Human Complexity

Human Complexity

Reflecting the past and highlighting the present, Huis Marseille showcases the works of Helga Paris, Esther Kroon, Céline van Balen and Julie Greve this spring, offering a small piece of photographic history. Celebrating the complexities and intimacies of the human experience, the displays move chronologically, whilst shining a light on the camera as a mediator, a tool and a means of expression.

One of the earliest images in the show traces back to the 1970s. Paris looks back, depicting life from the German Democratic Republic. The Hellersdorf series illuminates a time when Germany’s future seemed uncertain. Black and white portraits capture the weight of politics looming overhead – the subjects passionate and reflective. Moving onwards through the gallery, Kroon’s practice is illuminated with spotlights, further exaggerating a strong use of flash. Similarly to Paris, Kroon captures the liveliness of children amongst Amsterdam’s landscape. The resulting works are spontaneous, using a trademark low vantage point to animate the characters’ vivid and unobstructed personalities.

Next, van Balen’s warm prints refresh the museum walls with colour. Though large-scale, each image is heavily cropped, emphasising smaller details and urging the viewer to come inwards and observe. This direct quality is a nod to formal documentation, such as passports and other types of identification, drawing an interesting parallel between fine art and surveillance culture. By contrast, Greve’s depictions of Danish girls are fictitious – much like cinematic film stills or stylised fashion shoots. The figures laze by the water or stare at each other with gaunt expressions. Unlike the other pieces, these dream-like works transcend a clear-cut reality and open a space for us to, as the artist notes, “fantasise freely” about what’s happening.

The exhibition runs until 2 June. Find out more here.

Lauren Jackson

Lead image: Julie Greve, Untitled, March 2018. © Julie Greve, courtesy the artist.