Steffi Drerup's self-portrait with baby no. 5 [at the Barcelona Foto Biennale]

Last weekend I made the journey across Spain from Rota (Cadiz) to Barcelona for the closing ceremonies of the 5th Biennial of Fine Art & Documentary Photography, where I exhibited work as a recipient of the 11th Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Women Photographers. In my last post I highlighted some of the artists that stood out to me the most:  


 The Barcelona Foto Biennale showcased the work of photographers from all over the world. I spent hours walking the halls of the Nau Bostik cultural center, going back to the same photos again and again to take third and fourth and fifth viewings. I felt honored and inspired by the opportunity to see so much amazing work all in one place. And I was happy to note that the Biennale got a lot of traffic… it seems a strength of European culture that people young and old and rich and poor ALL go to see art just for the sake of seeing art. Galleries open to the public draw crowds here the way street fairs do back home and it’s comforting, as an artist, to know that somewhere this is so!


I had planned to follow up my previous post with a narrowed down version of the same thing… but I instead decided to focus on a single image and highlight several artists in separate posts. Out of the hundreds of photos showcased in Barcelona, Steffi Drerup’s “self portrait with baby no. 5” stuck front and center in my mind and hasn’t left since. At the closing ceremonies I found myself coming back to it again and again:


Drerup’s “self portrait with baby no. five” is from a series she calls “naked eye,” selections of which have received honorable mentions in the International Photography Award, and the 11th and 12th Julia Margaret Cameron Awards. The title card read: “[naked eye] explores the various emotional states women and men may find themselves in when starting a family: Hope Vulnerability, Joy, Despair, Pride, Uncertainty.”

From Cologne, Germany and now living in Berlin, Drerup studied internationally and received degrees in fine arts and design. She is also the mother of five children. The work on her website focuses mainly on candid portraiture and self-portraiture with color photography. You can view her “dear all” on her website here:  

As a photographer I pay special attention to self-portraits of all kinds; professional, amateur, candid, studio, accidental (the best!) and yes, selfies. Particularly interesting to me are self-portraits by women photographers. There is often a visceral quality that gives me something to chew on for long afterwards. Good self-portraits are rarely about vanity. Quite the contrary, self-portraiture can be an artist’s most powerful expression of vulnerability. When I saw Drerup’s piece at the Biennale, the first thing that struck me was the fact that she thought to take it in the first place. And not with her cell phone, but with her camera. Newborn baby-number-five in arms, still red from birth and Drerup swaddled in absorbent pads to soak blood, she picked up her camera and took a photo of herself in the bathroom mirror. She went on to receive recognition for her series naked eye; an intimate photo essay of life; but chose that single image to represent her at the international exhibition. Only a true artist can make eloquent a moment of intense vulnerability, so to make public such a raw documentation of the self. Thank you Steffi Drerup.

 [Check in soon for my next post in which I will be sharing street photography taken in Barcelona at a workshop with Spanish photographer Mingo Venero.]