“The years shall run like rabbits,” recites the quixotic Ethan Hawke to Julie Delpy in cult favourite Before Sunrise. It sounds romantic, sure, in spite of the fact that W.H. Auden’s wistful ballad is a cautionary tale.
Such is the inspiration for Dutch photographer Hellen van Meene, whose series The years shall run like rabbits is less about anticlimactic affairs than the ephemerality of youth and the urgency of time. “Adults already know what they want from life, having experienced things positive and negative, so it’s difficult to pry them open and get into their souls,” she says. “Young people are so open and new and fresh; I can guide them much more. They are so inspiring, and I love to be inspired by them.”
Juxtaposing girls and dogs, van Meene took the images for this series with the same quiet formality found in early 20th-century portraiture. Set against the understated backdrop of a vacant home in Heiloo, Netherlands, the photographer’s carefully orchestrated compositions are haunted by a dreamy, melancholy languor. Her two- and four-legged subjects share not only deadpan expressions and stylised poses, but also a tenuous naiveté. They are by turns fragile and strong—the dogs tempering the girls’ natural awkwardness, the girls disrupting the dynamic between man and dog. “I picked the dogs like I pick my models—the special faces I find on the street that give me goose bumps—and matched them together not based on looks, but chemistry,” she says. “There was an English setter with these droopy eyes, like the world was leaning on his shoulders, and an Afghan hound with beautiful features and long hair, who turned and gave me a very arrogant look. I was in love!”
You can enjoy the complete feature in Four&Sons, Issue One.
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