In June 2014 I was on the quay in Antwerp, here I made the photographs for the images which would permanently change the way I work.
Walking, watching and photographing is a given for me, it’s something that I do naturally. But what you subsequently do with those photographs and what do they mean, those are questions that concern me. These are questions that follow logically from the act of walking, watching and photographing. In art school I considered the material I collected as single photographs, i.e. as independent individual images. My graduation work in 2002 consisted of three booklets, with on the front of the booklets the names of the places where the photographs were taken, and inside the individual photographs that were taken respectively in those places.
In the period following the academy I discovered that the photograph was not what I was looking for. I started to combine the photographs. This was a gradual process, up to the point that there was no longer any question of photographs, but of a composite image. From composing the photographs so developed a new factor, the image. This coincided no longer with the photographs. This meant that I now worked with two factors, the photographs and the image. Working with two variables means that they enter into a relationship. This fact should have lead to the next question: How can these two quantities live together in harmony? That is, how can they preserve their identity and still have a relationship?
This is the question I have neglected to ask for years. In actual fact, I have only been able to formulate this question after I found the answer to it. What did I do in the meantime? I’ve occupied myself for years with the image. The moment you start combining photographs into an image, it creates countless possibilities. I have studied those possibilities between 2005 and 2011 and have consequently learned a lot about what I want out of the image and out of the photographs. Gradually my attention focussed on the relationship between the image, and the world, from which the material for these images originated. But eventually I got stuck on the arbitrariness during the compilation of the images, there were simply too many possibilities.
In response, I have asked myself the following question in 2011: What is the essence of what I do? The answer to that question was that I visited cities to photograph the architecture present there. By taking this answer as a starting point for my work, my attention returned to the photographs themselves, because they are the most pure result of my actions. I have applied no more interventions to the photographs ever since, and place them just as they are, adjacent and below each other in the image.
This led to that I started working with fewer photographs, so there was hardly a question of a composed image anymore. My focus thus shifted more strongly to the substantive relationship between the photographs. By working with other quantities, the importance of the composition also disappeared. For me, the arrangement of the photographs within the image, has always been the dominant factor in creating the images. There has to be harmony. No harmony – No image. By letting go of arrangement within the image and keeping my attention with the photographs, I discovered a natural way of arranging. Ever since I put the photographs in chronological order in the image. I let time dictate the image. That’s how the photographs were created, that is their relationship to the world from which they arose. Guess what? Nature arranges way better than I do.
What I had missed in my images was the presence of the photograph as an entity. The photograph as an entity was able to bridge the gap between the image and the world. It took the image out of the realm of ideas, making the image the result of the act again.
So what happened on the quay in Antwerp in June 2014? I sat by the water without the intention to take photographs, I was there to experience the spaciousness of the river, to feel the breeze and watch the water. Until the moment I was so delighted by the glint of sunlight on the water, I nevertheless pulled my camera out and started taking photographs. In 2011 I had a similar experience in Berlin, during that visit I had planned not to keep myself engaged shooting. Until it was evening, and I stood on a bridge and I watched the trains emerging from under the bridge and suddenly was seized by the light that they radiated from their roofs amidst the dark environment, as well as by their movement: the appearing and slowly disappearing again from the light. The next day I returned to the bridge to photograph the roof of the passing trains, which became the S-Bahn images.
The experiences in Berlin and Antwerp got me to thinking. By letting go of the desire to take photographs and shifting my attention to where I am at that particular moment, I get access to that place and because of that I’m able to create works of art. The bridge in Berlin and the quay in Antwerp are examples of the kind of places I like to be, I feel there is space. All my life I’ve been seeking out these kind of places, but I had never realized that experiencing the tranquillity and space that these places offer, would be a prerequisite to be able to make my work. In fact, I could not even imagine that I would produce work from these places.
This was not the only insight that Antwerp had given me in 2014. When I got home and constructed the images, I saw that there was something going on with these images. I noticed that something happened in these images that I hadn’t seen before. It turned out that I was looking at the answer to the question that I had omitted to ask, I saw in the images the unity, which I had subconsciously been looking for. It was the unity of the photographs, the image and the subject. Precisely because I let each of the three factors -the image, the photographs and the world-, that define my work, exist in their own way, they were able to form this synergy and result into something new.