BERLIN.- Camera Work
presents the first exhibition worldwide by photographer Romney Müller-Westernhagen from August 11, 2012. For the first time, the solo exhibition »Beyond Faces« offers insight into the work of the artist as a portrait photographer and shows a unique series in the context of contemporary portrait photography that features over 40 effortlessly aesthetic portraits of politicians, actors, artists, athletes as well as South African gang members among the varied motifs.
From Frank-Walter Steinmeier, chairman of the parliamentary group of the German political party SPD, to a tattooed gang member from Cape Town, and from boxing world champion Wladimir Klitschko to her husband, musician and actor, Marius Müller-Westernhagen. When ways of life differ, exterior characteristics and facades often determine how a person is seen by others, and photography becomes the only way to show a persons pure »soul«. Romneys portraits look behind these facades. They let the personalities express themselves and thus give the individuals portrayed a freedom of expression that many photographers try to eliminate. This relationship between photographer, camera and subject influences the atmosphere of the images and invests them with an expressiveness that has a nonchalant charm, way beyond anything an artificial production could offer. While dismissing serial, schematic portraiture, she still emphasizes certain characteristics in her motifs and visual language. She often accentuates the distinctiveness of the subjects eyes, which speak to the viewer, deliberately excluding distracting frills from the arrangement to save the attention for the essential. Joschka Fischer with a whimsical smile on his face, a melancholic and intense Jens Lehmann or fascinating faces from everyday life that caught Romneys attention she often takes her photographs in her private home. This intimate atmosphere without artificial lighting or camera assistants creates an unbiased space that allows a naturalness and purity which is mirrored in her work. Some have an experimental feel, such as the expressive portrait of artist Jonathan Meese. Other shots were taken in New York, South Africa, Southeast Asia or in the locker room of a boxing arena in Düsseldorf, where Romney took the portrait of boxing world champion Wladimir Klitschko following a match in 2010.
Cheerful, moving, sad or sensual »Beyond Faces« shows, without succumbing to a staged or adapted form of expression, how subtle gestures and a finely nuanced charisma can dominate the atmosphere of an image and arouse interest for the story behind the externally visible. This effect becomes even more interesting with the background, as Romney portrays individuals with a special charisma, from celebrities to people of varied ethnic backgrounds and different generations. And while the selection of emotionally intertwined photographs makes up a harmonious body of work, every single image still grips the viewer and manifests the fascination of the human power of expression when looked at individually.
Born and raised in New York City, Romney studied Fashion Illustration and Graphic Design at Parsons The New School for Design. After graduating, she moved to Europe where she illustrated catalogues for fashion companies and was able to establish herself as an illustrator before pursuing an international modelling career, working for labels such as Chanel, Azzedine Alaia, Yojhi Yamamoto, Versace and Jil Sander. From 2001, inspired and encouraged by her husband, she experimented in the genre of reportage and street photography. Self-taught Romney developed an increasing interest in the medium as an art form. From the beginning, she was instinctively aware of the aspect of staging in photography. As a fashion illustrator and model, the artist supported and shaped surfaces and performances. However, as the wife of a public figure like Marius Müller-Westernhagen, she experiences every day how a core becomes visible when the stage persona recedes. This personal background flows into her photographs, in which personalities who deal with staging on a daily basis show another side of themselves, while seemingly nondescript people get the opportunity to put themselves on display. Her work was first published in the lyric book »Mein Herz, dein Blut. Neue Texte« (2003, Steidl) by Marius Müller-Westernhagen, to whom Romney has been married since 1988. She went on to contribute photographs for several of his CD and DVD booklets as well as the cover of the album »Hottentottenmusik« (2011). The same year, her photo book »Auf der Straße mit Westernhagen. Das Leben auf Tour ein Blick hinter die Kulissen« was released. Other portraits shown in the exhibition have been published in magazines such as »GQ« or »Deutsch Magazine«. Romney Müller-Westernhagen lives and works with her husband, Marius, in Berlin and South Africa.