Portraits by Marine Smith

«The subjects of Smith’s portraits retain their selfhood, yet become digital phantoms, a projection of emotions that were born during the shoot.»


The desire to make a photographic portrait can arise from a number of varying internal urges. If the author strives, against the law of time, to catch the evanescing beauty of a person, that person in front of the camera, then, is more important than the author. If the author instead wishes to express a certain idea or artistic concept, then she finds the faces and figures she needs, using them as actors or even as props, thus subjugating them beneath the art, beneath the artist.

Possibly, and oddly, the rarest urge to result in photographic portraiture, is the urge for genuine creative collaboration. In such a collaboration, the results cannot be foreseen, and this very uncertainty possesses powerful allure, turning the process of photographing into a process of cognition, a process of defining the boundaries that lie between us, and venturing beyond those boundaries.

Holding and interrogating her earlier career as a model, photographer Marine Smith creates images wherein the interaction between photographer and model is the defining method. Every new face, every person entering her studio is a fully legitimate co-author of the eerie dreamlike images.

Smith uses the digital camera’s colour replacement tool and creates obstacles for the camera in the form of special illumination or transparent objects to force a restriction on the amount of information received by the image sensor. This achieves a painterly effect, drawing the documentary reality of ‘the photo’ deeper into an abstract emotional image. The intense surreal colour drags the viewer into a space where prominence is given to simple feelings such as fear, attachment, intimacy, and estrangement.

And so the subjects – the people, the collaborators – on Marine Smith’s portraits retain selfhood, yet they become digital phantoms, a projection of emotions that were born during the shoot. The photographs are not just portraits, but articles reporting on these emotional conditions at the meeting of individuals, at the meeting of the «I» and the «You», at the meeting of the Author and the Other.


Text by Ilia Pilipenko, photography curator, co-founder of F11 gallery
Edited by Kit Griffiths