These Belly Button Portraits Are Fascinating and Gross at the Same Time

Frédéric Fontenoy is Paris-based photography who focuses his lens on the human body. I recently came upon his work via BOOOOOOOM, which featured his "Metamorphose" series, intriguing photos of naked people, blurred in motion, against beautiful natural backdrops. But after checking out his site, it's Fontenoy's "Detail" series that I found most interesting. Taking very up-close-and-personal portraits of people's belly buttons, Fontenoy takes us back to the very beginning, the "first scar" that we all have.

As he explains in the description of the series, although we don't use this body part, it symbolizes our independence and our autonomy as we emerged from our mother's womb. Yet, most people probably wouldn't want this close of a photo taken of their navels. There's something very private about a person's umbilicus, almost as intimate as one's genitalia (although, crop tops are still legal and crotchless pants, not so much), so seeing one magnified as a portrait is both refreshing and jarring.

I appreciate the details of "Detail" that highlight how different all of our umbilici are. Some have light, sparse hairs that circle them; while others are surrounded by dark, dense fur. Some have fuzz nestled within them, while others have some crusty lint peeking out. Some are deep cavernous gashes, while others are barely indented or are maybe even raised puckers of skin. Whatever the case, these are real belly buttons of real people, and it's fascinating to see them as a collection.


See more of "Detail" on Frédéric Fontenoy's site