Pamela Berkovic: A Woman’s Eye
Printed by Picto
For the first time ever, Belgian photographer Pamela Berkovic will exhibit her photographs, reflecting her feminine eye, in Belgium. At the Keitelman Gallery, the exhibition “A Woman’s Eye” takes visitors backstage at the biggest fashion shows, as well as in the clubs of strip-tease, or in the rehearsals of Bolshoi dancers.
Berkovic is the daughter of a Belgian art collector, who moved from Antwerp to Brussels, and a French psychologist. She studied photography for two and half years at the National School of Visual Arts La Cambre in Brussels, where she stood out for her backstage photo project in a strip club in Brussels. “I have been fascinated all my life by what is happening behind the scenes, in theater, opera, music and dance”, she said in an interview for Belgian newspaper L’Echo. “Very young, I was exposed to the visual and philosophical universe of my father, great collector of art and that of my mother, a woman of arts and literature.”
Fascinated by what is happening behind the scenes, the photographer is constantly hiding behind her camera: “By making myself almost invisible, I can capture expressions and gestures that no one sees.” Thus she was able to access the backstage of Stella McCartney’s shows, where she made her way, Chloe, Armani, Alexander Wang, Marc Jacobs, Dior, Lanvin, Louis Vuitton, Dries Van Noten and Alexander McQueen.
The artist was also able to photograph the inaccessible dressing rooms of the Showpoint strip-tease club in Brussels. “I had never been in a strip club before, but I had met a girl who was a make-up artist during the day and a comedian at Le Showpoint in Brussels at night. It took me three months to convince her for a photo series. One day she called me. She was ready. And I had to be ready at 1 am that night. I was 19. A bit scared, I brought my father and some of his friends to wait for me outside. Downstairs a pimp ran around among the girls, making the atmosphere really stifling. I photographed the stripper when she was coming back from stage, when she changed her clothes, or when she was concentrating completely in her bubble. I played fly on the wall with my little Leica R7: I made myself as invisible as possible so that nobody around me would start posing or acting. I immediately felt: this is my comfort zone.” Finally, she also had the opportunity to work with the famous French-Spanish dancer Blanca Li, as well as Maria Alexandrova, a Bolshoi dancer.
Her main influences? Theater and cinema. The worlds of Federico Fellini, Alfred Hitchcock, Michelangelo Antonioni and Wong Kar Wai permeate the work of Pamela. “My passion for photography began with the work of Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander’s nudes, Edward Weston, Susan Meisalas and Cindy Sherman’s ‘Carnival Stripper’, Cindy Sherman’s Film Stills, Francesca Woodman and ‘The Pier’. Chris Marker,” she says.
A proof that the artist has become essential in the community: she is friends with Jade Jagger, the only daughter of Mick and his first wife, Bianca Pérez-Mora Macías. “If you want to meet the Rolling Stones, do not go to a concert in Tokyo or New York. Choose a smaller city where they do not know anyone. Then you’re much more likely to bump into them afterwards. Jade invited me in July to come and listen to their final concert in Warsaw, Poland. We were hanging around, until she took me to the hotel where her father spent the night. Four of his eight grandchildren were flown specially, which in itself is a miracle. The Jaggers are really never all together. Suddenly Jade asked if I wanted to make a family photo in the hotel suite in Poland. I panicked because I did not have my camera. I really did not expect that question at all. She insisted, so I had to improvise. And finally I made the official family photo of the Jaggers with my iPhone. I’m not so satisfied with the quality, but luckily Mick was happy with it.”
Among the VIP visitors of her exhibitions, we find Keith Richards’ manager, Charlotte Bernard, the former sister-in-law of Nicolas Sarkozy, the writer Jill Kargman, the art consultant Simon de Pury or the American creator Thom Browne. “Her way of capturing authenticity is refreshing … Pamela captures beauty and fashion in a very important way,” he says.
All those contacts, Pamela Berkovic owes to New York. It is the city where she has lived for almost 20 years. And you’ll notice that easily. Her French is larded with American words. Without realizing it, she sometimes switches to English for a few minutes. “I belong to the stayers in New York,” she says. “The city really has two speeds. Many people land here for a few years. They do build a network, but still look for fellow expats. If you stay longer, you also get to know the locals. And only then do you notice how small New York is. It is a village: you constantly meet in the street, in restaurants, at dinners or art openings.”