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Photograph by
Ute und Werner Mahler

from the project:
Monalisen der Vorstädte

Beauty is a term hard to deal with, because it is hard to pinpoint. There is natural beauty and there is man made beauty; there is beauty by biological instinct and beauty by subconscious agreements agreed on through society.

Though I usually prefer to avoid this topic, I have to admit that at my first encounter with these images, I was highly impressed by their beauty. The mastery of the basics, as there precise composition, the controlled use of natural light, a grey scale that correlates with the function of fore and background, and a very fine arrangement of the posture of the portrayed, seem to be obvious. But all of these qualities are secondary.

It is this silent intimacy that hits me with might when I look at these photographs.

A short video is to be found on the net. It shows how Ute and Werner Mahler were working on their project. Watching the video I realized, how consciously the title is set, and how consequently the two of them worked along a concept.

As Mona Lisa, the portrayed women are sitting on a chair, which makes them sit in a clearly defined, upright position. This must have looked quite absurd, in reality, somebody sitting in the nowhere surrounded by two photographers, cigarette to mouth, and the large format camera with a big black clothe to hide behind.

Ute and Werner Mahler were looking for something they had seen before.

I read by chance some highly disappointed comments relating to these images. Both photographs and the portrayed young women were declared as not being beautiful at all. There was also quite a bit of annoyance that the series was set in relation to Mona Lisa. Now we could talk about the poisonous concepts of beauty that are used as selling point in western societies. Now I could talk about big-lipped Julia Roberts, and starving models. But I won´t.

Is Mona Lisa beautiful?
And what about these young women?
It doesn´t really matter.

They, like the most of us do, live ordinary lives. They go to school, then pick up jobs, they work hard to earn little money, they rent small apartments somewhere in the nowhere, they marry and divorce, they get kids or they don´t, they die early or they become old.

They could be our daughters, sisters or our girlfriends.
Are they beautiful?
Yes they are.

Black and white, shades of grey. The beauty of the form opens our eyes to what is there to see: We see youth and we see vulnerability.
Something within us is touched, and for a moment we might realize, that at times, we too are beautiful.

Photograph by
Ute und Werner Mahler

from the project:
Monalisen der Vorstädte

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February 7