PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANNALIE VANDENDAEL
TEXT BY GÖZDE ULUSOY
We seek perfection in everything. We are so obsessed with perfection, that we forget what it means to be imperfect, funny, witty, impulsive or different. We are fooled into thinking that perfection means beauty, we fall into the trap of formalist visual aesthetics and we plunge into a ship-shape world that is stripped of any reality; just as we live in an opposing reality, in today’s world, and still believe in perfection with baffling naivety…
On a daily basis, we are fed with dozens of images that seem to want us to believe that womanhood should be defined by perfection and beauty. Photography presents us with a visual narrative with profound impact, gracefully altering our way of thinking. However, this is the point at which we slip from an understanding of ideal beauty to the delusion of an ideal life. Annelie Vandendael is a successful fashion photographer. Unlike the photo-texts, collages or reproductions of feminist artists, who criticise the use of the image of women in popular culture or fashion photography, she shows emotions through real bodies, and special happenings. Using a similar aesthetic language, her Sois Belle series is a humorous, entertaining challenge that glorifies natural beauty in all its reality.
Born in Belgium in 1987, Annelie Vandendael spent her childhood in Southern France. She returned to Belgium to complete her master’s degree in photography at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Annelie’s work has been featured in publications such as Milk Magazine, ELLE, DS Magazine, and L’Officiel. She has worked with H&M SS18, Paul Smith’s nautical and underwear collections, Coureur du Monde Herschel, Strelli, Mellow Yellow, Hampton Bays, and Vieux Jeu. We live in a time of femvertising (feminist advertising) strategies, that prevent women from being objectified and strengthen the female image, in the realm of advertising and marketing. Despite this, as the creator of the fashion-model archetype, fashion photography cannot entirely stop defining people and describing beauty. Vandendael shows her discontent for stereotyped aesthetics by choosing only ‘reality’, though she maintains her distinctive photographic language, in the process. Her compositions blend the bizarre with the amusing, through their use of striking details – but perhaps most notably, they sidestep the issue of objectification by stripping the subjects of their identities. She directs the viewer, not to the perfection of the human body, that seemingly merges with that of the flamingo, nor to an ideal person, but rather to a perfect moment.
Vandendael describes the motivation behind her current series: ‘I began to reconsider how female beauty could be represented by redefining the concepts of what is considered as being beautiful.’ She hates over-manipulated photos. She has made it her personal goal to show real people and their real beauty, with all the flaws that make us unique. By reinforcing her style with colour and texture that preserves the flaws and realistic details of analogue photography, Vandendael only distances herself from the wrong definition of beauty, not from beauty itself. Instead of using the human as an object to be manipulated, she sheds the burden of being surreal from the image of ‘woman’ by incorporating strange games into her fiction. She often defines women as they are, absolved from culture, masculine perspectives, and manipulations, reminding the viewer that they are a part of nature the way they are. Reminding us that photos can also tell the truth, Sois Belle does justice to the definition of beauty.