Under Spell

about Hellen van Meene

As if in a Vermeer or a Rembrandt, the teenage girls in Hellen van Meene’s portraits are often stark in dress and appearance, bathed exquisitely in natural light. They gaze up or down or off and away, or keep their eyes shut, as if in a quiet, dreamy rebellion against the Dutch photographer’s camera. They always seem to be under some kind of spell, even when they pose next to their pets.

As the curator Martin Barnes puts it, in an essay printed in Hellen’s collection The Years Shall Run Like Rabbits, her portraits “are based in reality but are often puzzlingly detached, sometimes spectral, seeming to float a little above the earth”.

Born in 1972, in Alkmaar, Netherlands, her work was first exhibited in 1996 and has been shown around the world since then. Her photos are in the collection of many museums, including Guggenheim NYC and MoMA.

She lives and works in Heiloo and her subjects now include still lifes, dogs and other animals.


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