Photography project by Hilde Braet

Hilde Braet, photographer (Ghent), introduced eighteen women to the world of portrait photography. She gave them an overview of the different genres in (self-)portrait photography and of the possibilities of making a self-portrait, motivating them to actively think about themselves. Before starting the workshop, she asked them to bring an object or accessory that expressed something about themselves.

People are generally supposed to smile happily in photographs. But isn’t a smiling face just another mask? Is it really necessary to try to please, or is a powerful, expressive photo more attractive? “La beauté sera convulsive ou ne sera pas », said André Breton in Nadja (1928). The picture that really makes a lasting impression is the one which refuses to conform. Braet therefore motivated the women to make portraits ‘with character’.

Afterwards, she invited everyone for an interview, in which she investigated the intrinsic and instrumental effects of the photography workshop (first without, then with the selected photo). It turned out that the women all said they had learned a lot about photography. They had also thought intensively about their self-image and their position in the social context. Most of them left with a greater self-awareness and a good feeling about themselves. By giving their explicit permission to publish and exhibit their portraits, they contribute to increasing their visibility in a society full of prejudice and stereotypes about women over 45.

The project was realised with the support of the Vermeylenfonds.

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