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Hendrik Kerstens
Hendrik Kerstens
Hendrik Kerstens

Hendrik Kerstens

Country: Netherlands
Birth: 1956

Since 1995, Dutch photographer Hendrik Kerstens has been photographing his daughter, Paula. His photographs have been collected by museums around the world and have inspired taste-makers as diverse as Elton John and Alexander McQueen. (McQueen, in fact based his Fall 2009 collection on Kerstens' image of Paula with a plastic bag as a head-dress, using the image as his invitation for the show.)

Initially Kerstens' photographs were created out of the artist's desire to capture something of the fleeting moments that fade of childhood. The pictures recorded everyday events – his daughter's sunburn, the child's bath. However, one day there was a moment of revelation when Kerstens not only saw her in relation to the events of her own life, but also projected on her his interest in the Dutch painters of the seventeenth century.
 As Kerstens recalls, "One day Paula came back from horseback riding. She took off her cap and I was struck by the image of her hair held together by a hair-net. It reminded me of the portraits by the Dutch masters and I portrayed her in that fashion. After that I started to do more portraits in which I refer to the paintings of that era. The thing that fascinates me in particular is the way a seventeenth-century painting is seen as a surface which can be read as a description of everyday life as opposed to the paintings of the Italian renaissance, which usually tell a story. Northern European painting relies much more on craftsmanship and the perfect rendition of the subject. The use of light is instrumental in this."

A number of the portraits of Paula are clearly reminiscent of Johannes Vermeer. The austerity of the photograph, its clarity, the serene expression on the young girl's face, and not least, the characteristic "Dutch" light, all combine to create this impression.
 However, Kerstens was not just imitating painting. As the series progressed, he became increasingly interested in the game of creating a conceptual and humorous dialog between past and present. The titles give the game away. "Napkin" looks like a maid's bonnet. In "Bag", a plastic grocery bag is shaped to look like a lace hood. In other pictures no pretense is made to imitate 17th century clothing but Paula's face and Kerstens' light turn a thoroughly modern hoodie into a classic and timeless garment.

Conceptually, Kerstens' photographs play with the dialog between the mediums of painting and photography, with seriality, and time. On a more emotional level, they address everyday reality while expressing his love for his child, and the knowledge and development of his craft.

Source: Danziger Gallery


Hendrik Kerstens' (1956) oeuvre consists of a consequent sequence of portraits from his muse, his daughter, each time with a different angle, meaning or purpose. In the hemisphere of the radically realist paintings of the Dutch Golden Age, Kerstens explores the photograph as a surface, a platform to study contemporary ordinary objects and its meaning in historical tradition. With his typical selection for down-to-earth forms of headwear, from a napkin, a wet towel, spheres of lace to folded aluminium foil, he recalls how daily life has always been an integral subject of art, whether in the 17th or in 21st century.

With his clear ambition to illustrate the dialogue between history and contemporary life, rich and sober, functional and valuable, Kerstens also accomplishes to renew and contemporize history while boosting the position and function of day-to-day objects.

In connecting todays photography techniques with the camera obscura techniques in earlier times, Kerstens raises awareness for the use and development of the photographic process. It is not accidental that he is a state-of-the-art perfectionist, taking nothing for granted and giving a lot of attention to the work process. The printing proces itself, the hardly visible transition of the many dark tones, the interplay of light and shadow, Kerstens dedicates himself completely in refining the image, where details and the way of looking play a key role.

Kerstens, who worked many times with Kathy Ryan from The New York Times Magazine, was awarded the PANL award (2001) in the Netherlands; the Taylor Wesing Photographic Portrait Prize (2008) at the National Portrait Gallery in London, the silver LeadAward Medaillon, Porträtfotografie des Jahres (2010) in Germany and the 11th Lucie Award (2013). Kerstens work and ideas were included in Alexander McQueen's spectacular show The Horn of Plenty: Everyting but the Kitchen Sink, a retrospective on 15 shocking years in fashion.

Source: Flatland Gallery



Galleries:
  Danziger Gallery
  Jenkins Johnson Gallery
  Dean Project
  Flatland Gallery
 

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Sean Perry: When I was younger I didn't know or have access to any professional photographers, but I really loved movies and looked at a lot of books. At that time I got into music and everything else was just secondary. As a musician I always thought about pictures and the visual atmosphere great songs provoke and in my thirties I started photographing and haven’t stopped. AAP: Where did you study photography? With whom? SP: I don’t have a formal background studying photography but it’s not quite right to say I'm self taught either. One of my old bandmates, Jeff Miller is a brother to me, a great photographer and my first teacher - I learned about cameras, making good pictures and printing in the darkroom. That experience was also my first big introduction to contemporary artists like Joel-Peter Witkin and The Starns. I later had important mentors in a photographer I assisted for, Frank Curry and a sculptor who has had a tremendous influence on me as an artist and photographer, John Christensen. AAP:Do you have a mentor? SP: I have a few friends and colleagues who I admire and trust that I ask for insight and guidance with various things... Elizabeth Avedon, Jace Graf, Stephen Clark - there are others. I ask different people, different questions for different reasons if that makes sense. I think it's important to deeply consider who you ask and why. I've been a client of Mary Virginia Swanson for many years and her savvy is always invaluable, I truly owe her a great deal. I'm always learning and seeking out the chance to improve and grow. AAP: How long have you been a photographer? SP: I have been making pictures consistently since 1996 and started working professionally in 1998. AAP: Do you remember your first shot? What was it? SP: What I remember most are the pictures that when I saw the film, they made me feel that the image was somehow better, or more than my capability at the time. It would lead to months of chasing and trying to catch up to the image. The first time that happened was of a barren tree in the wintertime, backlit. I remember making the other pictures from that time, but the experience of seeing something unexpected back on the contact sheets always sticks with me as meaningful. AAP: What or who inspires you? SP: Music always. Also the discovery and study of people that give themselves to their pursuits with the discipline and heart to be excellent. New York City. Late fall leading to snow and cold weather makes me happy. AAP: How could you describe your style? SP: A little romantic but not sentimental - sci-fi but not overtly conceptual. I always work to make beautiful images and objects that don’t apologize for their consideration of aesthetic and design. My experience has taught me there is a strange, small line between beautiful and pretty, arbitrary and yet often substantial. I think my favorite word or aim for my work is earnest, and hopefully elegant. I try to be consistent and to quote someone I deeply respect, Paul Rand – "Don’t try to be original, just try to be good." AAP: What kind of gear do you use? Camera, lens, digital, film? SP: I’m fluent in digital tools and use them to manage images online etcetera, but I have used the same camera gear for over twelve years. Hasselblad 501CM with a 120mm lens and 25A Red filter. Tri-X film in A12 backs. Processed in D76, 1 to 1. Silver gelatin prints bleached and then toned in combinations of sepia and selenium or platinum–palladium prints from enlarged negatives. AAP: Do you spend a lot of time editing your images? SP: I tend to run film and then not look at it for a while.... I then go through the contact sheets and make work prints of the things that seem to have promise. As the series and work evolves the process of editing, sequencing and design kicks in. After the edges of a project are more or less in place, I’ll go back again and see what I may have missed on the contact sheets. AAP: Favorite(s) photographer(s)? SP: If I am only allowed one, Irving Penn – hands down, no one else. I love books and too many favorites to list, but in no particular order others would be Saul Leiter, Ted Croner, Robert & Shana Parke-Harrison, Tom Baril, Louis Faurer, Edward Burtynsky, Albert Watson, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Berenice Abbott and Matt Mahurin. AAP: What advice would you give a young photographer? SP: Fearlessly make all the bad pictures you need to in order to get to the good ones. Not thoughtlessly in the number of images, but without hesitation in the intent to chase your ideas. When you are disappointed, try to understand why specifically – was it a technical mistake your effort and experience will resolve over time or was it about vision in what you could or could not see at that moment. The technical things are usually easier to improve upon, I have found the other takes additional perseverance and courage. For myself there is always the confrontation of closing the distance between the potency I’m after and the many challenges at hand while guiding it there. I think the biggest secret is simply not to quit. AAP: What mistake should a young photographer avoid? SP: Everyone is different, so very hard to say. I believe one truth for myself has been it’s more valuable to invest time in what your pictures, your life, your point of view are all about and less energy worrying about the urgency sometimes encouraged in technology and shorter term concerns. Play long ball. AAP: An idea, a sentence, a project you would like to share? SP: I am currently administrating an ambitious project that connects college students with high school students, creating mentorship and the development of visual language. For the college students it is to illustrate the value of mentorship from both sides, as well as create meaningful dialogue about photography and image making. It provides a mechanism for high school students to share and express their photographic work with a new audience and has direct, tangible advantages for everyone involved – accenting the importance of communication and emphasizing the photography community's tradition of portfolio review. Visit The Picture Review. AAP: Your best memory has a photographer? SP: All of my favorite memories are darkroom related. My first darkroom was in John Christensen's studio, I deeply miss those days and that place. I would often print all day and all night - it's where I learned about photo-chemistry and the subtleties of split-toning and other irresistible alchemy. AAP: Your worst souvenir as a photographer? SP: My checking account. AAP: If you could have taken the photographs of someone else who would it be? SP: It's an interesting question but it reminds me of a rock & roll story, urban legend I remember as a kid and recently retold in Esquire Magazine. When Van Halen was touring in the late 70’s they were opening for Ted Nugent who admired Eddie Van Halen's guitar tone. Among other things, Eddie would hide one of his effect pedals (a tape echo) in an old bomb casing, adding to the mystery of his great tone and why he sounded the way he did. Everyone believed he had a "magic" black box. During sound check, Ted Nugent got the chance to play through Eddie’s rig and was disappointed to discover his guitar tone was unchanged – he sounded like he always did and whatever he loved about Eddie's tone was in his hands and not in the gear. I think photographs are like that, there are many pictures I would be thrilled if I had produced but in the end I can only make what is in my hands and heart. The images I love that others have made don't represent my life and could never belong to me. I remain a fan and audience to my heroes, happily so.
Jean-Christophe Béchet
Born in 1964 in Marseille, Jean-Christophe Béchet lives and works in Paris since 1990. Mixing B&W and color, silver and digital prints, 24x36 and medium format, polaroids and photographic 'accidents', Jean-Christophe Béchet seeks the "right tool" for each project, the one that will allow him to obtain a meaningful dialogue between an interpretation of reality and the photographic material. Inheritor of "street photography", whether it be American, French or Japanese, he likes to refer to his photographs as INHABITED LANDSCAPES. His glance on the world is constructed book by book, the area provided by the printed page being his "natural" field of expression. His photographs belong to several private and public collections and they have been showcased in more than sixty exhibitions since 1999, including at the Rencontres d'Arles in 2006 ("Urban Policies" series) and in 2012 ("Accidents" series) and the 'Mois de la Photo' (Month of Photography) in Paris, in 2006, 2008 and 2017. He is also the author of more than 20 books. FRENCHTOWN Project created for the Festival L'Oeil Urbain at Corbeil Essonnes Wedged between several highways and the National Road 7, the City of Corbeil-Essonnes is located 40 km south of Paris. It is the last city in the Paris' belt. As soon as you cross its limits, you are in the middle of nature. Too far from Paris to benefit from its proximity, it's neither in the provinces. This "in-between" gives rise to a feeling of strangeness and uneasiness. In this city, I felt I was in a typical and genuine French city and at the same time in a detective film. I had the impression of being a foreign visitor, an investigator, who was exploring a "French Town" to solve a minor incident. My photos are the result of a year of observation. I worked as a visual writer. Far from hot topics and for a long period of time, I captured the small details of everyday life and built an authentic story. Without forgetting that photography never shows reality, or truth, but an idea of reality. And it's already a lot... JCB
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