The young Swiss photographer Senta Simond shoots her subjects in natural light, but it’s the platonic-erotic bonds of close friendship that give them their particular glow. Simond credits the intimate, spontaneous mood of her portraits to her unfussy process: her subjects are women she knows, some of whom have been her models for a decade; she uses minimal equipment, in non-studio settings, and seeks out plain white backgrounds to position her subjects against. It’s familiarity and trust that produce her transfixing images—images that once upon a time might’ve been said to smack of the male gaze. The photos in her U.S. début, at Danziger Gallery (all from 2017–18), are “collaborative as opposed to voyeuristic,” the press release asserts, but this doesn’t quite ring true. They’re portraits of both obsession and self-possession. The exhibition’s fifteen black-and-white prints show women in deep thought and in varied states of undress, their mischievously—or lazily—uninhibited poses made thrilling by Simond’s bold camera angles, cropped compositions, and unmistakable fascination with the bodies before her.
2020欧洲杯体育投注网The topless figure in “Laurence,” mostly obscured and radically foreshortened, is perched on something, swinging her legs. Or maybe she’s jumping. Simond must have lain on the floor below her to snap the photo, peering up through the diagonal frame of her friend’s calves. Only one of Laurence’s breasts is visible, in shadow, and we can see just half of her face. A single kohl-rimmed eye, in sharp focus, glances dispassionately down at the lens. “Tamara” shows a woman in profile, nude from the waist down, bent forward and turning away; one leg is propped up, her long thigh running almost parallel to the photo’s bottom edge. Again, the vantage is low, but this time Simond brings the foreground into focus, to show the curves and crease of Tamara’s butt and the pale fuzz on her body glinting in the light. Her bobbed hair swings forward, and her elbow is thrown out behind her. Like “Laurence,” the photo is an action shot. Both images would be less compelling or less aggressive—more clear-cut, perhaps simply come-hither—were it not for the cryptic movements that Simond captures.
These photos have a vintage cinematic quality, but Simond’s exact allusions are hard to pin down. She maintains an ambiguous relationship to time, in part through her subtle styling. The scant clothing that her subjects wear is often difficult to place. The dark-maned woman in a portrait titled “Soumeya,” for instance, has on a white poet’s blouse; taken out of context, the image might be from yesterday, from the early twentieth century, or from a period drama—set in which period, though, it’s hard to say. The crew-neck shirt worn in the closeup “Sunna,” which shows a blonde in reverie, does date it as contemporary—but only within a window of several decades.
2020欧洲杯体育投注网The influence of at least one historical tradition seems clear. Simond’s devotion to humble means, her work’s air of inspired improvisation, and her heroines’ tousled glamour all evoke the French New Wave. Simond’s book “,” from 2018, was titled after a film by Éric Rohmer, one of the movement’s progenitors. The movie, from 1986, uses a verité style to tell the fictional story of a newly single Parisian secretary, Delphine, who hesitates to commit to vacation plans as the city empties for the summer holiday. Marie Rivière, who played the part of the drifting, pensive protagonist, also co-wrote the film and ad-libbed much of her dialogue—an achievement that Simond a metaphor for the active role of Laurence, Tamara, Soumeya, Sunna, et al., in her work.
Simond has also said that the rayon vert—the green ray—of the film’s title serves as an apt symbol of her photographic process. The phrase, which Rohmer borrowed from the title of a novel by Jules Verne, from 1882, refers to an optical phenomenon in which a fleeting green line or flash that can be spotted on the horizon just as the sun drops below it. In the film, Delphine, on the beach in Biarritz, overhears someone say, as she eavesdrops on a conversation about the Verne novel, that the event allows you to “read your own feelings, and those of others.” At the end of the movie, Delphine’s sighting of the ray prompts an illuminating catharsis, and a connection with a new companion. In the parallel scene from the book, a group of characters hold their breath for the final moments of dusk, waiting to spot the green ray, but a pair of lovers among them, lost in each other’s eyes, miss it. Perhaps the gaze of a passionate friend, rapt in a different way, has the potential to see (and show) much more.