‘Femme,’ feminine faces of humanity

by Samantha Santana
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Staff photos by Allison Potter 

Photographer Billy Cone autographs Elli Klein’s copy of “Femme” on Saturday, Jan. 25, at Big Art Gallery in Independence Mall. “Femme” features portraits of women paired with quotes.

Fans, friends and visitors shook hands with photographer Billy Cone as they waited for their signed copy of “Femme” — a book filled with powerful and emotional portraits of women — during a Jan. 25 book signing.

Cone, 53, has been shooting pictures since 1982 when he developed an interest after taking darkroom photography classes at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.  

“I loved my photo class,” Cone said before the book signing at Independence Mall. “I spent more time and effort in the class. I just loved it.”

In 2002, while in Paris, Cone started two projects: one involved taking pictures of statuaries in Paris and the other was “Femme,” which involved photographing women’s portraits.

“After living in Paris for a total of five years, maybe it sunk in that people, including me, appreciate the feminine form more than the masculine form,” Cone said. “I think women are beautiful. It’s not just physical; it’s something that emanates from them. There’s openness, there’s a sense of being [freer] with their emotions and feelings.”

The Saturday book-signing event was held at Big Art Gallery, where Cone, seated at a small wooden table, explained the book’s aim. 

Cone said the portraits in “Femme” are powerful images that evoke various feelings within the reader. 

“It’s a mirror of humanity … a little inkling of what we are,” Cone said. “They express different emotions. In a close-up, you concentrate on what’s important and everything else fades out.”

Many of the women Cone photographed for his book were normal women with no modeling history.

“I was looking for raw innocence,” Cone said. “Models are trying to give you want you want and I wanted them to be what they were.”

During the event, Wilmington resident Bruce Koch, 72, purchased two signed books.

“I’m a fan of his books from way back then,” Koch said.

In “Femme,” many of the portraits include quotes from notable figures such as Emily Dickinson and Albert Einstein. 

“It gives some impact by pairing it with famous quotes,” Cone said. “I love pictures and I love books that speak to me in pictures. … I like to be brief with the text.”

Rurik P. van Schoonhoven van Beurden, Ph.D, a colleague of Cone and book-signing attendee, said that Cone’s pictures accurately reflect thoughts and emotions. 

“Pictures are always an honest expression. You can never change an expression that is on a picture,” van Beurden said.

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