So many women do not like the way they look, and feel bad about themselves. Yet such women can be stunningly beautiful in the eyes of other people. The gap in between is fascinating. What is the truth? What is beauty? Why is it important?
I began the project in 2009, armed with passions for the topic and for portraiture. I talked to women friends to discuss beauty and self image. I took pictures. I worked collaboratively with each to decide how to design the photo session. I kept notes. I found that the pairing of the women’s thoughts and images was compelling. The Exploring Beauty project was born, and grew into an art show that toured galleries in The Netherlands and in Belgium.
Here you will see and read about themes of age, sexuality, body image, cultural differences, confidence, growth and, most importantly, character. The photos in this book are not altered or air-brushed to change the appearance of a model’s face or body. What you see is what you get. In some instances, models are painted or drawn.
The interviews and images show that beauty can be fundamental to women’s perception of themselves. Coming to terms with self image is a way of gaining control, confidence, and power over one’s place in the world.
My name is Erik Robert Hagen (1967). I majored in art history at Carleton College in Minnesota, United States (class of '90). I have always been captivated by the visual, even as a little kid. For 15 years I studied and worked as an engineer, while making art on the side. In 2008, I started working as an artist, doing engineering on the side. I have exhibited in shows at Carleton College, in galleries in Seattle, The Hague, Voorschoten, and in Antwerp. I currently live in The Hague. I am a sculptor, painter, drawer, and photographer. Over the last two years I've focused on the portrait. It's not just that I love working with people: I find it fascinating to explore identity and character through portraiture. I work most often from live models using charcoal on paper, but lately I've been exploring the notion of beauty through my photography work with volunteer women models.