David Campany has published an overview of the work of French photographic artist Valérie Belin. 

“In 2003, the artist Valérie Belin made a series of photographs of Michael Jackson lookalikes. Not the preternaturally gifted child Michael, but the troubled older megastar. We can assume the lookalikes never met him. They were mimicking an image, or an amalgam of images. Jackson was probably the most recognisable person on the planet, although his fame was inseparable from the lurid spectacle of his physical shape-shifting. What was going on with his face? Plastic surgery? Good old-fashioned cosmetics? Photoshop? He seemed to be in a permanent state of transition. A morphing icon. Many people made a living as Jackson impersonators, but they had to select a look from the evolving catalogue. In a white studio, Belin portrayed a handful of them under stark light as they struck a classic 1990s Jackson pose. Her photographs add to the disturbing hall of mirrors. They also allow us to contemplate it at a chilly distance. 

Belin, who is based in Paris, has been interested in this kind of alluring deception for over three decades. Her work, which is celebrated in France, is less known internationally – but this is changing. The daily platter of contrived celebrity culture, coupled with the widespread desire to brand oneself in the online visual marketplace, has made Belin’s circumspect approach entirely refreshing. This month she is to be honoured as Master of Photography at Photo London, with a major exhibition. ” – Campany, 2024