Chelbin’s pieces are square in format, recalling Diane Arbus in this as well as in her choice of subject. Chelbin shoots in both black-and-white and color, and there’s a subtle difference between those choices. While the monochrome pieces seem more compassionate, less confrontational (and perhaps a bit more like Arbus), the colors in the other pictures seem aggressively artificial, almost violently intense. The gaze of Chelbin’s subjects can be particularly disturbing in these images, particularly those of young girls who, though they are clearly in early adolescence (or even younger), have the bleak, blankly challenging stares of much older women.
Each photograph is carefully staged, drawing attention to the theatrical nature of the subjects’ professions. But we’re forced to wonder, just because these are pictures of performers, does that mean we’re not being voyeuristic? As spectators, are we welcome, or is our curiosity just a further form of exploitation? I’m still not sure – and I get the feeling Michal Chelbin doesn’t want me to come to easy conclusions.
A striking, compelling photobook … that will leave you wondering.
— Zoe Fargher
by Michal Chelbin
Hardcover: 112 pages
11.2 x 9.8 in
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