The images in this series are an attempt to capture human stories in everyday life, those that exist in the space between the odd and the ordinary. My images are almost always of people and they usually take the form of portraits. Most of the people I photograph have something in common; they are not the mainstream, and many of them are small town performers (For example, they could be dwarfs in a theatre play, ball room dancers or young contortionists). I try to photograph my subjects dislocated from their performing environment and set in casual settings, off stage: at home, on the street or in a park. Some of them with their costumes and others wear everyday cloths. I try to create a seemingly private moment, one where they are not performing or on stage. The main themes in my work are not social or topical, but private and mythical; I search for people who have a legendary quality in them; a mix between odd and ordinary. My images are vehicles to address universal themes: family issues, ideas of normality, puberty with its all incumbent pains and distractions, the desire for fame. An example of this is the adolescent girls I photograph, many of them are on the verge of sexual consciousness. They are in this difficult age, torn between innocence and experience. While their bodies might be still that of a child, their gaze sometimes imply differently. I try to create an informal scene, in which they directly confront the viewer. I feel they and their stories represent with most clarity the theme that interests me the most and which is the twilight zone between reality and fantasy. My aim is to record a scene where there is a mixture of direct information and enigmas and in which there are visual contrasts between young and old, large and small, normal and abnormal. My playground lies between the private and the public, between fiction and documentary. For me, the image is just the tip of the iceberg; it’s the gate to a story waiting to be told and which I try to depict in an appealing yet troubling way. This story is about a life full of contradictions on the battle ground between fantasy and reality. Many viewers tell me that the world discovered in my images is strange. If they find it strange, it is only because the world is indeed a strange place. I just try to show that.
Based in New York City, Israeli-born, Michal Chelbin has been shown in solo and group shows in the US and abroad in venues such as the Photographer’s Gallery in London , Hendrik Andersen Museum in Rome , the National Portrait Gallery in London , and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The collections of the Portland Museum of Art, Tel-Aviv Museum of Art, Palazzo Forti, and Sir Elton John include her work.
Recent publications include American Photo, PDN, NY Arts Magazine, Aperture, B&W Magazine, and LA Times. Recent editorial work includes NY Times, The New Yorker, NY Magazine, Ten Men Magazine. Her first monograph entitled “Strangely Familiar” was published by Aperture in spring 2008.
Michal Chelbin’s solo show entitled “Strangely Familiar” opened in September 2008 at Andrea Meislin Gallery in New York and at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art Israel. Michal’s 2nd book will be published by Twin Palms in fall 2009. website | www.andreameislin.com