Photography and acting are kindred spirits in the new series, In Empathy We Trust, that we created under the name of E2 (Elizabeth and EPaul). We present photographic versions of paintings from art history, beginning with the Flemish Primitives and spanning nearly 600 years. With sitters enacting varied representations of, amongst others, race and sexual orientation, we remade works by artists such as van Eyck, Rafael, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Fragonard, and Manet. We were truly inspired by these European masterpieces, in fact so much that we wished to adapt them to our age and thereby show their universal core. With all the possibilities in the back of our minds that, at least in theory, we have and our ancestors couldn’t even dream of, we re-imagined these paintings.
We want our viewers to see these timeless masterpieces anew. And, indeed, we play a little with their expectations. In fact, we even went one step further and invite viewers to see these images with a different lens. Some people may feel slightly irritated, others may question their own prejudices. In the end we are making a link between stereotypes and how they can lead to unconscious discrimination. We started this journey after we were inspired by the work of Claire de Duras, a French writer who wrote the novella Ourika in 1824. This was one of the first times that a writer tried to put themselves in the shoes of someone from another race or culture. We hope that this series will ask the viewer to do the same, but not only in relation to race or culture, but also in terms of a person’s age, sex, sexual orientation, job choice, body adornments, disabilities etc.