"The most interesting thing about artists is how they live."
“I think the heart of this work lies in the search for identity. I don’t live in the US anymore and I have now spent more than half of my life in Europe, so you start to ask yourself questions about identity, family history, belonging and trying to preserve your own history a bit. I can’t say I am influenced by the place where I grew up, it doesn’t exist anymore. I can’t go back there. If anything I am influenced by a memory of the place. I am interested in seeing how it became not only my story but a perfect example of globalization and progress running out of control.”
“The Higley project was the result of several events converging at one time and place. I grew up in the east valley of Phoenix. My sisters moved out to the new housing subdivisions far east of Phoenix, Arizona in 2005, at the height of the housing boom. There is nothing special about this, it was and is happening on the edge of almost every major city in the western world. What interested me was the fact that my grandparents used to be dairy farmers out in this same area and when I visited my sisters in their new house for the first time, I was struck by the contrast of what used to be a farming paradise had become the ‘bedroom community’ for a booming Phoenix.”
“Photographs and images are such a strong way of telling stories, which everybody can read. I don’t want to sound super cliché but you don’t need to speak the same languages to understand. That’s what I think is so beautiful about photography, it doesn’t need a translation when looking at it. I am not good with words, even answering these questions for you guys from Art Narratives takes some time. I guess this is the only way for me to actually tell and share stories. I am thirty years old and growing up, we -my generation- had a big transition in ways of communicating. The internet plays a huge roll in this too. Even now we are still developing and visual literacy is becoming increasingly important. As we are communicating more and more through images on a daily basis; whenever there is a cry smiley face emoji, which was chosen the word of 2015 by Oxford Dictionaries by the way. Or a sloth GIF that exactly explains your emotion at the moment.
We are used to be taught in schools how to interpret words or how to read, whenever this is theoretical, poetry and so on. But since the visual literacy is developing on such a high and fast level right now, you see a change in the way –young– photographers at the moment are also picking up new ways of telling stories. Those that blur the borders between documentary and conceptual practices and who are stepping outside of the traditional photojournalistic gaze.”
“Seeing the portraits all together – they show an explosion of personalities. Creating a dialogue with the interior and their members. They are fused with the locations. I felt the need to exclude them from it with the portraits. Deleting the background noise by putting them in a studio surrounding it became more confronting who these people are. A power shift: since they would pose with their arm, becoming an attribute and me shooting a portrait of them.”
“In 2011 a horrible shooting incident took place in the Netherlands, in Alphen aan de Rijn. The young Tristan van der Vlis shot several people in a shopping mall, before taking his own life. The shooter was a member of a range, with a registered weapon license, which allowed him to keep his weapon at home in spite of his psychotic and suicidal tendencies. In the wake of the incident, not only the government but everybody wondered how this was allowed to happen. With just a few shots, Tristan van der Vlis cast a dark shadow over the Dutch shooting culture. The pressure on the clubs is present; the rules have been examined and adjusted. Now the clubs have been given a huge responsibility by the government. Responsibility for their members.”
“‘It takes my mind off things’ is a wonderment at and interrogation of the shooting culture in the Netherlands. In this provocative piece, I posed the question; has the Netherlands always been a ‘secretive’ gun-nation? Secretive in that it has a long-standing fixation with firearms that is systematically hidden and denied. From the political-economic sphere of transnational interactions – the Netherlands place in the top five for creating firearm components in Europe – to the socio-cultural realm of the individual – the joy many Dutchmen find when firing at shooting ranges, a tradition that has existed for over hundreds of years.”
“After one month of work in the village, I said good bye to my colleagues and used the mountain tram to get to the bank of Changjiang river, which took about two hours. I started my venture towards the riverhead. In my previous travels from Shanghai to Tibet, I never stayed long in a town. Huangcumjing was the first place where I had an opportunity to actually interact with the local people in a meaningful way. In my time in the village, I saw how open, honest and kind the Chinese were. I was very surprised about the difference between the depiction of China by the media in Japan and their daily lives on site in China – in person, they were much more independent and possessed a strong mentality. In my time in Huangcumjing, I not only developed a greater understanding of Chinese people and their culture in general but I also developed a sense of intimacy with them and their culture.”
“During the one-week vacation around the Chinese national day in October, even the coal mine was closed. Most of the miners went back to their family homes with some ducks and full of sweet treats in their big bags – symbolizing their financial success. For most middle-class Chinese, including the miners, there is an ambitious drive to be richer – which forces them to move around to look for well-paid jobs. With the increased number of people working away from their families, the significance behind these holidays similarly increases. This drive for wealth also explains why so many people were willing to work in exceedingly dangerous conditions.”
“Xu was one of my colleagues. This picture shows him after his daily work. His daily wage was about 100RMB nearly equal to 15USD. Xu was married and had his wife and child at home in Shangxi. Like many others, Xu became a miner in his early 20’s to earn more money. His home province, Shanxi, was known for its abundance of coal mines but Xu wanted to find any good job except one in the dangerous mining sector. He struggled to find work and eventually decided to become a miner. Shortly after, he got married and still couldn’t find work – even as a miner. That’s how he ended up 1,000km away in Huangcumjing. In Huangcumjing, he dug coal in the mine-tunnels 10 meters below ground. One time, he recounted a time when the tunnel collapsed on him, forcing him to find a vent to breath through until he would be helped.”
“These photos are from a part of a series of ‘Changjiang’, which I have constantly worked on for 5 years. I was 26 when I traveled to China for the first time in 2008. I didn’t know much about China then. I only knew its population was unevenly distributed across its huge landmass.
This part was created in the time I stayed in a coal mine village in Sichuan for a month. The village I stayed is called Huangcumjing (the Chinese name is 黄村井), located about 200km south from Chengdu. Huangcumjing is the end of the Shibanxi Railway which is famous for its old steamroller in Sichuan nowadays. I worked as a labourer with daily meals and accommodation, but without a wage. I did not perform tasks that would normally be conducted by a miner. I carried logs (30-60kgs each) to the blast furnace to be burned for coal. I was never on par with the miners, I was viewed as a tourist with some curiosity.”