When you stand naked in front of a stranger's camera, you put yourself in a vulnerable position. Laying yourself bare like this quite often triggers intense emotions of long repressed often traumatic experiences. I ask the young women in my pictures -I dislike the word "models"- to reveal how they feel in front of my camera. I invite them to show a hidden part of themselves, to go beyond the happy façade or the fake sexual availability you often find in "babe photography". From my first sessions in the early 90s on, several girls have shared touching stories with me, and I promised myself to use their stories later on in a project which goes beyond the individual well-being of the people involved. I didn't write about pain, disrespect nor handicap in my early books, keeping the girls with a story beautiful between the happy ones. But the titles 'The fragile touch' and 'Allegro sensibile' and an often introvert image choice subtly indicate a second layer. Klara was the first girl to write about her story, 'Instant de mort', a moment of death. Our project was published in 2007, and the reactions were enormous. Sharing her story was not only a major step for Klara, but apparently gave courage to many others victims of abuse. During lectures all over Europe, people were struck with silence, when they first saw her images. Women as well as men often expressed their appreciation in very fragile words. They also encouraged me to continue doing this kind of work. That is why I decided to dedicate a significant part of my time to sessions with a "human value", and called it my "Stories" project. Does this mean that you won't find sensual, erotic images in my work? No. You'll find such images, but they won't be -I hope- fake, as the eroticism will come from the models themselves. You'll find a wide variety of settings, of atmospheres, of expressions. You will read some stories, often bright and happy, and funny, sometimes quiet and painful. Just as life is. Pascal Baetens, September 2010.
"I photographed Elvire in the meadow in front of "my" nut houseThe photograph is part of the "Salve Mater" series, sensual fantasies, photographed in the abandoned psychiatric hospital for women 'Salve Mater'. The basis are stories of some patients, hospitalised in the first half of the 20th century, because of hysteria (in fact it was because of their sexual preference: they were lesbian). The pictures sketch a fictious story of a young woman returning to the hospital and re-living her emotions of desire, hope but also pain, grief, anger and humiliation." Pascal Baetens 2006-03