La Belle Dame Sans Merci
When I was exposed to the poem “La belle dame sans merci” by John Keats for the first time during English literature class about 15 years ago, I was intrigued by it right away and really enjoyed dissecting it and listening to the teacher talk about it. Now, years later I managed to translate my fascination with the poem into imagery. Interesting enough (and I’m glad) I had no knowledge of the fact that, but am obviously not surprised, artists before me have been inspired by the same poem. Looking at other works featuring this enchanting lady, one of the remarkable things is that all the others show both the knight and the woman, while I just show her from the perspective of the poor knight. In my series I’m impersonating this femme fatale and show not only her beautiful side but also hint towards her ugly side.
In general you can say that I oftentimes produce my work with in the back of mind the vulnerability of humanity. We are in our lives dependent on so many things; in the case of “La belle dame sans merci” it is the knight who is at the mercy of this female creature’s capriciousness. Her beautiful appearance turns out to be deceptive. It is being speculated on that Keats not only wrote this poem possibly about a woman that he knew in real life, but that he also might use the knight and the belle dame as a metaphor for the artist and his muse in general.
Since I make a lot of self-portraits and I do that with a camera that has a foldout display you could say that I might almost be my own muse. I am myself also dependent on a for me crucial source of inspiration: “music”, among others I really admire Tori Amos, Alanis Morissette, K’s Choice and Bjork. Music guides me in my artistic process, it lures me into loosing myself, makes me move and sing, all this combined provides my pictures with emotions and a blurry atmosphere. I shoot photos more or less randomly, but controlled; reacting to the result on the display, if it’s too blurry for my taste I will move slower or for example change the settings to get a more overexposed effect. I feel that during my process my moves are as capricious as "La belle dame sans merci" herself. My photos are oftentimes mistaken for paintings at first glance, because of their soft-edged appearance. This blurriness also suggests the dreamlike feverish state the knight is in.
This page was last updated on 10/13/07.
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© 2007 copyright Suzanne Banning.