David Porteus | Head On Photo Festival

Head On Photo Festival
David Porteus
Pretty Ugly Butterfly

2nd May – 19th May 2018

Everything is perfect, but something is wrong.

'The experience of viewing the photographs in David Porteus’s Pretty Ugly Butterfly exhibition is one of being drawn into an ornately gothic Edwardian parlour room where characters possess an unsettling secret.

The construction is familiar—formal, almost theatrical, portraits in antique frames and bubbled glass—but the effect is eerie, otherworldly; distortion created by the absence of deformity. Everything is perfect, but something is wrong.

 Soon we realise, that for these richly-coloured, fairytale faces, the mirror on the wall has become a mirror within, a flawless symmetry that steals half the face, but somehow all of the soul. 

The effect is both entrancing and confronting, haunting with the viewer long after we turn our own faces away.'

Ilka Tampke, Author: Skin


(Click on Image to Enlarge- All prints are Hahnemuhle Photo Rag and are available in A2 and A1 size - please refer to the Catalogue for prices of editions)

Catalogue Price List - David Porteus Pretty Ugly Butterfly (pdf)


“When I look in the mirror each day, I mostly don't like what I see. Grey, ageing and with a slightly bent nose, if I was an oil painting it would be a 'character study'. Even when I am confident and happy I have enough objectivity to perceive my unique features as being unattractive. Not ugly but not prize winning. I'm asymmetrical. I now realise that I'm not the only one who feels this way and have set out to explore beauty and symmetry in this exhibition.”

In fact there are whole scientific journals dedicated to the subject. The research reveals that people with symmetrical faces: have higher IQ scores; do better on memory tests; are perceived as more attractive, intelligent and honest and are more likely to be the target of extra-marital affairs. All suggested to be related to positive genetic and environmental conditions of the facially symmetric.

There is also the Halo Effect, a form of confirmation bias, whereby those perceived as more attractive are given a head start in school tests and interviews. One Australian study found that school students deemed to be attractive will score five points higher in tests. Some schools are now using blind marking to correct for this.

Pretty Ugly Butterfly is a series of mirror portraits of half faces and figures, made symmetrical. The result is surreal beauty, ghost portrait simulacra from a new world where the imperfect is made perfect and true nature is negated. The character of these beautiful people is represented in an echo of an early painted portrait or early 20th Century static studio photograph, enhanced by framing them in antique convex glass oval frames (circa 1900-30).

This is the fourth solo exhibition for David Porteus. He has been selected for the Head On Photographic Prize (Sydney)and twice for the Iris Portrait Award (Perth). In 2015 two of his works were exhibited at La Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris and then toured the world as part of the COP21 United Nations Conference on Climate Change. David has previously been a featured music composer on ABC Radio National and is a current post-graduate visual arts student at VCA Melbourne.



David Porteus CV and Artist Statement March 2018 (PDF)