Between 2000 and 2002 Michal Chelbin produced a compelling series of portraits of circus performers in Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. This work developed into her latest series Strangely Familiar, featuring portraits of small town performers from England, Israel, Russia and Ukraine taken between 2003-2005.Her choice of subject matter pays tribute to Diane Arbus and so too does her use of natural light, black and white printing and the stark lack of embellishment. Yet Chelbin's performers are captured in casual settings outside of their working environment in the clothes worn to perform, which creates an atmosphere that is both public and private. The viewer is invited to examine the difference between young and old, big and small, experience and innocence, odd and ordinary, glamorous and common, the tension of which is heightened by Chelbin's use of a tight, claustrophobic composition and square format.Chelbin was nominated for The Schweppes Photography Prize at The National Portrait Gallery.www.photonet.org.uk/index.php?ppid=605
Her images feature richly detailed, internally charged portraits of small town performers in circuses and other traveling troupes taken over a period of six years in the Ukraine, Russia, Israel and England. Chelbin’s most frequent subjects are children and adolescents, yet her work encompasses a mix of generations. Often captured in performance costumes, Chelbin’s palette is intense, with a distinctive use of saturated pinks, blues, and greens. Her black-and-white images, which are intermingled throughout the book, have an almost pictorialist richness./www.aperture.org/exposures/?tag=michal-chelbin
Michal Chelbin won third prize in this year's Taylor Wessing Prize at the National Portrait Gallery. Her monograph, entitled Strangely Familiar is published by Aperture and another will be published by Twin Palms, early next year. Michal was born in Israel in 1974. Her prints are available for sale through The Photographer's Gallery.What's the greatest picture you didn’t take?I have an imaginary body of work I call "The glasses series - the series that was never taken". It's portraits of people who still wear funny old glasses. Every time I see it I am embarrassed to approach the person, so I think about this portrait in my head and add it to that series that was never taken.Which photographer would you most like to (a) work with and (b) talent spotIf it was possible, i would like very much to be on a Caravaggio set and also to work with Diane Arbus. I would love to see how they instruct their models.What keeps you awake at night?My daughter Danielle….If you hadn't have become a photographer what would you have like to have been?I think I would like to be a dancer or do something that has to do with the body (I have to say I am a very bad dancer…)Do you have a life philosophy?Always look on the dark side of life.How do you germinate ideas for your work?When I work on a photograph, either I have an image in my head which I go and create or it is an idea that I get from a subject or a location. Often unexpected things happened on the set and the idea pops there. In terms of influence, I am fascinated by great masters such as Caravaggio and Velasquez and I often return to look at their work, and also look at films.You in three wordsYada, yada, yadaWhat advice would you give to your 16 year old self?Beware men with a moustache... www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/photography/6770866/Michal-Chelbin.html
When I work on a photograph, either I have an image in my head which I go and create or it is an idea that I get from a subject or a location. Often unexpected things happened on the set and the idea pops there. In terms of influence, I am fascinated by great masters such as Caravaggio and Velasquez and I often return to look at their work, and also look at films.
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