Hellen van Meene
(Dutch, b. 1972) is a photographer known for her highly stylized, coming-of-age portraits of young adults, usually teenage girls, and occasionally androgynous teenage boys. Van Meene studied photography at Gerrit Reitfeld Academy in Amsterdam and at the College of Art in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her early work of the mid-1990s featured photographs of adolescent girls in her hometown, and she has frequently returned there to photograph throughout her career. She chooses to photograph teenagers because she finds their openness inspiring. She directs her subjects closely, telling them where to face and how to position their bodies, because she believes it makes them more confident, allowing their personalities to come out. The subjects she chooses are not classic beauties, but through her interaction with them and her unique craft of picture-making, she creates striking, intimate images that celebrate the awkward beauty of each personality she shoots. Each detail is considered: clothing, pose, nail polish, etc. Although her images are meticulously styled, she uses all natural light in a manner that recalls Johannes Vermeer
(Dutch, 1632–1675). Van Meene has traveled around the world seeking subjects for her portraits. In 2002, she demonstrated her talent for non-verbal direction when she photographed young people in Japan, which she did even without having a common language in which to communicate with her models. In 2007, she travelled to post-Katrina New Orleans to shoot her series Going My Own Way Home
Van Meene has published numerous monographs, been commissioned by the New York Times
, and has exhibited worldwide at galleries and museums such as the Nancy Richardson Gallery in New York, Sadie Coles in London, the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, IL, and the Folkwang Museum in Essen, Germany. She received the START Stipendium Award in 1998 and the Charlotte Köhlerprijs award in 1999.