Photography courtesy of @limnic6 from #XOffering
Photography courtesy of @limnic6 from #XOffering
Grab your camera and go!
Follow your creative instincts, let go, enjoy, get out of your head that tends to over-think if given the chance, open up and allow yourself to see; not just with your eyes, but with something deep inside of you that vibrates whenever you find beauty.
Trust yourself and rely on your creative voice.
Shoot from the gut.
I believe that a truly good photo has something precious about it that touches the viewer; something she knows and feels but may have a hard time putting into words. It emanates from the subject matter and the way in which the photographer sees the subject, and often has very little to do with the photographer’s technical skill. While you are shooting pictures, at some point you feel this ‘something special’ in your gut — it happens quickly — where you recognize beauty in an instant moment, and very swiftly, without much thought or planning, you click the shutter button as a feeling rises in your chest. And you know you have experienced and captured magic!
Magic is often found where we least expect it to be.
Change up the perspective when you shoot. Photograph a portrait of someone from behind. Lie down on the ground and point your camera up to the sky. Turn over onto your belly and look carefully at the world that is normally underfoot, unnoticed. Photograph the eyes of someone you love.
Don’t forget to turn around, as the magic may have been there all along. Waiting in the light.
OC: What or who has influenced you to take pictures and, as you’ve said before, “stop time”?
JV: It is difficult to tell what or who influenced me to start taking pictures. I started as a young boy, with an old Agfa Clack given to me by my father. The will to shoot emerged from somewhere within myself. Nobody told me to take pictures, nobody stimulated me or told me to keep taking pictures. It was and is just something that comes from deep down inside, with no real or rational explanation. I felt, and still feel, that it’s just an inherent part of me, nothing more, nothing less.
I think I’m an observer of life as I never really felt I was actually taking part in life around me. It’s as if life is a stage, a movie, and I am back-stage, in the wings, watching as the play goes on. That’s why I take pictures; to get a grip on the world around me. Almost as a substitute for life itself, a camera is my therapeutic means to witness, get a hold of and live life, like a way to stop the clock so that I am to be able to step in, to feel what’s happening. I just want to stop time to keep the world, and anything in it that I love, close to me. I don’t want the beautiful things to fade away, I want to remember everything. And taking pictures is the best way to establish a strong memory which helps keep everything close. I’ve got my personal archive of about 20, 000 prints (not trusting the hard disc on my computers) which I consider my concrete memory. I’m part living in the past but the past was present just a second ago. I cherish that fresh past, I cherish the second before…
OC: You seem to have a deep understanding of the simple moments we can all overlook. Why and when did you see this emerging in your work?
JV: I think it’s an inner melancholy that makes me see the environment in a certain way, and accordingly I take a picture. It is a kind of longing, like an old romantic desire to find paradise. I don’t really consider it something special; I simply walk around, wherever I am, be it on a job, in a strange city, at home, or in bed when the sun rises through the curtains; and am guided by my eyes. They see beautiful morning sun rays on the wall, or a melancholy landscape, a beautiful face in the crowd, and I stand still, in awe, fascinated. There’s no theory behind it, no artistic method: things just capture me. And as I am not really bothered with reality, the economic world, or the future; as my life does not have a strict goal, things can fascinate me by merely being what they are, and the inner or outer beauty the convey. I am quite influenced by professional photographers, painters, authors, scientists, that have unconsciously conditioned my eyes, my feelings, my vision. People like Henry Cartier Bresson, Helmut Newton, Roberto Salgado, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Modigliani and Giacometti, Goethe, Baudelaire, Kundera, Marx, Weber, Baudrillard. They have all influenced what I see, and how I see. But, I don’t see anything ’emerging’ in my work. It’s just there, subconsciously. Pictures I took at the age of seven, are basically no different from the pictures I took yesterday.
OC: How has going digital affected your photography?
JV: I was a late adaptor of digital photography. I preferred my old camera’s, like the Nikon F3 and the Minolta X700, and their great solid prime lenses. And in fact, I still prefer those cameras, and certainly the output of film. Look at the old black and white photographs in newspapers! That still is the ultimate for me. But, after adapting to the digital way of life, it moved fast. Well, not that fast, because it took me some time to get familiar with the idea of digital photography itself, being able to change ISO for example, or convert color to black and white. This whole new technology is still magic to me.
Whereas I developed maybe 20 rolls of film a year in the nineties (roughly 700 pictures), I am now taking a few thousand of them. And I experience an enormous amount of freedom and possibility to experiment now. It is so easy now to grab a camera, and take a picture. Billions and billions of pictures are taken every day. Go, and have a look at the Sacre Coeur in Paris—everybody is taking pictures. It’s really incredible, millions of pictures every day, thousands per hour! And mobile photography to me is a real revolution. The availability of a camera phone in my pocket, does change the way I’m walking around. I am now, more than ever, looking and searching with a photographic eye, be it in the supermarket, on the road, in my own house; everywhere. Of course, that changes my overall way of living. ‘Being photographic’ all day long comes at the expense of other equally important things like reading, talking, or ‘not-looking’. I mean, the progress of digital photography brings new disadvantages, new problems. Sometimes I say to myself: today there’s no need to activate your ‘camera eye’, because today you are not going to take any pictures and it is liberating. For me, digital photography is an incredibly beautiful technology, but created an addiction/obsession at the same time, even more so with all those great possibilities to share your pictures with like-minded people all over the planet.
OC: What kinds of photographs are your favorites to capture?
JV: They are always pictures without people, and usually with some movement in them. I love the dynamic of literally a tiny moment in time as a glimpse in eternity. It could’ve gone unnoticed, but by sheer accident, it was noticed by me, only by me. Nobody saw it, and nobody will ever see it in exactly the same way. These types of images represent small transitions, unnoticed by the world which is busy living and doing more ‘important’ things.
OC: What touches you, draws you in, to other people’s photographs?
JV: I love seeing other people’s photographs, be they professionals or amateurs, especially on Instagram. I follow people from all over the world, and in the morning, when I wake up, and made my cup of coffee, I take my tour around the world. I enjoy experiencing the world in a single moment; from Japan to Venezuela, to South Africa, to Italy, to the United States. It makes me feel part of that same world, and makes me feel good about people in general. Looking at other people’s photographs, especially professional documentary photographers, I can watch a street scene in Syria, a volcano eruption in the Philippines, and a political scene in The Netherlands all in the same minute. More than the written word, and even more than video, photography gives me a sense of immediacy, of being a true witness. Sitting at my table in my humble house in The Netherlands, in a far away place close to the border of Germany, I live multiple lives, thanks to the internet and social media. It’s unprecedented. I am here, I am everywhere; in the present and in the past.
I often share the story that I was once told by my art teacher that I “made the most beautiful mistakes” he had ever seen. Looking back, I could have taken that all wrong. Instead, I wore it as a badge of honor. It was as if he had given me a place, some sort of value, a creative definition. Of course, that wasn’t all that I was—an artist who stumbled accidentally into her best creative work—but it felt like a perfect stake to claim. And so I did. And I have carried it with me ever since as a reminder that I can’t possibly see or even envision what might happen if I make room for mistakes and in turn, magic.
I recall him shaking his head in wonder and disbelief as I shared with him the end result of a project that appeared to be going terribly wrong. Until it didn’t. In fact, the process through it’s evolution went all right and to this day, the small series of Polaroid slides that we’re born from that process are some of my most prized pieces.
The assignment was simple really; shoot a small roll of Polaroid Instant Slide Film, place it into the little plastic contraption with a chemical filled processing cube, crank the handle and in a matter of minutes, processed slides would emerge. Only when it was my turn, my cube malfunctioned and didn’t process my film properly. I was so frustrated and disappointed, I almost threw it all away. Instead, my teacher encouraged me to see if I could salvage it. With nothing else to lose, I carefully pried open the plastic cube of chemicals to see if I could manually develop the slides. As I carefully dipped a swab into the gel, I remember a group of curious classmates gathering around me to see what my experiment might yield.
What happened next was pure photographic magic. As I wiped the black roll of slides with the wet swab, the thick, dark coating slowly lifted off and my images began to reveal themselves. It was thrilling! I noticed that the force of my hand moving the tool across the film was causing the surface to scratch but I was already headlong into a process that was far beyond my control so I just kept working. When it was all over, I had about a dozen of the most beautiful little masterpieces I had ever created.
You often hear people say that things sometimes work out better than they could have ever imagined. I know that was the case with my slides. And truthfully, I think it was because it didn’t happen at all as I imagined it. I believe with all my heart that the most beautiful stuff happens when we are open to seeing and embracing what develops despite our hard work and best laid plans. I wonder if our imagination is so limited, our dreams so tame, our ideas so restricted that the only way to bust out of the cubes we create is by the power of magic.
Whatever the case, there’s something out there working on our behalf, even when things seem dark, covered, broken, or unsalvageable. Allowing and acknowledging Divine intervention—magic—however we choose to define it, might just be the only way to create, live, and love beyond anything we could have ever imagined.