Following our recent media partnership with the Portfolio Review 2014 (Düsseldorf Photo Weekend), our attention was drawn to the work of Maurice van Es, a Dutch photographer and recent graduate of the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague. We thought this would be a good opportunity to consider his personal approach to portfolio reviews and his work within the wider context of contemporary Dutch photography.We began by asking van Es about his portfolio review presentation itself, for which he was one of three artists who won the Portfolio Review Arte Creative Award, along with Oliver Hartung and Christian Kryl, (Jan van der Til was awarded with the Portfolio Review Grieger Award)
Van Es spoke of presenting his publication Now Will Not Be With Us Forever, a book cassette of seven books he has previously published separately. He began “what I try to make clear is that I use photography to describe my own relationship towards the subject. And then with the photography vision of: What would you like to see back in 5 or 10 years? How can I make photography valuable to myself again? (At times there’s an overkill of images). For example I made a book about the unintended installations my mother made in my parental house. It’s very nice to capture something that holds my mother’s concentration. Or I photographed every piece of clothes I had in 2012, also one of the books. Or I used photography to describe my relationship to my brother in the series called New Life, and so on…”
From a reviewer’s point of view this is a fantastic situation to find oneself as the artist is showing a concise personal vision laid out in a systematic way that uses the limited time available. A crucial part of any review session is time management, and those who understand their practice best always give the best impression. A reviewer needs to be moved by the work of course, but most important is that the reviewer recognizes the reviewee has given the process and their practice some thought beforehand.
We can clearly see from his work, van Es likes to photograph objects. This of course is a particularly Dutch idea (not surprising considering the Netherlands’ merchant history) and why this has such staying power is that it follows a longstanding tradition that not only pays homage to that past but has built upon it with respect and playfulness. While it appears to have the immediacy of revolution it is essentially a conservative practice at core, repackaged by and for each new generation. Contemplating this tradition, van Es states of his own practice “making still lifes became part of my life but is just one of the things I do. In the Dutch still life genre I always admired Marnix Goossens and Elspeth Diederix’s work, but not mainly because of the form they choose. I love their way expressing wonder and love of all these supposedly ordinary, unimportant objects they make photos of. As if they were statements against all these supposedly important spectacular political things you see in the news and paper.”
Wrapping up his session van Es explains “I ended my presentation with my service Rooms of Now. With this service people can call me and then I come photograph all the characteristic details in their house, making a book out of it.” Obviously this shows that van Es has a predeliction for book making, that other great Dutch tradition, and has shown throughout the review that he has a particular way of working. He is willing to question this process as it develops and ends with a project that represents this willingness to leave some elements to chance. For van Es, chance is very important: “I just do things and think about it afterwards. A lot of works just come from living my life with a camera. I don’t know if I control the object after it is photographed, I only make sure I can see this situation again through a photograph.”
This aspect is exciting, but more importantly, it ends the session on an exciting note for the reviewer as it opens possibilities for discussion and future developments. As younger generations have grown up in a world dominated by cameras and expedient ways of disseminating photographs, photographic culture is now the dominant visual form. Thanks to this, younger generations of photographers have a confidence in making work that feels perfectly intuitive and reflective of their space and time, their unique culture. When asked about his influences beyond photography, van Es comments “in terms of finding subjects life itself influences me the most; like in Seinfeld there’s a scene where George explains to Jerry that all the things they experience in real life, can be a topic in their show. I feel that too. In terms of inspiration a lot of different things – reading Szymborska’s poems and bouncing my head to Danny Brown’s music in the same hour.”
In summation, it is quite apt that an artist like Maurice van Es photographs objects such as his mother’s temporal sculptures made from folded towels, or finds inspiration in the houses of strangers and then goes about producing a book to present the work, “I think right after seeing, touching a material is what I love to do most.” These are things that come natural to him as an artist, so consequently a reviewer can in turn appreciate the methodology and resulting proof.
All images ©Maurice Van Es