“The body is the instrument of our hold on the world” – Simone de Beauvoir

We’re delighted to present the results of our second theme of Life Framer Edition V, judged by the highly revered photographer and documentarian Roger Ballen.

On immediate viewing, this might seems like Life Framer’s darkest and most challenging shortlist yet. Few images are light-hearted, and there is little room for color – other than the skin tones one might expect for a theme focussed on the human body, the predominant shades are blacks and greys. Look closer though and you’ll be rewarded with images that inspire with their subtlety and deftness, and that are in fact celebratory – documenting pride in difference and diversity, defiance in the face of adversity, beauty in imperfection. Indeed it is a selection of extremes, and there is little space for conventional beauty. Of course this might be in part due to the influence of our judge – Roger Ballen himself an artist who has always challenged with his off-kilter viewpoint and focus on society’s outsiders. But perhaps it’s also a reflection on the world we find ourselves in – one where traditional conventions of beauty are constantly being eroded, and where disability and difference is slowly moving away from something to be marginalized, to something to be accepted and cherished. For each positive shift forwards, there is of course a tension and inertia, and that idea – that co-existence of positivity and negativity, of happiness and hardship – is ever present in this very contemporary, very honest selection of images. Enjoy!

Join the discussion on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Congratulations to all the talented photographers featured, and thank you to everyone who submitted their work.


“I find this photo well composed and offering us a very real image of the extremes the human body can endure and the state of humanity.” – Roger Ballen


“Here is a well composed and relevant photo of the human body. This photograph also illustrates the beauty of the body as well as human nature.” – Roger Ballen


“This is a confounding image – the eyes immediately drawn into the strange white abyss that dominates the center of the frame. Bodies repeat in kaleidoscopic fashion around it, the naked flesh and red light provocative and suggestive, but without identity, the meaning ultimately ambiguous. It’s strange and artful, chaotic but with an over-arching order. The classic nude in a contemporary, neon twist.” – Life Framer


“Here the body is an organic landscape – the human form distorted with peculiar coloring and a tight composition that asks the viewer to hunt for a familiar shape in the undulations of pale neon skin. To capture something both strange and familiar, in one sense so mundane and at the same time so visually alluring, is no mean feat, and Ruben succeeds with confidence.” – Life Framer


“As society moves towards a broader acceptance (and sometimes celebration) of diversity and disability, it’s an interesting concept to place this young amputee in a historical setting – celebrating her and her disability in the sombre style of the Old Dutch Masters; who worked at a time when such a subject would never have been granted this privilege. And Justine captures her, proud and beautiful, with an absolute confidence – perfectly framed, lit and colored.” – Life Framer


“Betina evokes the body without showing us one – this drying shirt suspended like outstretched arms, bright against the dark, worn wall. There is something almost spiritual, like a cross held aloft, or a modest symbol of purity, a ghost of innocence past. This once grand building now slowly crumbles, nothing more than a useful fixing point for a washing line. It’s one of those wonderful moments of nothingness that, with such assured execution, takes on something profound. An idea just out of reach for the viewer to ponder.” – Life Framer


“In Ulla’s statement she describes how she documents the experiences of sex workers, forming bonds with African women working in Europe and capturing their experiences in order to challenge the stigma they face. This image is achingly intimate, the result of a bond she has so clearly formed with this subject, and one whose power lies in its contradictions. This woman lies among cartoon character bedding, playing dress-up with her wigs. She seems so vulnerable and childlike, this place her safe sanctuary in her squalid surroundings, and yet these wigs are also her uniform, her armor through which she creates the personas she must use in her line of work. Innocence lost. Similarly there is her powerful piercing gaze. Is it a statement of the confidence she has learnt to evoke? Or an accusatory stare, confronting the viewer to engage with the harsh world in which she must live? It’s an image which tackles head-on the difficult moral complexity of her circumstances, and offers a window into her innermost world. It’s incredibly effective.” – Life Framer


“Elise’s composition seems effortlessly elegant – a flawless landscape of rolling female forms, like sand dunes. It’s both subtle and sensual, captured in muted grey and soft candy pink – It’s compelling in its simplicity.” – Life Framer


“Chel’s stark composition is a paradox: the frail hands reaching skywards, wrinkled and sinuous, speak of ageing, fragility and the inevitability of the death, and yet the textures he captures almost echo marble, like they’re sculpted into hard stone that might last ten thousand years. And then there are these manicured nails – this lady retaining some of her femininity. The concurrency of strength and weakness, of holding on and letting go (literally and figuratively), defiant and acceptant, is a profound reflection on life, particularly as it draws to its close.” – Life Framer


“This is not the first time Kajsa’s image has been recognised by Life Framer, but it’s no surprise that such a photograph returns to our attention – combining exquisite execution with profound emotion. The composition is exceptional – this young boy’s scarred arms seeking the edges of the frame, providing leading lines to his troubling expression, and the slashes of scar tissue mimicked in the blades of corn behind him. It’s an image that conveys mental and physical suffering – the way the skin heals can be messy, as with the soul. It’s a wonderful, sad and provocative image.” – Life Framer


“Audrey presents a challenging portrait. There is an obvious vulnerability, inviting the viewer to look closer, but then this strange mask – a barrier between the viewer and sitter. It’s both intimate and distant – the subject bares all but is unknowable. The presence of a pain, a wounded-ness is obvious. Audrey’s assured execution heightens this dichotomy, the mask jarring with the muted color palette, soft focus skin and flowing hair. For me, I see something of a comment on the culture of social media, of baring all to the world in one sense, but in a carefully curated, and ultimately closed-off way. That may not have been Audrey’s intention, but it’s testament to creating something so rich and loaded with intrigue.” – Life Framer


“This is a pretty unique take on photographic collage – so few elements, scrappily captured and combined, to create a new face; the nose and mouth not present, but uncannily, undeniably ‘there’ in the furrows of shaved hair. In an age where appearance is foremost, and where the volume of imagery can be overwhelming, Odo destroys convention and reassembles simple elements to create something both ugly and beautiful, anonymous and characterful. It’s a reductionist approach that is refreshing and engaging, and oddly alive.” – Life Framer


“Gorgeous, muted colors, and a body soft and flowing, distorted by the gently lapping waves that might stretch on beyond the edges of the frame forever, Anne finds a pure and understated beauty in a simple scene – the act of skinny-dipping, here in a divine body of water.” – Life Framer


“This image, which we understand to be a self-portrait from Marvel’s statement, hits you with its raw honesty – the subject bare and unadorned, elegantly captured in monochromatic light. Marvel describes his struggle with gender identity, and this image, taken shortly after the removal of his breasts, is a brave document of this struggle. The scars are clearly on display: both those on the arms representing past pain and anguish, and those on the chest, perhaps representing growing self-acceptance and a happier future. To confront a subject as complex and personal as this in such a direct and honest way is hugely powerful, unforgettable even.” – Life Framer


“Here we see a strong and beautiful lady, proudly bearing her artificial limbs. The stick might make her seem vulnerable, but she comes across as defiant and confident, that idea strengthened by Darija’s choice to employ bold coloring, and strong outlines against the clean and artificial setting. Her subject owns the frame.” – Life Framer


“There’s a real neatness to this composition – the flat grey sky punctuated by soft passing clouds, and similar marks visible on this person’s hairless skin. The viewer’s eyes are pulled through the subject and towards the vast space before them, left to reflect on what that might be. It’s anonymous and distant. It’s one of those images that has a complete visual clarity, and total thematic ambiguity, and it’s a hypnotizing combination.” – Life Framer


“This is a moving study of cross-dressing, and of the compulsion to subvert gender norms. It’s quiet and thoughtful – not a brash celebration of drag culture, nor a document of the trouble and misunderstanding that can come with it, but something in between, existing in the grey middle that is all the more human. His outfit is provocative, but the body language is far more reserved – the awkward positioning of his hands and expression of hesitancy perhaps describing a tentativeness in this act of trust between photographer and subject. To not be the center of attention, when such an act will always draw stares. This is perhaps reflected in Kamil’s choice of coloring – the tones slightly washed out, the red of the lipstick not popping as it might. It’s an image of subtleties, which is all the more powerful.” – Life Framer


“Distant and indistinct, sparse and imperfect, this body disappears into the shadows like a decaying memory of a lost lover. The soft curves of her form emphasized against the stark abyss she faces. It seems simultaneously modern and classic, like it could have been made in any era. Camille forgoes context to heighten emotion, creating something artful and mysterious.” – Life Framer


“Dramatic and suspenseful, Jo holds this gold figure high against the rockface, her long-limbed posture echoing the seams of color that run through its surface. Her pose is dynamic, and yet she blends in with her surroundings – nature and the body connected in the most surreal of ways. Closer inspection reveals that Jo has rotated the frame to create this heightened sense of suspense, but it feels like a satisfying illusion rather than trickery. It’s an image of great craft, the result of which is pure and joyful.” – Life Framer


“This image conveys Karen’s craft. Not just anyone can create such a scene in an art gallery, and that sureness is replicated in the precise, almost mathematical way in which she divides the frame. This naked, supine woman mirrors the flailing bodies of the painting behind her – a scene that itself brings to mind the ongoing migrant crisis – innocent people caught in a helpless voyage across rough oceans. And then this woman’s ambiguous pose – is she peaceful, in strange contrast to the tragedy behind her, or surrendering to it? Karen uses the history of art to create a very contemporary image.” – Life Framer

A prestigious jury, 4 international exhibitions and $24000 in cash prizes.

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