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Introduction for the European edition "Heavenly Girls"
As I write this, millions of American television viewers are outraged because a brutal game of football, the Super Bowl, was interrupted by a fleeting glimpse of Janet Jackson's right nipple during the halftime show. Shock and awe! The heartland of America expresses its indignation and horror; multi-million dollar lawsuits are in the air, apologies are demanded, network chiefs are under fire, live television broadcasts are to be censored...and so on.
Pascal Baetens offers the perfect antidote for this extreme sort of puritan madness. His photos are joyful in their simplicity and take us back to an age of innocence. They remind us of those precious moments of discovery when all was well with the world and nature was in perfect harmony with the beauty of the female form.
These are not 'art' photos of naked women, labelled as such to give the viewer a cultural excuse to excite his or her libido. But they are seductive, without seeking to seduce, and their artistic merits stem largely from the unpretentiousness of the compositions and the models themselves.
Baetens allows his models to revel in their own beauty; the poses are natural and unforced, each curve and shadow serves to capture a private moment that the photographer respects and keeps at an appropriate distance. With this new book he takes us a little closer to the frontier between innocence and eroticism; but he holds us there, allowing our imaginations only the briefest excursions across the border before the timeless beauty of the images bring us safely back.
I must confess that I'm a long-standing admirer of Pascal's work. It reflects the same youthful enthusiasm that characterises so much of what he does. Each year he visits our offices in Paris to help judge the Epica European advertising awards. His unique vision and comments on the material being evaluated are highly appreciated. But each time he brings one of his wonderful books other members of the jury are temporarily distracted from the task at hand. Me included.
It's unlikely that any of those shocked American Super Bowl viewers will ever see Pascal's latest book. Which is a pity. Because if, by chance, this happened, they might finally get Janet Jackson's exposed nipple into perspective and start to appreciate the true beauty of a woman's body.
Andrew Rawlins, February 10th, 2004
Introduction for the US-edition "Heavenly Beauties"
The richness of photography is the variety of languages and tools to understand and interpret many aspects of humans, like sensuality. Sensuality has been a recurrent topic within photography, with many interrogations and intrigues. Pascal's work attempts to explore sensuality in all its different forms. His nudes capture instants and gestures of the body in an attitude of self-contemplation and enjoyment of both the body and the space.
The beauty and value of Pascal's work lie in the way he understands and respects the femininity. He understands and enjoys that contradictory essence of every woman and with his camera turns it into a piece of beauty, just with a simple gesture, glance, or movement. The viewer can share a moment of female intimacy and spontaneous beauty. Pascal can get through that secret essence of every woman, fragile and fascinating, and also sometimes completely incomprehensible for others. He captures the ambivalence of seduction and innocence, wildness and tenderness, pride and insecurity. While hosting Pascal's first US exhibition, we came to know a man gifted not only in photography, but also in the art of human relations. It was for us an extraordinary experience to present these photographs to a well received and admiring public. We expect our ongoing friendship to become only stronger as we grow together sharing this passion for photography.
Mark Pinsukanjana, Bryan Yedinak & Luisa Pardo – Modernbook Gallery
Palo Alto, CA USA, April 2005