SMUDGE is a series of photographs in which Polly Borland directs and dresses different models, among them musician Nick Cave, according to her own world. A world full of body stockings, rubber bathing caps, crotch-accentuating leotards, ping-pong balls, wigs put on backward - electric blue ones, blonde ones, horrid ones made of rusted steel wool. Borland manipulates and changes the models' presence through a highly original use of visual devices, costume and light, to produce an arresting and ambiguous subject. Whether they are the magnificent, life-affirming portraits or terrifying erotic distortions of strange creatures there is a deep love for the photographed subjects and the dignity that exists in their dysmorphia. Her pictures are never voyeuristic, never observational and never merely shocking. Rather Polly seems to be shooting into a distorted mirror and simply bringing back heartbreaking refracted images of herself.
Polly Borland's practice was first established by major portrait commissions and reportage. Borland was one of eight photographers selected to photograph Queen Elizabeth II for the Golden Jubilee. Her work has appeared in numerous exhibitions. The National Portrait Gallery in London, and in Canberra, have acquired a number of Borland's photographs for their collections, and in 2000 both galleries exhibited Australians, a major commission and solo exhibition.
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