At first glance, Loretta Lux's pale, pastel-hued pictures of young children bear a slight resemblance to the generic images found in commercial portrait photography, contemporary advertising, or greeting cards. As benign as they may initially seem, however, the doll-like figures are strangely unsettling. With their porcelain, flawless skin and vacant, glassy eyes, the children seem more like lifeless automatons than living, breathing human beings.
Loretta Lux creates these disquieting images by taking carefully staged photographs of the children of her friends against a white wall in her studio. She then inserts their digitized images over scans of her hand-painted or separately photographed backgrounds—usually empty landscapes or stark, anonymous interiors, as in Hidden Rooms 1 (2001) and Study of a Boy 2 (2002). A painter by training, Lux cites Old Masters such as Agnolo Bronzino, Francisco Goya, Philipp Otto Runge, and Diego Velázquez as her influences. Using a computer, Lux works like a painter, digitally tweaking her solitary figures and their backgrounds in subtle ways until she is satisfied. In the final images, the children, while still identifiable, lose their appearance as individuals. Rather than studies of particular children, they are what she calls "imaginary portraits," artificial creations that eerily merge childhood innocence and adult alienation.