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Art review: Warts and all

Stephanie de Leng brings her stirring Body Landscapes photographic show to Blackburne House. Gayna Rose Madder does the write-up

Published on July 6th 2010.


Art review: Warts and all

STEPHANIE de Leng, former photographic model of international repute, and these days an award winning photographer of similar renown, is well-placed to know about image and its portrayal within the media.

Her concerns about this, and the effects it is having, particularly on the young, has led to the return of Body Landscapes, currently at Blackburne House, her second Liverpool gallery exhibition on this controversial subject.

Stephanie's own photographs are immaculate. Every pore, every hair, every wrinkle and every shape is present and visible (with jaw-dropping clarity). Yet, in the context of the subject matter - exposure of body parts usually kept hidden - this is in turn disturbing, fascinating and - most importantly - immensely thought-provoking.

She has chosen to ask her subjects to reveal the parts of themselves of which they are least proud. In some cases this illuminates how much pressure has been applied by such industries as television, modelling and fashion to appear “perfect”.

There are photographs of body areas where no possible defect is present to the eye, it seems, of anyone but the owner. But also here is a world of scars, lumps and some deformities, to view in high definition.

So we have the story of the woman with a wart on her nose from birth. Her sister had an identical “blemish” and her mother, for whatever reason, chose to remove only hers. The operation scars, the regretted tatoos, the stretch marks. Even Stephanie herself is depicted from a magazine photo shoot in the 1980s. To any eye, she appears the perfect female form, but the picture was rejected by art directors on the grounds that the shape of her breasts never made the grade.

The artist succeeds in fermenting a debate on self-image, and the problems caused by aspirations to an idealised standard which does not even exist in real life. She confronts the insecurities arising from this which can lead to depression and feelings of inevitable failure to achieve the impossible.

These astonishing photographs do not form, or engender, judgements. By choosing to categorise them as 'landscapes', Stephanie de Leng posits the images as compositions rather than exposés. On leaving the exhibition, the impression is one of mixed layers of relief. Imperfections are a necessary part of being human.

*Body Landscapes - Stephanie de Leng, can be seen at Blackburne House, Hope St until August 31.

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BeyonceJuly 6th 2010.

Love the sentiment in Stephanie's note just above when you click the picture to enlarge it. Shame western society doesn't see it like that.

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