Tuesday, 19 May 2009


"Poppy de Villeneuve was born in London on 22 May 1979. Her father is Justin de Villeneuve, the Sixties fashion photographer who discovered Twiggy, and her mother is the model Jan de Villeneuve. Poppy herself began modelling at the age of 17 but found it "boring" so took up photography instead. She studied at the London College of Printing, and since graduating has worked for publications including Vogue and Dazed & Confused. She also exhibits regularly." (The Independant)

These images are from her series called The Strangers. It features intimate portraits of inmates from the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary that explores the notion of justice and the uncertain relationship between the physical appearance of a person and their moral and ethical nature.

"Building personal relationships with her subjects over three years, de Villeneuve came to understand these life-long prisoners on a very human level. The bare portraits, shot against white backdrops, force the viewer to confront each prisoner individually and face to face. The starkness of prison life is captured in these portraits, with the individuality of the uniformed inmates reduced down to facial features, bringing de Villeneuve's fascination with physiognomy to the fore. An ancient form of divination, relating external appearance to inner character, physiognomy has historically caused contention: confronting the face of a convicted criminal, can the viewer read their soul?

de Villeneuve herself articulates a position in keeping with the values of classic humanist documentary photography, believing that meaning and empathy can be captured and communicated by photographs.

In The Strangers, the empathy that may be sought and found in the eyes of these men is a challenge, a complication of polarised moral judgements. "When you spend time with these men and talk to them about their lives, then moral judgements become confused. You start to see the moral range of people, that those guilty of such crimes can also, in many ways, be normal. that is to say, be human. Perhaps there is some redemption in those moments of connection, of common feeling, felt against the odds."

The prison's sprawling rural estate holds over 5,000 inmates in an area larger than Manhattan; de Villeneuve's images of the prison grounds are left empty just as she found them; vast expanses of hopeless and deceptively open land.

Poppy de Villeneuve has rapidly established a successful commercial photography career, and her work has featured in broadsheets such as the Guardian and Telegraph, glossy magazines including Vogue, Lula, Esquire, Dazed & Confused, and art titles such as Modern Painters and Art Review. This exhibition is the first public gallery solo show of her art photography. In 2002 de Villeneuve graduated from BA Photography at London College of Communication, one of the six prestigious Colleges of University of the Arts London."(University of the Arts London)

Article in The Independant
University of the Arts London

1 comment:

Francois said...

Life sentence, c'est long quand même. Je me demande à quoi ils peuvent bien penser.

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