Heji Shin, Baby 1, 2016, ink-jet print, 23 × 30".

Heji Shin

Real Fine Arts

Heji Shin, Baby 1, 2016, ink-jet print, 23 × 30".

The genre of portraiture has different looks and different functions, ranging from the high finish of heads of state to the languor of lovers lying in bed. Both deliver the sense of a person with some inner life, some history and position in the world, assembling some image of him- or herself in front of the gaze of another. So can one make a portrait of what we might call the “just almost born,” a thing whose head is jutting out into the world, but whose body is still in the womb, its sex unrevealed, its language a far ways away? (My feeling is probably not, that such an image would be something else.)

For her recent exhibition at Real Fine Arts, Heji Shin presented seven large-format photographs of just this subject; she called them Baby 1–7 (all works 2016). The images came about through an extensive process: Shin reached out to expectant mothers, mostly in Germany, and convinced

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