Céline van Balen (1965)
With her high-tech 4" x 5" camera, Céline van Balen takes super-sharp photos, recording every imperfection: every crevice in a dry lip, every birthmark, every speck of dust on a head scarf. But Van Balen herself does not consider them reflections of reality.* They show her own vision; she is in control of the image. Each image in Van Balen's series of portraits of homeless people, seven-year-olds, adolescents and Muslim girls breathes the same engagement and attention to true beauty that place her portraits where documentary and art photography meet.**
Van Balen's first serious exposure to photography came in a class in 1991. Inspired, she acquired a 35mm camera and wandered through the city, photographing the people living on the edge of society: junkies, alcoholics, the homeless. Her photographs mercilessly lay bare both the pain and the survival mechanisms of these people. In 1995, at age 30, Van Balen's pursuit of photography led her to enrol the Rietveldacademie. Since then she has dared to approach her subjects ever closer. She now makes frame-filling close-ups in large-scale format, bringing us face-to-face with the type of beauty that we sometimes are afraid to see, and at other times are incapable of seeing.
* A. Haijtema, ‘Op de Huid’, de Volkskrant, 21.02.2002
** www.geheugenvannederland.nl, 18.11.2008