Contemporary French photographer Valérie Belin always works in black and white and although her work has ranged across a wide variety of subjects including crashed cars, Moroccan brides and body builders, she has been continuously engaged in exploring the possibilities and nature of photography. In particular, she demonstrates an interest in surface and the way that light hits surfaces. Her earliest work was a study of light itself – photographs of light sources including the sun. Until the last five years the body was absent from her work – as in this series.
The mirrors were photographed in situ in shops on the island of Murano in the Venice lagoon, an area that has been famous for its glass production since the 1200s, and particularly for the beauty and luminosity of its mirrors (at the beginning of the 16th century, a Venetian mirror in an elaborate silver frame was valued at £8,000, nearly three times the contemporary price of a painting by Raphael). The viewer is presented with an over-abundance of reflections of mirrors, ending in an impenetrable and annihilating blackness, a nothingness in which the photographer is not present.
Of Belin's work, critic Pierre Wat has written that she 'uses photography against the deceptive prettiness of the world. Taking photographs in order to denounce appearances, to reveal the chaos that teems under each thing'.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra