Elene Usdin is proving that she is not only an excellent photographer, but that she can also handle the brush like the great classical masters. Last autumn at Paris Photo, the French artist exhibited in exclusivity some of her newly fresh and unique pieces from her latest series, Les Habitants (The Inhabitants). Starting with the timeless genre of portrait, Elene Usdin then disrupts it by directly painting on the photographic print. And she paints the emotions, hidden behind the calm look of her teenage models. The artist also questions a certain idea of photography (almost a cliché) which de nes a photograph by its reproducibility. With the previous series Femmes d’intérieur, exhibited at the Galerie Esther Woerdehoff in 2015, she already highlighted her photographs with paint to create originals. Once again, her photographs from Les Habitants have become unique pieces, but the gap is made even greater between the brief moment of the shooting and the timeless hours that Elene Usdin needs afterwards, paintbrush in hand, to ornate meticulously each portrait with a multitude of marvelous gures. Elene Usdin paints chimerical costumes on her photographed models, in a phantasmagoric dialogue with the history of art. As they are captured at the fragile age of adolescence, that brief but intense passage from childhood to adulthood, girls and boys come to exteriorize an inner chaos through their painted ornaments. With each of them, the photographer refers to a classical or modern painting, dark scene of history or mythology she drowns in an effervescent world of tiny imaginary characters, witches and demons, over owing vegetation and carnivorous plants, a disturbing and visionary echo to the inhabited spirits of the teenagers. Although these paintings come with a cultural heritage, which forms and educates us, they metamorphose into a wild adornment for these young people with the emotion and violence the artists of the past have managed to convey. The artist chose to have her models pose in the same place, using the light from a window that recalls the atmosphere of Flemish paintings. Contemporary, instantaneous with a purity close to a documentary, Elene’s photography contrasts with the devouring imagination of her painting, its aristocratic sophistication and the incompressible passing of time required for the creation of these unique works – 250 hours to illuminate each portrait with the patience and delicacy of a goldsmith and the fantasy of an awaken dreamer …

Galerie Esther Woerdehoff. Paris