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Angele Etoundi Essamba’s Photo Series “Noire Vermeer” Takes a Fresh Look at the Dutch Painter Jan Vermeer

In her new interpretation of the famous painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Dutch painter Jan Vermeer (1632-1675), Angele Etoundi Essamba replaces the titular pearl earring with one featuring a dangling piece of amber. She presents her Black subjects as free, self-confident women. “The ‘Girl with an Amber Earring’ claims the right to look, to shine, and to exist — fully authentic. She examines us with her penetrating gaze, stares at us and invites us to contemplation and beguilement. In so doing, she demonstrates inner strength, intimacy and beauty,” Essamba says, summing up her work to DW. “But she also remains unattainable; she has only herself to live up to.” Essamba admired Vermeer’s paintings from an early age. “What has always fascinated me about his work is the central place he gave to women in his paintings,” the photographer explains, adding that her photographs parallel his works while reinterpreting them.