> Bloodlines

Bettina von Zwehl / Bloodlines


Artist Statement

Each portrait in the series Bloodlines shows a young girl, in a studio environment, holding a live snake. The encounter between human and snake is at the core of each portrait, the slow and gliding movements of these mesmerising creatures quietly and subtly guiding the gestures of the sitter as she seeks to retain her composure and her poise.

I am drawn to the snake’s unblinking stare, its sculptural presence, its symbolic potential, the beauty of its shimmering scales, and to its transformative presence in the frame of the image, evoking so many different associations: from fear and disgust to sensuality and feelings of awe.

The girls approach the challenge of the session in their own unique way: a mix of anxiety, trepidation, excitement and also pride. The encounter with the snake as it undulates and coils across each young sitter’s body calls for her to find her own way to support it, guide it, protect it, and in some sense, to connect with it.

Bettina von Zwehl, London 2016



Bettina von Zwehl was born in Munich in 1971 and received her MA from the Royal College of Art, London. She has built her international reputation on subtle yet captivating photographic portraits.

Solo exhibitions of her work have been held at a number of leading European and American museums and galleries including the Freud Museum, London; Fotogaleriet, Oslo; The Holburne Museum of Art, Bath; Cultural Centre, Poznan, Poland; The National Portrait Gallery, London; Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood, London; The Photographers’ Gallery, London;
 Lombard – Freid Fine Arts, New York.

The Bloodlines series was made in response to an artist residency at Bohusläns Museum in 2015. Other recent artist residencies include the Freud Museum London in 2013/2014 and the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2011.

Bettina’s photographs are held in collections including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The National Portrait Gallery, London; The Mint Museum, North Carolina; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Rubell Family Collection, Miami and Pier 24 Photography, San Francisco.

Recent publications include Lament (Art/Books: 2016), Made Up Love Song (V&A: 2014) and Bettina von Zwehl (Steidl/Photoworks: 2007). 

Bloodlines will be shown at Konsthallen Bohusläns Museum from 3rd December 2016 – 27 February 2017.
Bettina von Zwehl lives and works in London. She is represented by Purdy Hicks Gallery.