written by Karen Chin @ BRANSCH
BRANSCH artist Frieke Janssens photographed the Toneelhuis theater group in an ongoing series of portraits of actors and directors for posters and website. The overall look is a style harking back to Hollywood portraiture of the Golden Age. Frieke wanted to move away from typical theatre photography – straight reportage moment of a performance, or the standard black and white theater headshot. She wanted to use glamour of the golden age as a foil for the financial crisis of the modern age – people still need to dream in these times.
Special emphasis was placed on faces, hence the decision to put the subjects on a pedestal, creating individual busts devoted to each troupe member. The stylized busts were placed in a setting inspired by the attic space of the Bourla theater, a marvelously restored 19th-century building in Antwerp, Belgium – leaving people to wonder why these sculptures were stored away in the attic, perhaps waiting to be discovered by a contemporary audience.
She was inspired by the sensuous light and striking gaze typical of portraits of legendary actors like Marlon Brando, Clark Gable, Elizabeth Taylor, Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn – perhaps you see an older version of Marilyn Monroe in the portrait of Gilde De Bal. When getting the contemporary actors in the old glamour positions, she noticed that these natural-looking poses actually require detailed directions to achieve!

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