometimes evokes, the desire to be seen and to be loved.
The search for a feeling of security is sometimes literally in the photos. The photographer herself curls up in the arms of artist Marina Abramović. Or, the other way around, shields a young naked girl in her coat, while looking straight into the lens herself. She shows the vulnerability of others but also reveals herself, sometimes literally in her self-portraits.
LOVE ME is a romantic exhibition. The romance is in the often nostalgic landscapes and in the subtle visual language in black and white, with all shades of gray in between. Because the world of Robin de Puy is not black and white; for it shows all hues.
The Ravestijn Gallery
February 2 – March 16, 2019
1013 BV Amsterdam