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Marie-Claire Montanari –Seeing Beauty


Marie-Claire Montanari photographs women. Her black&white carefully framed images of headless, anonymous bodies caressed by shadows celebrate the female beauty. But, while her work appears classic the photographer’s approach is uncommon.
Indeed, while most photographers seek, hire and pay their models, here, the women portrayed commissioned the photographer. Their reasons are multiples, either their wish to capture a fleeting beauty, a gift for a lover, some are young and daring, some older still claim their sensuality. From the letters they send to Marie-Claire, one understands that beyond the images created, the experience is what they cherished the most. For some it has been life changing.
As Marie-Claire Montanari says, “I don’t believe in one kind of beauty. Each woman has her own. We should be able to see beauty in each woman and not try to impose one kind. For the past fifteen years women of all ages, looks and walks of life have commissioned me to photograph them in the nude. For me it has been the most enriching and enlightening experience of my life, both as an artist and as a woman.”
In a world where beauty is calibrated in the pages of the magazines filled with digitally enhanced models, Montanari gives back to the “real woman” the place she once had in the studios of the painters and sculptors who celebrated their bodies. When looking at the nudes we can’t help but imagine the face, wonder if we crossed some of them in the street or if she might be a friend who keeps her photographs in the secrecy of a drawer. As it as always been when it comes to femininity, the mystery remains.
Marie-Claire Montanari came to New York in 1968 to work at the United Nations. She began studying photography seriously in 1973, taking workshops with Harold Feinstein, master printing with George Tice and lighting with Phillip Halsman.She then became a student and friend of Lisette Model who followed her work for many years.
After she first started photographing herself she then decided to turn her camera toward the bodies of other women.
Gilles Decamps

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