Tag Archives: utrecht

New work: Schrijf-Schrijf

I was asked by copy-writing agency Schrijf-Schrijf from Utrecht to photograph all employees for their website. The website has  a serious vibe and they wanted photographs to reflect that they were professional yet young and informal agency. I suggested taking i-phone pics during an typical office day as well as taking more official portraits. They could use the “social snaps” in an Instagram kind of way, to off set the more serious portraits.

Portraits of 4 out of 8 employees

Portraits of 4 out of 8 employees

The Social Snaps

The Social Snaps

The website

The website

Listening to some older Warpaint – “Undertow” and some new Jamie XX

Looking For An Icon

What was supposed to be a 40 minute train ride turned into a 2 hours trip. Not the fun extended, unexpected “go for coffee with a friend but end up with different friends on a beach you never knew existed” kind of trip, but the “leave home on your bicycle to catch the train, but get caught in a thunderstorm only to find out there is no train so you wait for the bus, miss the connecting train in the next city, wait some more in your soaking wet clothes, everyone talks too loud, walks in front of you and generally every flipping part in this city is ticking you off” kind. That kind.

  All I wanted to do is pay a visit to the Dutch Doc Days, a new three-day festival celebrating Dutch documentary photography. I had checked the program beforehand and wanted to attend a debate, catch a movie and see the exhibition. I only saw half the exhibition and never quite made it to the debate but did see the movie (documentary, I should say) which was the thing I really wanted to see anyway.

I enjoyed the documentary even if I was slightly disappointed after I learned they were screening a 4-year-old documentary but in all fairness, that has nothing to with the contents of it. Anyhow, Hans Pool and Maik Krijgsman documentary Looking For An Icon was made in celebration of World Press Photo 50th anniversary. The idea was to find out was goes into the making of an iconic photograph as well as why does one photograph become part of our collective visual memory while another doesn’t. They interviewed photographers several photographers (Eddie Adams, Charlie Cole, David Turnley and OlivieroToscani), editors, publishers and historians. Oliviero Toscani was highly entertaining with his razorsharp insight that everything is for sale somehow be it religion, news or art.

                         Authority that exerts power has to create an icon

He also chatted about a photo shoot he did years ago while with his then girlfriend. She was a model at the time and was wearing a white bridal gown. They had been working all day and were quite chuffed with the way it had been going. The assistant suggested at some point he’d take a picture of Oliviero and his girlfriend. Oliviero was wearing jeans and a shirt, she was still in the white dress as they stood side by side. They were married from that moment on. No one believed it wasn’t a wedding photo and to this day, his mother keeps that picture in a frame as proof of their union. The couple did eventually get married but according to the world they already were and people weren’t all that interested. “We believe the image, not the truth.” 

What was fascinating was seeing the frames before and after the iconic image, and hearing the photographers talk about what went in to making that photo. Charlie Cole was running out of film as the resistance at Tiananmen Square went on longer than expected, and his famous image was on frame 34 or 35 on his last roll of film. He became quite emotional when he talked about the man standing in front of the tanks and explained how he felt obligated to show the world this image as it was proof of the guy’s heroic act, one that he probably lost his life over, “they didn’t run him over them, but I am sure they did later on”.


One of the connoisseurs explained how we in the west are raised in biblical, Greek and Roman traditions where the individual can make a difference; David vs Goliath, George slaying the dragon and men fighting the gods. The image of Tiananmen Square find resonance in that tradition. This may not be the case in f.e. Asian cultures where the collective is more important than the individual. An image, therefore, may become iconic in one culture, but not in another as it doesn’t refer to the same collective stories, myths or traditions.

The documentary does not really answer the question what makes an image iconic or what is iconic to begin with. What it did explain is that iconic photographs often lack context; time and space are slightly kept out of the image as that way it provides more room for the viewer to fill in part of the story or to project one’s own emotions onto the image. And that they often side with those who have lost; lives lost, friends lost, innocence lost. Even if we tend to believe in the good of mankind we are generally lazy. Iconic images show us that “the other person” has stepped up or suffered on our behalf. The image requires nothing of us anymore as it is the end already. We can view the image, feel the pull on our heartstrings as it connects to our personal emotional history, feel a sense of right and wrong rising within us while we have our morning coffee and get ready for work. We don’t have to act anymore, someone did the job for us already.

We bought some drinks and enjoyed our beer or rosé in my friend’s beautiful garden while the sun was slowly setting behind the trees. The images still linger in my mind’s eye and stories are still ringing in my ears. Photojournalists are often criticized for glamorizing war or being sensationalist. Sure, out of all the people you can find some are, most aren’t. I think most work from a place of compassion and even if an image hardly ever really changes the world, they do contribute to our understanding of a situation and remind us of our humanity.

Tim Hetherington, Chris Hondros, Anton Hammerl recently lost their lives wanting to do that. That can not possibly have been in vain.

A different time in space

A different time in space
 
If I was the melancholic type, I’d wish it was still that time in space but that’s a different story..
 
Yesterday. Kind of an odd day. I woke up to a very grey and wet Utrecht. Waking up in a new place is always a bit odd to begin with. You see, I am staying at friend’s place who’s on holiday in Jordan right now. I used to live next door to him (at this place: hello operator ) so everything is very familiar but not the same. And not mine. Anyway, it was the day of my first photo shoot and first job interview since getting back to the NL. I was hired by a copy writing agency to do a corporate shoot for an in-house magazine. The shoot was originally planned at a building site but seeing how the weather was utterly crap I decided to change locations. I felt a little out-of-place doing so as I’m not really in charge and the outside location had been approved by the 3 parties involved but hey, feeling a little odd is better than coming across as incapable ’cause everyone would have drowned during the shoot and the photos could quite possibly have turned out crap. So I changed locations and I am glad I did. The shoot went by quite fast and I had fun doing it. People were friendly and cooperative and it was nice telling people what to do again:)
 
 After the shoot I had to rush across town (on my bicycle, in the rain) to a school for a job interview. The interview went well but I am kind of hoping I don’t get the job as I am looking for something with a bit more weight to it. I have gotten another photo job for at the end of this month and that’s quite cool too. Am a little worried about not having received an invoice yet for FotoFestivalNaarden (the invoice comes *after* you’ve paid and entered the competition and basically serves as a confirmation notice). I hope they received everything in good order. If I don’t get in because they find my work not suitable that’s one thing but to not get in on administrative errors is uhm, *another*.  I also have to keep my eye on the S.I.P. deadline and start working on my proposal. I really do think I could do a good job on writing a reasearch paper on photography. Plus, apply for jobs on this side obviously. And there’s still the Itch submissions, and Mahala… and Hollands Diep.. And… 🙂
 
And I have a meeting with a fashion magazine next week and am quite excited by the idea. I don’t want to say too much as I am afraid to jinx it. Spurred on by the meeting though, I decided to take all the Swimming Upstream interviews, re-read, re-edit them and write one more general article on the Cape Town creative scene. I approached some young corporates in the creative scene to counter balance the interviews with the artists. I wonder what magazine editors, gallery owners or journalists have to say. So far I approached 4 people but only heard back from one so far, thanks Shani/The Imaginarium. Then again, I only asked people last night:)
 
So my question to you is, when you think about the Cape Town creative scene what springs to mind? Is there anything remarkable, odd or lacking? There is so much creativity in CT but what do you think of the quality of work that is produced? Should the local government provide for.. for what? Is there anything that Cape Town really needs?
 
 
A different time in space… I don’t know why that random remark gets to me so. Being back in Utrecht is a step back in time. Trying to get work here with work I did there so I can go elsewhere. I have one foot here, another there. Trying to connect the dots. I already know here my heart is as I know exactly where my mind wanders. Time. Space. I need both. Whatever. I’m here. My heart not. It’s probably a decision you make. But I did that in June ’09 already when I quit my job.
 
Like I said, time for more coffee.