Portrait Series Asks: Who Are You Really, Under Your Clothes?

Slovakian photographer Evelyn Bencicova is flourishing in the field of portraiture. Currently studying in Vienna, the young artist has been working in photography since 2012; for a spry artist, her works are markedly mature triumphs of understated communication. Her palate is one of slaty hues, and she time and again returns to compositions whose frequent exploitation of the geometric elements of the background behind makes the shots feel as much designed as they are photographically captured. Her series Faceless and Truthness are here displayed together, the former a challenge to the modern obsession over recognition, and the latter a sensitive exploration of a subject’s identity once stripped – literally – to the bare essentials.


“Photography is a way of communicating through images. It is a visual language, but also a way of exploring different topics,” she tells us, and follows through on this manifesto with a series of portraits that are conceptually striking, without being heavy handedly so. Her work looks for the intersection between the commercial and the artistic, with a distinct focus on the feminine, the female, and the play of tension between perceived vulnerability and latent strength.


We caught up with Evelyn to see from where she got the membranous skins of Faceless, and the touching and demure barefacedness of Truthness.

The Plus: Faceless is beautiful, could you talk us through the concept this work came from? Why hide the faces?
Evelyn Bencicova:
Hiding the face is very common phenomenon in our visual culture. In a society in which everything is made to impress or to be recognised, it brings a sensation of uncertainty and mystery. Something we don’t know about, but that we are interested in. My work often indicates a certain objectivity; I’m hiding the face because I want to get a rid of classification.


TP: How did you select the different coating materials for the models in Faceless?
To mark the variety of ways in which you can look at the topic. I usually do this when I work in series: I’m trying to tell the same message in different ways, so that I can more strongly articulate it.


TP: Hair, wax, sellotape – what is it about these materials that made them fit the series?
For me these are skin-like materials, the kind of accessories which grow into the human body. I was always fascinated by skin texture and its anomalies. I wanted to explore it deeper, visually, and I did so in this project.


TP: What do you look for generally, in projects – what makes you pick up the camera?
Photography is a way of communicating through images. It is a visual language but also a way of exploring different topics. I like to see the change in my work and personality through photography. It makes you discover more than you would admit consciously, and even if it is not always pleasant I find it really important.


TP: Truthness, like much of your work, seems to focus on women – why is this?
Yes, womanhood is the subject of the project. For the first time, I did a project without using any postproduction or beauty retouching. The project plays with the feeling of being exposed. It was done by placing my models in front of camera with very few or no pieces of clothing left, leaving them “naked” in front of the world. The way how they respond to this is what interests me.


TP: What did you look for in a model for this project?
These are 2 very different projects. In Faceless the models are really anonymous, while in Truthness the people are the main subject of the picture. In the first case models are mostly there to embody the idea, while in the other project I got inspired by real characters and tried to capture their essence on camera.

I looked for models quite intuitively. I usually chose people whom I find interesting or appealing, in terms of how I believe photography will allow me to get closer to them. I worked with several girls only for the first time, but they opened up to me even more than I expected. The act of posing and photographing is a specific kind of communication, and I’m just getting more and more sensitive to it. I realised that portraiture is mostly about this: how much a person shows of his or her inside to you at the time of photo-shooting.


TP: What next?
Im starting several projects, and I’m curious which one of them will survive. Sometime it takes time to really get deeper and continue or to finish the work. But I have learned to accept this. Alongside my photography work I am developing new video projects with my partner Adam Csoka Keller. I find it very interesting to see our vision coming alive with the chance to insert more narrative. In many ways it is a challenge, but that is exactly what we need.