YOU is an ongoing portrait series by Dutch photographer Hans Hiltermann.
From 2002 onwards, he has created hundreds of portraits in exactly the same form.
Hyperrealistic photographs of people in a shadow free environment, looking straight at you,
completely unadorned. At first, viewing these portraits may be somewhat unsettling.
You’re looking at people who are stripped to their very essence. No makeup, no jewelry, no hairdo,
no visible clothing. No preference. No smile, no seduction. No reaction. What’s left is a person without a facade.
Looking so directly at someone is a rather unique and strange experience.
In daily life, staring at someone is regarded as inappropriate, even an act of violence.
Here you are invited to do exactly that. You get the chance to examine someone closely,
without the fear of a negative response. You’re given full opportunity to think about the person
you’re looking at. Is she beautiful? Is he kind? Is she smart? You can judge the person without
feeling guilty. But be aware: your judgment may say less about the model than it does about you.
Central to YOU is Hiltermann’s deep fascination with people and how they respond to each other.
This dynamic is also present in classic portraiture as the subject-object relationship. It’s something
which Hiltermann actively examines in YOU. When he asks his subjects to look straight into the camera,
he effectively makes them look directly into the eyes of the viewer, who, in turn, becomes the subject.
The gazes of the subjects are never judgmental though. In fact, they are the exact opposite.
During the shoot Hiltermann asks his models to visualize a person they love and trust. In effect,
as a viewer you’re looking into the eyes of someone who is looking at a person they love and trust. You.
Hiltermann says of his work, “YOU is about my fascination with life, with who we are and how we respond
to each other. I want to make people aware of the fact that we all interpret what we see,
but that it’s wise to look beyond our first impressions.
Once you realize this as a viewer, YOU stops being about the portraits; YOU then becomes about you.”