In the pictorial language of her “Lonely Eros” series of portraits, Carina Linge deals with themes of Renaissance and Baroque painting and of art up to the nineteenth century. We may think that we already know her pictures but they always contain something disturbingly Other, a threatening detail an unexplained gesture or an object which draws us back into the present.
Carina Linge uses our knowledge of allegories and symbols as a tried and tested method of telling us something which gets to the heart of the subject of her portraits. In a simple portrait she is unable to capture the essence of what she has learned about her subjects over the course of long conversations with them. She therefore prefers to work with people whom she already knows and who trust her unconditionally. She photographs singles and couples against a backdrop of the ever-present question of whether people in today’s modern society are really capable of forming proper relationships: With all the current emphasis on self-realisation and assertiveness, are people really still able be open to a partner and to share true intimacy with them?
Before actually using the camera to take a portrait, Linge will often spend months preparing for it. She has many different methods of getting closer to her subjects. She observes them their environment and home and uses these settings to search for clues to the essence of her subject’s true character. The end result is the production of a sort of photographic personality profile. This may take either the form of a carefully posed portrait or of a still life picture containing many hidden allusions to the life of her subjects and in which she carefully arranges items which she has found in the subject’s home.
Carina Linge discusses and develops every theme in her portraits with her subjects before she sets up the shoot. Not all of her subjects, however, are initially comfortable with this kind of direct observation of themselves, when the photographer with all her artistic sensibility captures the latent essence of the subject and brings it to light in just a few minutes. Her instinctive ability to do this lets her down in only the rarest of cases. In order to throw the cloak of anonymity over her subjects she composes her pictures in such a way that her subjects are positioned in the foreground so that they are visible but not recognisable or brought to the fore in any way. In order to achieve this, she cuts off the faces above the bottom half of the eyes. The most impressive thing about Linge’s work is the way in which she is able to give us private insights into the lives of her subjects but without completely exposing them. She uses her knowledge of art history as a stylistic tool because the pictorial language and symbolism which it contains provides an unlimited number of ways of expressing herself. It is precisely when she is apparently showing us historical poses or recreating historical atmospheres that she is able to make her subjects most visible to us in the here and now.
Many people may feel threatened by her work but Carina Linge is
attempting to tell us more about a person than the lightning fast medium of portrait photography can normally show.