As Thiery Beyne has discovered, it’s not just the face that tells you about a person, but their back
When you think of portraits, you think of people’s faces. In his latest exhibition, Nha Trang-based photographer Thiery Beyne has turned this concept on its head.
A veteran of the scene — the Frenchman has been working with cameras for almost 30 years — Thiery has travelled the world, exhibited on numerous occasions, and in 1997 won a prize at the Nikon International Photo Contest for an image taken in India. As he’s the first to admit, the problem with such a long career is staying fresh.
“As time goes on it gets much, much harder,” he explains. “You feel like every photo you shoot, you’ve already shot 100 times before. So I’m always on the lookout for something new.”
The “something new” came last year by chance. He was running a photo trip for a resort in Nha Trang when he saw a fisherwoman wearing the most unlikely of t-shirts. So he took a photo of her, but from behind.
“When I got home, I looked at the photo more closely on my computer,” says Thiery. “I said to myself, ‘Maybe this is a new concept,’ taking photos of women’s backs, with their amazingly coloured hats, headdresses and hairstyles.”
The result is a six-month-long obsession that, he admits with a laugh, has seen him “only looking at women’s backs”.
For Thiery, his images represent the joy of women, a joy symbolized through their choice of clothes, the different colours they wear, the bold prints on the materials they choose, all those things that he says “show their love of life”.
“When I take a photo, the woman I shoot gets a surprise,” he says. “They hear the click of the camera, turn around, look at me astonished and yet always with a smile. They perhaps don’t realise why a photographer is interested in their back, but it can be very amusing and it’s always quite childlike.”
It’s certainly voyeuristic — but then isn’t so much of photography? It also breaks all the rules of the standard portrait. Yet by doing so, Thiery is showing a different side to people, to the subjects of each and every image.
Thiery’s exhibition, Back Photography, is presently being exhibited in Paris at Galerie Anne et Just Jaeckin. To see the full set of images, click on thierybeynephotographer.com and go to the menu entitled femme-women