JTF (just the facts): Published in 2021 by Art Paper Editions (here). Hardcover (21.5 × 29 cm), 120 pages, with 70 black and white and color photographs. Includes an essay by Brad Feuerhelm. In an edition of 1000 copies. Edited by Jurgen Maelfeyt and Rita Lino, and designed by Jurgen Maelfeyt. (Cover and distribute the plans below.)
Comments/Background: The work of Portuguese photographer Rita Lino has always focused on self-portraiture and self-analysis. Originally, she started doing self-portraits simply because there was no one around to photograph. her friends didn’t want to pose the way she wanted. So she started to work on self-exploration, research on photography, poses and the body. In his previous photo book Entrance (revised here), Lino embraced sexuality and an almost fearless sense of self-analysis, exploring the relationship with his body in a playful way and with blatant honesty. Lino’s new photo book, titled Replica, also focuses on self-portraits, but is more conceptual and less autobiographical.
It took Lino about four years to put this body of work into book form. As she put the series together, writer and curator Brad Feuerhelm recommended taking a look at the work of American photographer William Mortensen, and in particular Mortensen’s ideas on how to pose a model. Mortensen’s recommendations were documented in the book “The Model: A Book on the Problems of Posing” (1946), and in his opinion, the emotionality of the model is “irrelevant and misleading” and the model is simply a ” machine that needs adjustment”. Lino worked with Feuerhelm on a text that would read like Mortensen’s, but went further. Together they went through the main chapters of Mortensen’s book and recreated the main focus of each. The resulting text, placed throughout the book, became essential to Lino’s visual narrative.
Replica is a comfortable medium-sized hardcover book. A photograph of the artist, taken from behind during the casting of his head, appears on the silver cover. It immediately signals a project focused on introverted photographic study. The artist’s name, title and publisher are elegantly placed on the spine in silver type, and inside the photographs are mostly black and white, with their size and page placement varying throughout the book.
The first picture of Replica appears pasted directly onto the flyleaves – a medium-sized portrait in sepia shows the artist as she gazes sideways, her head covered by a mesh cap. Perhaps here Lino shares her self-portrait, before the actual photographic study begins. In the photographs that follow, she constantly withdraws (as a person) from the imagery and reduces her body to a more abstract representation.
Replica proposes a new reading of the body, because Lino assumes several roles at the same time: she is the model and the photographer, but also the subject and the image. Her self-portrait is controlled and her body works almost like a machine. “It became not so much my body but a body,” she said, placing the restrictions set forth by Mortensen at the center of her work.
“This little guide consists of a series of suggestions for considering human model posing in the modern age,” reads the beginning of Mortensen’s manual. The very first suggestion asks the artist to “increase or decrease the emotion in the face”. Then the book opens to a fold with four images showing the artist as she applies plaster to her face in the first photo, sits in a chair with half her face and neck covered on the next, poses upright with her whole face covered in the third, and kneels with her head out of frame in the last. The camera shutter is visible in her hand, making it clear that she is in control of all this activity.
Another instruction is titled “Posing the model as if observed in secret”, and suggests that the model “is unaware of its observation”, “there may be obstacles between the model and the operator “, and “the model can also receive the cable release”. The images that follow capture Lino’s naked body under glass on which she lies or stands, while in another shot, she poses naked on a Here again, Lino seems to take the suggestion to its extreme.
Mortensen was particularly specific about the arrangement of the hair, stating that it pertains to “physical fit issues” and “must conform to and develop the anatomical structure of the head.” Lino’s response is a black and white image of the artist’s shaved head, covered in transparent paper marked with measurements, taking this recommendation to another level. In other photos, Lino poses with his limbs and head covered in black fabric causing them to blend into a black background, creating the effect of an armless statue. A board with a contact sheet shows the steps, again making it clear that the artist is in control of the process.
The last chapter proposes to “pose the model as an artificial construction”, because the body “remains in perpetual change”. He specifies that ideally it should be close to a “replica of a Greek statue”. A sequence of low resolution blurry images shows Lino moving around with a chair. The final broadcast combines an extreme close-up of his face with a small black and white image of a sculpture of his upper torso and head. Lino’s photographs are very clinical and technical, photographed with precision, stripped of any emotion or individuality. The book ends with a color photograph of Lino standing nude on a white block, her legs are slightly bent and she is slightly turned. Ultimately, she removes her personality and identity from the image-making process, leaving her body to become an anonymous object.
A number of notable contemporary female photographers continue to explore and reclaim the female body, often using self-portraits to challenge stereotypes and provide alternatives to the male gaze. Talia Chetrit shares her vulnerability through expressive visual portraits in Presenter (revised here); Japanese photographer Mari Katayama uses self-portraits to talk about her disability in her photo book Present (revised here); and Finnish artist Elina Brotherus is known for her melancholy self-portraits, often charged with complex personal and emotional experiences. Lino’s work is a great contribution to this conversation.
Lino says the book “was born out of the creative process, the need to explore, and the notion of always being curious, where the journey is more important than the destination.” Lino appears in full control, which clearly shows that she understands her roles both in front of and behind the camera. Replica is proof of the artist’s continued maturation and evolution as she challenges herself to explore and photograph her own body in new ways.
Collector’s point of view: Rita Lino doesn’t seem to have a consistent gallery representation at the moment. Therefore, collectors interested in following should probably connect directly with the artist via their website (linked in the sidebar).