The democratic website
October 17, 2021
I sometimes fantasize about replacing the home page by the index page, and remove the top menu. No content is more important or more accessible than any other. A random thought is equal to a project that took me two years, is equal to a single image of a ragged exhibition wall. No directing of eyeballs, no highlighting, no seductive images. A democratic website.
August 09, 2021
I didn’t take this interior shot, the one here on the right. I wish it was mine, but it’s not. I don’t know who took it, it’s an uncredited picture from our archives, from the late 1960s I suppose. I’ve always wanted to photograph this building because of this particular image. During the lockdown in March, when all university buildings were closed, I had the chance to spend an hour of my time inside, on my own, when normally, hundreds of students would be running up and down the stairs. But the picture, the ‘remake’ is not as good as this one. That’s why it’s not here. It’s only acceptable on a safe distance from its original. It’s a mystery to me from which point exactly this was taken. I suspect it’s from where my view was hampered by a later addition to the building, a clunky elevator, a sort of black cage running through this lovely space. (It wasn’t just the elevator, many spaces were ruined by furniture, banners, room dividers and stored items). Or, this is taken in a part of the building that I didn’t have access to, but I don’t think so, considering the floor plan. It’s a bit daft, wanting to take a picture that’s already been taken. I didn’t care though, I wanted to anyway. 

But now that it is as it is, I'm not unhappy with how that old photograph relates to my own pictures, from half a century later. 

Aula of Delft University of Technology. Architecture by Van den Broek en Bakema, 1966. Art work 'Salami' by Carel Visser.
The threshold
May 08, 2021
Book design is ready. I had it sit for a while, although I was fairly happy with how I left it. I added another four pages though, because I wanted to see what including one more photograph would do. Not an awful lot to be honest, but it’s the extra space, and the changing of two pairs as a consequence that made me feel better about it. I prefer the idea of 24 pages. But that’s hardly enough reason not to have 28. It’s rather small in size, that’s the one thing I’m hesitant about, but I do feel it needs a sort of intimacy, so I’m gonna trust my instincts on this.

‘Had it sit for a while’ is a nice way of saying that I couldn’t bring myself to go to a print store and have 20 copies printed. I blamed it on the covid/lockdown situation, but that’s only an inconvenience in this respect. It’s about this: the inDesign file on my computer screen looks perfect to me. As long as it sits on my hard drive, it holds the promise of being perfect in print. 

Except it can only be less than perfect. I don’t have the resources to use the best print service I know, or to have my own printer. I don’t know anything about paper and what to use to what effect, or how to hand stitch a book. In short: I do not have the same control over the print process as I have over the design process. Within these limitations I have choices to make though, and as long as I keep looking at the design on my computer, I can’t make the wrong ones.

It wasn’t even supposed to be perfect. It was meant to get myself acquinted with the process and to learn how to work with inDesign. It was meant as an affordable give away to friends, family or who else might be interested. To bring something digital into the physical world and see how (if) it holds up. I liked the idea of a ‘zine’ being an easy accessible way to achieve all that. But it doesn’t take away the threshold.

I received an email the other day from a Spanish digital platform that was interested in publishing either this series or Take me someplace nice. I chose the latter. It might have been my only chance to get Monotone published, and I’m partial to this series simply because it’s new, but it didn’t feel quite right. I didn’t think it is a particular good match with the context and the layout of the platform, and I also realized that this series is primarily conceived as a printed object. If it ever appears on a website that is not my own, I would like to complement it with print. Not that this lowers the threshold in any way.

Temporary homes

April 06, 2021

The houses in this vacation park are part privately owned holiday homes, part semi-permanent homes for immigrant workers. Others were vacant, since the park is about to be ‘discontinued’ within a couple of years. It wasn’t too hard to tell them apart, going by garden furniture and decorations, vehicles on the drive way, and the curtains and blinds in the windows. I wanted to photograph them though as if they could have been any of those houses. Or at least allow some ambivalence.  

Het Roeckenbosch. Blitterswijck, Limburg, The Netherlands. 

Documenting a place

January 30, 2021

And why this is most likely to fail.

Documenting a place requires involvement, in this case also with people, simply because they live here. It’s a neighbourhood. One that is soon to disappear, to make space for a new street plan, with new houses that are larger, more comfortable, more expensive. Half of it is demolished already, the other half partly abandoned and sealed off, partly still inhabited. I find it difficult to stick my camera into the backyards of people still living here. It’s a working-class neigbourhood in Rotterdam Zuid. Gardens are shoddy, inventories are poor. I’m not working-class, it’s not my neighbourhood, I don’t know the people who live here. That complicates things. Also because this is not about individual stories, I’m mostly interested in this neighbourhood as an example of post war architecture, more specifically the garden village, and the lack of historical awareness in today’s city development. And also: how easily every sign of individualism is wiped away by clearing out gardens and boarding up windows. And what traces are left of lives spent in these homes. But photographing a process, if that’s what I’m doing, requires a sort of before and after. Or at least two faces of a current situation. It’s somewhat problematic not to include houses that are still inhabited, when photographing others that aren’t. Or perhaps it’s not. Perhaps it’s just telling only half the story. Or a different story. 

Documenting this place also requires a different way of looking at my own pictures. I feel that my perhaps rather simplistic idea of a good picture - one that satisfies my sense of harmony and control, a composition that feels right, colours that please me -, falls short when applying it to this place, this series. Perhaps any series, because they need pictures for the sake of the whole, while I’m used to taking pictures that only need to exist in their own universe. And I’m sort of in the dark about what, in this given context, makes for a good picture. Or even one that I’m pleased with.
Take this photo of the two windows. As a single picture I wouldn’t have taken it. I included it (for now) because I think it is an important part of the story. Or at least an element of the story that I find significant. It’s up for debate of course if this is the best execution possible. I suppose not. I don’t even know if it’s noticable, but the two windows, curtains and reflections included, are exactly the same. Which means they are not windows. They are photographs taken of windows, meant to make the deserted part of the neighbourhood look less grim. There are also painted curtains, but I like the ambivalence of the more real-life photographs.

Also, documenting a place that changes over time requires a long term interest. Evidence shows that I’m not particularly good at that. I’m interested in a lot of things, but not necessarily in a deep, profound or everlasting way. But even if I manage to hold on to my initial interest, the time span is problematic anyway. Along the way, I find myself distracted by new ideas about execution, form, content, focus, approach, processing. It’s difficult to accomplish consistency over time. The fact that this set is black and white, as opposed to the previous one that I took last summer, and cropped into a different aspect ratio, speaks for itself.  

Which is not to say it’s not worth the effort. If only for all of the above.