Now open through until the end of the month at Max Butoh’s wonderful Dathúil gallery, is an exhibition by Yannick Whoa entitled My Way of Beauty. Featuring a collection of 29 images of people from within Second Life (including a self-portrait just inside the entrance to the gallery), My Way of Beauty presents a series of images that are both a captivating and enigmatic in nature.
The easiest way to explain the exhibition is to quote Yannick directly:
What you see here is how I see my world. I look into people’s faces and find beauty. As a photographer I’m trying to capture this beauty. Often the mystery of that beauty is in the eyes of the model…
For me someone’s beauty is always just a mirroring effect of the way someone thinks or feels. So when I see someone beautiful maybe I just see something that touches me and makes me feel for a person.
It is this idea that someone’s beauty can reflect something within them and lead us towards an empathic response (rather than – for want of a better term – a purely hormonal reaction) which is the first thing to make this exhibition captivating.
Many of us work hard to refine our avatars, sculpting them, creating a desired look, and so on, that in doing so we’re actually defining ourselves through them. Thus, their beauty, how they are or can be perceived may well resonate with others in ways that might not consciously occur us during that process of creation and refinement; so you might say they become the digital windows to our souls – and it is this which almost hauntingly forms the essence of Yannick’s images.
Each image is beautifully crafted in terms of the camera angle, lighting, and so on; I’ve no idea how many may have been posed or how many might be the result of “genuine” on-the-fly moments – the happenstance turning of the camera to find a subject poised in the frame and then capturing the moment before it is lost. I suspect all of them are more the former than the latter, but this is hardly important. What is captured in each of the pictures is more than a moment in time or a choreographed image; it is a story.
And that’s the enigma also present in each these pictures; we have no idea who any of the subjects are (unless we have happened upon them ourselves and thus recognise them through friendship or acquaintanceship). Nor do we have any description or title to any of the framed images which might otherwise guide our thinking around them.
Thus, each will speak differently to each person who studies it (something, one might say, is also a reflection of the old adage, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”); the story it tells will be unique for each of us. Nevertheless, it is there; a narrative which seems to start most often with the eyes – themselves often the focal point for Yannick when framing an image – and permeates the entire image, drawing us in and eliciting that empathic response.
Yannick notes that we all have a different measure by which to assess beauty, and he’s right – again, the old adage about eyes, beauty and beholders returns to mind. But looking at the images displayed at Dathúil, it is hard not to see the many layers of beauty in each of them. In this respect, I’d venture to suggest that his observation that some might feel him “shallow” for focusing on beauty over inner qualities is unfounded; rather, it is hard not to see the depth of perception and revelation his images both contain and evoke.
As noted at the top of this article, My Way of Beauty is open through until the end of the month, and should not be missed.