Maurice van Es is currently graduating at the Royal Academy of Arts in the Hague.
How hard do you have to search to find a photograph?
Not that hard. I photograph a lot and am open for the most simple things I see. I like to search for images that let you think of the “before” and “after”. So the picture refers to actions that cannot be seen in the picture itself but needs your imagination to come alive.
Hans van der Meer once made a nice comment about photography: “When you’re standing on the street you sometimes pick up a line out of a story when strangers pass. A photograph is nothing more than that.
Do you intentionally set up a photograph that will create a desire, with in the viewer, to touch the subject?
What I try to do is to make people aware of my position. I like to be aware of the idea that every picture you see has been taken by a person with a camera. Thinking what has driven the person to make the picture can fascinates me.
It’s a little bit like Barthes explains it with movies.
I think Anna Fox and Nigel Shafran are especially aware of this. I love their work for this reason. Good example is the series “Ruth on the phone” by Nigel Shafran. Here photography works on both sides of the camera. You see Shafran’s girlfriend getting older, the environment is changing all the time. But what struck me most was that there was somebody who pointed his camera at this every time, being conscious that the everyday scene he was facing one day will be the past.
”Ruth on the Phone” by Nigel Shafran
Can you talk about the sense of longing that of drives the work and what we imagine sparks the need to take the photograph.
I don’t like it that time can’t be stopped. For that reason I’m looking for photographs that can be portals to go back in time.
Another drive for me is to understand time and the universal changes we all experience.
How happy was your childhood? How sad was it? Is this integral to the work?
My childhood was the best time ever. I was a very adventurous and open child, always playing outside. Collecting and raising tadpoles I found, making a treehouse, that kinda stuff.
The sad thing about my childhood is that it’s a time that never comes back. I really wish to be seven again. One of the subjects of my work is longing to the past. So in some way my childhood influenced me a lot.
Does your work only function if you and the viewer can relate your work back to a shared experience in life?
I strongly believe a photograph only really works when you see something in the image you have a relationship with. Like you see your own photos of your childhood. I am skeptical of what a photo could communicate to a person. Especially nowadays when we see like 1000 images a day.
I like the beginning period of photography (1850-1900), when photographs were experienced very intense.
“There is no work of art in our age so attentively viewed as the portrait of photography of oneself, one’s closest friend and relative, one’s beloved.” is a quote of Alfred Lightwark that applies to that time. And still does.
Another thing the viewer can relate to is the subject you choose.
Because of the media we have forced relationships with things that have no value for us at all. I don’t like that. My interests are purely natural. Having a mother, a brother in puberty, leaving your parental house, wearing clothes a certain period, are subjects we all can relate to.
Nowadays everything has to be big and spectacular. My brother does not have to be sick before I point my camera at him. I like to give a voice to the more simple things that I think are far more valuable and recognizable. Also for my audience.
Why do you only shoot in color?
My photography is about my vision I have on reality. As my eyes see in color my camera does too.
What inspires you the most at the moment?
I recently felt in love with the poetry of Wislawa Szymborska.
The commonplace miracle:
that so many common miracles take place.
The usual miracles:
invisible dogs barking
in the dead of night.
One of many miracles:
a small and airy cloud
is able to upstage the massive moon.
Several miracles in one:
an alder is reflected in the water
and is reversed from left to right
and grows from crown to root
and never hits bottom
though the water isn’t deep.
A run-of-the-mill miracle:
winds mild to moderate
turning gusty in storms.
A miracle in the first place:
cows will be cows.
Next but not least:
just this cherry orchard
from just this cherry pit.
A miracle minus top hat and tails:
fluttering white doves.
A miracle (what else can you call it):
the sun rose today at three fourteen a.m.
and will set tonight at one past eight.
A miracle that’s lost on us:
the hand actually has fewer than six fingers
but still it’s got more than four.
A miracle, just take a look around:
the inescapable earth.
An extra miracle, extra and ordinary:
can be thought.