ist has in the development of negatives through the lith printing process, the greater level of control is given to the viewer to interpret a work in a personal and, therefore, intimate way. This creative and at times challenging process results in artwork that is more suggestive than conventional black and white prints. As color exists prior to the process, toning through lith printing creates an end product that marries delicacy of light with coolness of shadow. The illusions breathed into de Witt’s photographs are just that: illusions of our own minds. They are warm in some aspects, yet heartless and cold in others, but they all ultimately occupy a comfortable space that combines soft and subtle imagery with pure grit. The varied degrees of contrast that can be seen with lith printing are evident as well, with the juxtaposition of flowing whites that melt together against grainy, colder blacks. All work together to form an evocative aesthetic. Unwavering beauty can be seen in “Stark #3,” as de Witt takes us on a less processed journey back to the cocktail party voyeurism of her youth. With a hint of the roaring 20s, the clear silhouette presents a striking image. The tonal contrasts, which create a clear separation between the subject’s simplistically beautiful face and the mystery that surrounds her, cannot be overlooked. The difference in depth between the half veil covering the model’s eyes and the clear angles of the jaw and hairline draw the viewer’s eye. These sharp cuts effortlessly blend into the much brighter shoulder line that, because not cleanly defined, allows for an air of mystery to permeate the piece. It is clear to see de Witt’s mastery of the lith process in this work, as fewer exposures were necessary to achieve the desired outcome. In contrast, “Eyes of Velvet” portrays a completely different perspective of the
DON’T TAKE PICTURES
female form even if it invokes a similar level of intrigue through de Witt’s use of blurred lines. As in all of her work here, the viewer’s imagination delineates and fills in the story. To some, the subject may appear to be wearing a headpiece, while for others her hair is simply morphing into the dress she is wearing. Still, the female form remains the unquestioned subject, and the figure’s beauty lingers in the mind of the viewer, even if the woman’s identity—or purpose—can never really be known. Again, de Witt is able to create an illusion of shadow and light that requires the viewer to take another, more intentional glance.
Regardless of the origins of the idea of beauty, the female form embodies it.
Throughout the STARK series, the artist is suggesting a single purpose for the viewer: “Spend time with her; get to know her as much or as little as you’d like, and then make your determination as to who she truly is.” De Witt’s control of lith processing as an outlet for her vision paves a clear path for a spark of the imagination, inviting the viewer to see, to imagine, and to know. The work requires confrontation with personal understandings of beauty. A focus on form, whether defined or vague, can be unique to a viewer’s experience or an assertion of societal norms, but de Witt’s work suggests that regardless of the origins of the idea of beauty, the female form embodies it. The images presented in Stark speak to the truth that beauty is in no way clearly defined by shapely silhouettes or symmetrical faces alone; instead, the individual decides what is to be deemed beautiful. The viewer, seeing only the form, fills in his or her own story when all the distractions are left out.
Melissa Horton is a freelance writer in Alexandria, Virginia, with an eye for photographic art. Most notably, she is a contributing columnist for elephant journal.
Stark #3 2013
Published on Sep 8, 2014
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