LondonHélène Binet: Time after Time
In Hélène Binet’s photography, direct light and diffuse light form different kinds of shadow. The direct light highlights texture but also occludes, forming contrasts that emphasise depth and volume. Diffuse light flattens and also renders details differently: in the Classical Gardens of Suzhou, China, a wall becomes an imaginary landscape, its stains beginning to resemble clouds. The effect recalls Leonardo’s remark: “Look at walls splashed with a number of stains, or stones of various mixed colours. If you have to invent some scene, you can see there resemblances to a number of landscapes, adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, great plains, valleys and hills, in various ways”.
In Chinese, one word for photography is Yingxiang, which translates approximately as ‘shadow image’. Shadows conceal, but a shadow is also a doubling, an index of the object that causes it. Photography, this form of writing where light is a type of ink, illuminates as much as it obscures. Binet’s photographs of China are calligraphic, painterly; creeping moss on the walls creates the effect of feathered brushstrokes, while slender bamboos rise in bold lines from the stone floor, bisecting the frame. Her images of Hadrian’s Villa, Rome, render its subject even more abstract. The images are undiluted play of light and shade, where the deep blacks of a stone archway, seen from below, meet the white drift of a cloud, pushing towards and away from one another.
Excerpt from a text by Olivier Richon.
Hélène Binet was born in 1959 in Sorengo, Switzerland, and studied photography at the Instituto Europeo di Design in Rome. Over a period of twenty-five years Hélène Binet has photographed both contemporary and historical architecture, including the work of architects Caruso St John, Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, and Peter Zumthor, as well as the works of past architects Alvar Aalto, Geoffrey Bawa, Le Corbusier, John Hejduk, Sigurd Lewerentz and Dimitris Pikionis. In 2014-15, Binet’s work was included in the Barbican’s exhibition of architectural photography Constructing Worlds. Dialogues, a major exhibition of Binet’s work, was on show at the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin in 2015, combining images of famous contemporary buildings with lesser known works of historic buildings or landscapes. In 2019 she opened her first solo show in China, Dialoghi: works from 1988-2018.
Binet is the recipient of the 2019 Ada Louise Huxtable Prize, awarded to a woman who has made a major contribution to architecture, and is one of the Royal Photographic Society’s Hundred Heroines.Photo: Stephen White