(page 2 of 3)
Photographs of adolescent girls are always also bound up with relations of power, arousal and awareness (both in the subject and in the photographer-gazer). This is because they are objects of a certain desire, represented in the way they are looked at − they are women, they are young and they are fiery red. But Benchetrit’s gaze sidesteps this.
She is 25. She does not look at them like a man would, because for her they are not objects of satisfaction. Nor does she look at them like a woman who wants to investigate herself, or investigate an aspect of suffering.
Nothing in Benchetrit’s gaze bespeaks either pleasure-taking in oddness or circus-like exploitation. True, she is taking an interest precisely in those who cannot protect themselves against the sun here, whose protein production is different and are therefore prone to burns. But the photographs do not reflect an approach that takes pleasure in rarity or seem to be uneasy about the way in which a person’s being marked as “rare” impacts doubly on him: first as pursued, and then as exceptional.
Still, buds of something harder are discernible in the way Benchetrit looks at the young men: the flaming face of Zvi Malman relates that he is not only an object of admiration.
In other photographs, young men remove their shirts and show more and more skin and then more skin. Not surprisingly, it turns out that Benchetrit is not a redhead, but that her mother is. In the texts that accompany the project, she relates that almost all the girls and women she photographed told her that people who tell them, “I have a fetish for ‘gingers,’” repel them with their vulgarity.
Though only the children are smiling in her portraits, a sense of optimism and joy, of humility, pervades the whole series. Indeed, there are humble artists and there is beauty in humility, and in nonsuffering.
Red hair, overt or private on the body, impacts on me.