Gypsy Eyes, Istanbul 1988

Gipsy Eyes

Gerry-An, Tzigane, Avenue Magazine 1988

Most people change their behavior when they become aware of the presence of a camera or see a smartphone pointed at them.
Some make exaggerated gestures, indicating they don’t want to be photographed and turn their head away, but every time again, it strikes me how many people start to pose.
They put on airs, make funny faces or look gracefully into the camera. Some put on sunglasses or a weird little hat, others hold up an object.
Normally nice people suddenly start to act like clowns, behaving like fools, trying to look tougher, sexier, funnier, better, whatever, in order to give an impression of themselves, different from who they are.

They obviously find it difficult to continue with what they were doing as soon as they realize they will be photographed, frozen in time, for the world to see.

Nothing new in itself. Behavior like this already existed long before the digital age in which we live now, and in which many claim their ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ by posting their finest moments in theatrical poses on Facebook. Sometimes as a selfie, with or without a duck face.
I often wonder to what extent these kind of pictures represent ‘reality’, and why the need to be captured ‘unreal’ arises, since untrained people who start to perform, usually look like bad actors in old fashioned silent movies.

Uncertainty? Dissatisfaction with reality? Or corresponding to an assumed expectation as a form of acquired ‘normal’ behavior, belonging to photography?

Making pictures of people, posing like models in overacted, unnatural ways is as old as photography itself, and became a habit accepted by many. Think for instance of Madonna: ‘Strike a pose! Vogue, Vogue, Vogue!’
The opposite, however, to photograph models like people, and express a timeless, human feeling, is another possibility.

 

Harlem, New York 1976

US NY '76 Harlem 01

Harlem, New York 1976

The ability to express a personal, subjective view on reality, is the essence of photography.
To create a neutral photographic registration without commitment or vision is something different. Maybe only a passport photo machine or surveillance camera will be capable of doing so.

 

Da Gigino, Sorrento 1992

638 Naamloos-02

Irah at Da Gigino, Via degli Archi, Sorrento 1992

Soon, ‘Da Gigino, food and family’ will be released. A wonderful photo/cook book filled with traditional Italian family recipes photographed by Hans de Kort and written by Saskia Schmitz.

Da Gigino is a restaurant in the Via degli Archi in Sorrento, Italy, where Irah and I used to go often while working in Sorrento and Capri. The food was always excellent, the service impeccable, the hospitality and atmosphere unmistakably Italian and completely unique at the same time. An authenticity and sincerity that can not be imitated.

Over time, we became friends with Ciro, the owner, and the rest of the Esposito family that ran the place; once we even shot a fashion story in the restaurant, in its kitchen and in the little street right in front of their door.

This was all twenty years ago. From what I understand, the food is still great. That hasn’t changed. According to the book it stayed the same, just like the looks of the alley where this unmatched, ‘Nr.1′  restaurant is located.

 

Sunday 5 pm, Amsterdam 1983

Amsterdam 1983

Excerpt from ‘Nabelichting’, Chapter 23, Nothing is Real

Straight from the beginning, on my very first pictures, I noticed that the framed reality on the contact sheets seemed to have more importance, content, and poetry than the original ‘real’ reality. I recognized this later, when I read ‘Secret Arms’ by the Argentinean author Julio Cortázar. In his short story ‘The Devils Drool’, he gives the best possible definition of photography that I’ve heard to this day: ‘One of the best ways of combating oblivion and nothingness, is taking photographs…’

It felt like coming home.
There can be so much beauty in ostensibly small, unnoticeable, and unimportant things which, when captured at the right moment, in the right light, and in the right frame, suddenly become visible and give content to ‘nothingness’. As Cortázar worded it: ‘That rough and delicious career of sunlight on an old stone, or the dancing braids of a girl returning with a loaf or a bottle of milk, instead of simply lurking in wait of the lie like some reporter or catching the moronic silhouette of a big shot coming out of 10 Downing Street.’

When you watch – or better – see things this way, existence itself seems to have more content, with more beauty and meaning.

Not long after I saw Antonioni’s film ‘BlowUp’ – based on Cortázar’s story – in which the protagonist struggles with the uncertainty about to which degree the images he creates are objective and represent reality, I knew I wanted to become a photographer.
To be able to interpret reality and make things look like and show them to others, as I saw them, seemed like a beautiful profession.

 

Marian Mudder, Oostende 1999

Marian Mudder '99 01

Marian Mudder, Thermae Palace Hotel, Oostende, Playboy Magazine 1999

“On my very first photo shoot, when I was still a kid, I also worked with Bart, which made the Playboy shoot, many years later, so special.
This time we wanted the pictures to give the impression that someone was spying on me in a hotel room, so I was photographed in a way that looked as if I thought I was alone.
I remember the stylist asking me to see if a slip would fit. When I wanted to go into the bathroom to try it on, I realized I had to be naked anyway. I walked around without my clothes all day but couldn’t stop laughing.” – Actress Marian Mudder in Playboy Magazine.

 

Irah in the Mist, IJmuiden 1993

Irah in de Mist '93Irah in the Mist, IJmuiden Beach 1993

“If you closely study a person’s posture and movements, you can often get an impression of their mood from as far as a hundred meters away. Even in the mist. Chin up or chin down, straight up or slouched. These things intrigue me and sparked my interest in physical expression, such as rhythmic gymnastics, ballet and dance. Body language.
Movement, attitude and expression reveal more than words.” – 40 Years of Dutch Magazine Photography

 

Squash, Valencia 1991

Valencia '91 Squash

Squash Court, Matinique, Valencia 1991

While searching for locations for fashion shoots, I took pictures of streets, walls, buildings, and squares to find out what possibilities they offered as backgrounds. Abstract compositions of shape and color, form without content, in which my only concern was the way things looked in the picture, not what it really was I photograped.

Sometimes this resulted in images that illustrate how discrete things and even hidden beauty can be made visible by isolation and framing, and show what a great tool photography can be to give importance to the ostensibly insignificant.

 

Madame Grès, Paris 1986

Paris '86 Madame Grès

Apollonia, Madame Grès, Avenue Magazine 1986

Shooting pictures from windows has always fascinated me.

While working in Paris with stylist-producer Frans Ankoné and model Apollonia, we realized it would save us a lot of time to make a picture of ‘Apples’ while she stayed in her room in Hotel Chrystal and just looked out of the window, instead of going outside in the freezing cold, and wander around to find a proper location.

I never hesitated to ring someone’s doorbell and ask if I could make a picture from their window or balcony. As long as you’re polite and don’t give people the impression they are obliged to comply, such a request must be possible. I’ve always been lucky, nobody ever refused, people have always been very cooperative. Like in this case; I was even offered a cup of coffee. The picture was made within short notice, I drank my coffee, and we gained some time for the rest of the day.

 

Maja, Amsterdam 1987

Maja vd Broecke 1987

Maja vd Broecke, Playboy Magazine 1987

“Voluptuous is beautiful, Van Leeuwen thought, and asked actress Maja van den Broecke to be his model for a series of pin-up shots that would sent tremors through both thick and thin in the Netherlands, a country in the grip of crash diets – the bread diet had just knocked the sherry diet from its first place.
Bold, attractive, lovely, strange, ugly, beautiful: the opinions were so divided that it had to be something special. Photography that stirred something in people.
The images still stir emotions, and create a wonderful sense of shameless freedom.” – Karen van Ede in 40 Years of Dutch Magazine Photography

 

Mijke, Amsterdam 1998

Myke '98 Jewels

Excerpt from ‘Nabelichting’, Chapter 25, Double Vision

The editor of the magazine devoted to jewels and watches kept for over half a million worth of jewelry in the small beauty case that she was nonchalantly holding.
She didn’t care for a bodyguard or security.
“If I just carry it around casually, nobody will notice.” she said, very confident. “I would never do it in a city, but here, on this little island, I think I can.”
The case contained rings and bracelets made out of white and yellow gold. Black and white diamonds, brilliant-, princess- and marquise cut. Sapphires, sweetwater pearls, coral, emeralds and rubies.

 

Iceland, Blaa Lonid 1993

Blaa Lonid 1993

Vikings, Avenue Magazine, September 1993

It was everywhere.
It started upon our arrival, at the airport.
The hotel, the restaurants, the people we met, the van we rented to scout locations. Even the drinking water. Everything seemed to be steeped in it. Hydrogen sulfide, H2S. Sulfur.
The smell from hell, according to some. I don’t know how they found out but this stench was as terrifying as the world below could ever be. It rose from cracks in the earth, like a silent assassin.
After three days we became nose-deaf, like everybody else, and had a great time.
Until I arrived back home, and opened my suitcase.

 

Mahjong, Amsterdam 1992

Mahjong '92 A'dam

Yin and Yang, Avenue Magazine, October 1992

“Chinese it has to be.” the stylist said. “Anything Chinese. We need to do a story on Chinese influences on fashion. I’m really sure it’s the next big thing.”
I couldn’t agree more. In my opinion China had been the next big thing for the past 5000 years. But in this case it concerned fashion and all of a sudden I was not so sure anymore. Talking about food I knew how big Chinese influences had been throughout the ages, or wisdom, thinking of Lao-Tse and Confucius, revolution, having Mao in mind or fire crackers, thinking of New Years eve, but fashion?

Not knowing what to do I went to the Chinese quarters of Amsterdam, a Chinatown similar to the ones you find anywhere in the world – from London to Singapore, from Texas to Madrid.

I saw the restaurants where I loved to go, and had dim-sum for lunch or roasted duck Beijing style. The gambling houses, off limits for non-Chinese, the grocery stores, the souvenir shops with all kinds of stuff for incredibly low prices and the doors with nameplates mentioning doctors practicing traditional Chinese medicine.

“What are you looking for?” a friendly old man dressed in shorts and a ‘wife beater’ asked me when he saw me wandering around. “Can I help you?” “Maybe, I don’t know.” I answered and tried to explain that I was looking for inspiration.
“Oh, yes. I understand.” He smiled at me and I noticed he had hardly any teeth. “You make pictures. Just make them in front of my store, very Chinese and here, come, look.”

He invited me to enter the empty space behind him that probably once had been a restaurant and gave me a red painted piece of wood with some golden characters on it. “You take this. Use it somewhere on the wall. Very Chinese. Bring it back when you are ready.”

A week later, I went back to the store to return his property.
The place was empty. No one answered when I rang the bell.
A note on the door said: “Closed. Out of Business.”
I always kept the sign but only recently I found out what the meaning was of what was written on it. Very Chinese indeed.

 

John Cale, Amsterdam 1995

58 John Cale 1995

John Cale, Amsterdam Magazine, August 1995

John Cale didn’t show a lot of enthusiasm when I met him in an Amsterdam Hotel for a portrait shoot.
“Where do you want me?” he asked. “Do I look at you or do you want me to act natural, minding my own business?”

“Just stay where you are, we’ll see what happens.”

He was sitting on a bench in the garden of The Grand Hotel, reading a magazine.
The light was very flat, coming from all sides.
I made a couple of shots but didn’t like what I saw.
“Come over here.” I asked. “Stand in the doorway, just inside the building. We’ll have some more contrast. Looks much better.”
“Interesting,” he said. “Going into the dark to get a better picture. Usually it’s the other way round.”
He seemed to brighten up a little. More interested in what we were doing.
When I told him who my friends in New York were, a few years after he made his first recordings with Andy Warhol, Lou Reed, and Nico and the Velvet Underground, he was really surprised. He used to know them quite well.
“My God.” he said, laughing. “How the hell did you survive?”
“How did you?” I asked and pushed the button.
I was sure it was a wrap.

 

Chanel, Paris 1986

Paris 1986 (2)

Haute Couture, Chanel, Avenue Magazine, July 1986

My assistant didn’t hesitate. He had just got his driving licence and was very self-assured. He ran another red light, and continued his way, using a bus lane and driving on the left side of the road. When we were stopped by a policeman who asked him in French what he thought he was doing, he answered in Dutch. The man of the law told him to drive on since we were blocking traffic. ‘Roulez, roulez!’ he shouted, making circular gestures with his hands, angry and upset.

We drove through Paris in an old Datsun, looking for the right place and the right light. When we found a good spot, we parked the car, went to a ‘Bar Tabac’, and put Apollonia in a dress by Chanel, Dior or Yves St. Laurent.
Then, as quick as we could, we made a picture and went on.
Always in a hurry. The dresses had to be back at the salon at five.

 

Bicycle Belles, Amsterdam 1990

Avenue 1990-10 

Bicycle Belles, Avenue Magazine, October 1990

“Although he took many portraits and advertising photos, Van Leeuwen played a particularly important role in fashion photography during the seventies, eighties and nineties. A period of unlimited possibilities, in which rock ’n roll, naked models, and lines of cocaine went hand in hand.
By setting the scene, styling and minimal direction, he integrated his imagination into reality in order to create a temporary, new reality, searching for a human story. Following the best documentary traditions – as can be seen in the work of Dutch photographers like Van der Keuken and Van der Elsken – he tried to create natural images. ‘I used to stage all kinds of situations, sometimes exceptional or extreme, but always realistic, that I captured on film, like in a documentary.’  
In his photos spontaneity, surprise and story, play an important role, there is always something happening, you never see a model in a classic pose just promoting her outfit. Created Reality.“ – Fiona Hering in 40 Years of Dutch Magazine Photography

 

Traffic, London 1997

London '97 03

London Traffic, Hamilton Place, April 1997

Throughout the years, while travelling, I made it a habit to take a picture of what I saw when I looked out of the window, first thing in the morning.
As a reminder of where I had been.
Like this view from the Metropolitan Hotel, London 1997.

 

View from my Room, Amsterdam 1967

Amsterdam 1965

Kromboomssloot 22a, Amsterdam 1967

The doorbell rang.
We had just finished dinner, and my mother, my sister and I looked at each other in surprise. Who could it be? A strange moment for an unexpected visitor.
I stood up, and went through the narrow hallway towards the outside door and looked through the little square window in the middle of it. Nobody.

The bell rang again. “Huh?” It was only then that I noticed our neighbour Koekoek. He was even smaller than I thought. He had pressed himself against the outside of the front door in order not to get wet by the drizzling rain. I opened the door and let him in. He was shivering.

It was 1967. We lived on Kromboomssloot, one of the smallest canals of Amsterdam. It was cold outside and even in the hallway it was kind of chilly.
“It’s Koekoek.” I said, loud enough to let my mother and sister know who the unexpected guest was.
“Come in, neighbour, good to see you.” my mother said, “Would you like some coffee?”
“Oh eh, yes, please, thank you.” Koekoek said in his typical Rotterdam accent, remarkable for someone who had lived in Amsterdam for so many years. He always acted a little nervous and insecure in the presence of my mother, who was much younger than him.
“Eh, I have a question.” He began talking right away, even before my sister asked if he would like some sugar or milk in his coffee. “You know this photographer, filmmaker Johan van der Keuken, well eh, he asked me, I mean my son, he asked my son, if it would be possible to use your house as a location for a movie he’s working on. A documentary, I don’t know, something like that. Next week. If we, I mean, eh…if  I, could arrange that.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Johan van der Keuken! My hero!

I was seventeen years old, and one of the things I loved most was taking pictures. I had a 35 mm rangefinder camera, and a little darkroom in the basement where I developed my films and made black and white prints. It meant everything to me. After having seen Antonioni’s Blow Up and William Klein’s Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo? I was sure I wanted to become a photographer.

Already at a very young age I got inspired by Steichen’s Family of Man, later on by the pictures of Avedon and Klein in Vogue and most recently by Van der Elsken’s Sweet Life, but Van der Keuken’s We are Seventeen, which I had known most of my life, was really something that had impressed me. The way he had portrayed his friends had always appealed to me. It made it easy to identify with them. I could ‘feel’ them. Just like they were. Like I wanted to be.
“Yes, yes, yes!” I said, looking at my mother. “Say yes!”
“Tell me, Koekoek, what exactly is it, this Johan van der Keuken wants?” my mother asked, interested.
From that moment on I knew Van der Keuken was going to use our house in a film. And I had a chance to meet him!

 

The Sheltering Sky, Marrakech 1990

Sheltering Sky '90

The Life of Paul Bowles, Avenue Magazine, June 1990 

“On a bleak February evening in the early eighties, I met the American fashion journalist Richard Buckley in Café de Flore in Paris, who told me very enthusiastically about a book he had just read.

The next morning I found The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles at the reception desk of my hotel. It was years before Bertolucci made his movie adaptation. In no time I had devoured all of Bowles’ books along with those written by his wife Jane.

I told Bart about the novel. He was immediately interested, and we decided to go to Morocco. Bart takes his best pictures when he can delve into the details of a story or personality. He loves setting scenes and thinks in terms of cinematic images. His preference will never go to simply photographing eight different red dresses in a studio. The best productions we made together were travel stories. A clear narrative, interesting research, a captivating model and an exciting location are the best ingredients for a successful fashion series.

Bart works well in chaotic circumstances. Extremely busy surroundings, bad weather, an intrusive crowd of spectators or unruly animals will never interrupt his concentration. I was always amazed when I saw his hotel room. Countless rolls of film, all coded and perfectly arranged, ready to be sent to the lab.” – Frans Ankoné in 40 Years of Dutch Magazine Photography

 

Una Donna Particolare, Naples 1985

Naples '85 02

Una Donna Particolare, Avenue Magazine, February 1985

A good picture tells something about its subject. Not only what it looks like but what it represents. It is not an image of what is photographed but an image about what is photographed. It triggers your fantasy or touches your emotions. Anyway it’ll make you think.

Photographs become more interesting when the subject or what is happening in the picture is remarkable or caught in an unusual atmosphere. When images are mere representations of their subject, objective registrations, they can be proof of outstanding craftsmanship but generally only good enough to be used in sales catalogues, insurance documents or personnel files. As a way of stock-taking.

Depending on the intended use of a picture and the ideas of the photographer, he or she decides where and whenever the shutter will be released.

Personally I always found it hard to commit myself to rules and concepts figured out in advance to achieve good results. During a shoot, things would often look different from what I had in mind. Sometimes I had to change my ideas every hour, depending on the weather or other unpredictable circumstances. So you have to be flexible and open to coincidence. Sometimes just in order not to lose time.

But, while shooting in Italy, working on ‘Una Donna Particolare’, there was one thing the stylist and I both absolutely knew for sure: we were going to photograph our model sitting on the back of a bike with a priest.
She ended up on a donkey cart. With a farmer.

 

Linda Spierings, De Koog 1986

Linda Texel '86 02

Blueprint of Grey, Avenue Magazine, September 1986

“My picture had been displayed for more than two months on the noticeboard of Ulla Models, while my life as a poor student continued as usual.
Then, unexpectedly, came a phone call from photographer Bart van Leeuwen.
Apparently he had seen the snapshot hanging on the wall, and liked it.
I went over to his studio, and showed him my other photographs; just two or three, all I had. Much to my surprise, he asked me if I could join him the following week on a trip to France for a photo shoot. The rest is history.” – Linda Spierings in 40 Years of Dutch Magazine Photography

 

Tattooed, Amsterdam 1992

Tattoo A'dam '92

Yin and Yang, Avenue Magazine, October 1992

“The first thing that comes to mind when I think back to my time as an apprentice with fashion photographer Bart van Leeuwen, is the appearance of the models when I opened the door to them in the morning. While Bart was still in bed, recovering from the night before, there stood someone on the doorstep who did not even remotely deserved to be called a cover girl.

The inconspicuousness of the model could be overruled by Bart, who usually arrived at the studio around nine thirty with the famous words: ‘So, what are we actually doing today?’ But both professionals, photographer and model, knew better. From the very first moment that he entered the studio, Bart had the storyboard in his head and set about making sure that the whole team: client, model, hair and make-up were on the same page. With his disarming demeanour and special way of dealing with models, he was able to draw the very best performances out of them. He taught me the true meaning of the concept photogenic.

His pictures have a casualness that gives his work a beautiful documentary character. This narrative, cinematograpic style, fuelled by an unerring feeling for composition, light and drama, makes his work unique. Storytelling through a small series of photos is demonstrated perfectly in the Tattoo series. Six images, all equally stunning in composition and light, combine to depict an exciting and timeless fashion story.” – Gerard Wessel in 40 Years of Dutch Magazine Photography

 

Studio 54, New York 1978

US NY '78 Studio 54

Excerpt from ‘Nabelichting’, Chapter 14, Trick or Treat 

The room was packed. You could hardly move. The music was earth shatteringly loud, wildly moving lights kept flashing. Many were dressed up. An unusual mix of resurrected Marilyn Monroes, Spider-Men, Pharaohs, Frankensteins, devils and nuns. Costumes with feathers and tails, satin hats with sequins and fur, chains. Apart from their masks, some were naked.
Zombielike partygoers, zonked out on Quaaludes, staggered around while others, with pursed lips and eyes wide open, high on cocaine, were wildly gesturing, talking loudly in their effort to overwhelm the music.

The unmistakable, synthetic scent of amyl nitrite was floating across the room.

The way people looked in combination with their state of mind, the train of thought that ostensibly leapt through their eyes – only to back down and disappear in a drug induced state of catatonic bliss – made me feel like I had ended up in a painting by Hieronymus Bosch. No one objected when I made pictures; some even struck poses.

There was no space left on the dance floor, in the small adjacent rooms people were pressed against each other. My friends had disappeared and the pale girl with the green eyes seemed to have gone up in smoke as well. Upstairs, in the semi-dark of the mezzanine, a few heavily mustached ballerinas with hairy backs looked down on the dancing crowd.

 

Elly Koot, Amsterdam 1974

Elly Koot '74

Elly Koot, Fun Fur, Nieuwe Revu Magazine 1974

Magazines were ‘the’ thing to work for in the Seventies. It meant exposure, and generated new assignments from other magazines, advertising agencies, and art galleries. Usually you were free to do whatever you liked as long as it fitted within the context of the magazine. They had large budgets because they sold a lot more copies every month than they do now. Wonderful times for a young photographer.

“We took this photo together on my bed, the kind you could live in, made out of wood, painted black, typical Seventies. You wore cowboy boots and after the shoot there were loads of scratches in the black paint. We hadn’t been that wild. Hahaha!” – Elly Koot in 40 Years of Dutch Magazine Photography

 

Dolores Olmedo, Mexico City 1989

Dolores Olmedo '89

Dolores Olmedo, Avenue Magazine 1990

Dolores Olmedo (María de los Dolores Olmedo y Patiño Suarez, 1908 –2002) was a Mexican businesswoman, philanthropist and musician, known for her friendship with painters Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera. She appeared on some of Rivera’s paintings. After Frida Kahlo’s death in 1954 she took care of her inheritance, including most of her paintings and ‘La Casa Azul’, the Blue House in Coyoacán, once Kahlo’s and Rivera’s home, now a museum, in a small town on the outskirts of Mexico City.

We were in one of the largest cities in the world, doing a story on Frida Kahlo for Avenue, and thought it would be a good idea to shoot some pictures in the house where Kahlo lived most of her life. The house where she was born, grew up and lived together with Rivera after their marriage. Hopefully some of her presence was still ‘in the air’. We dressed Gerry-An, our model, in a way Frida could have looked, accentuated her eyebrows, and went over to Mrs. Olmedo’s mansion ‘La Noria’ in Xochimilco, just south of Mexico City.

There she was: 81 years old, sophisticatedly dressed in black, meticulously made-up, eye lashes and all, wearing her famous red coral necklace that must have weighed pounds, and surrounded by some of her dangerous looking Xoloitzcuintles, Mexican hairless dogs.
She was kind of shocked when she saw Gerry-An, stared at her with eyes wide open. The resemblance to Frida, her long deceased friend, was astonishing she said, and while we talked and explained what we wanted to do, Mrs. Olmedo couldn’t keep her eyes of her. It still took some time and a small donation however, to persuade her to allow us to photograph inside Frida’s house. It is not elegant to give in too quickly – a day earlier she had refused Paloma Picasso with a similar request – but in the end she couldn’t refuse our demand, amazed as she was by Gerry-An’s appearance.
So we had a drink to celebrate and I was allowed to photograph wherever I wanted and whatever I liked in La Casa Azul; including Frida’s bedroom and all of her paintings. Muchas gracias señora Olmedo!

 

Gerry-An, Coyoacán 1989

Frida K '89 01

Gerry-An, Frida Kahlo, Avenue Magazine 1990

In December 1989 producer-stylist Frans Ankoné, hair&make-up artist John Kattenberg, model Gerry-An Schets, and I went to Mexico to do a story on Frida Kahlo for Avenue. Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter and feminist, at that time not half as famous as she is now. Frans Ankoné had been raving about her for ages, which was the reason I became interested as well, started to gather information and, got totally fascinated from that moment on.

Frida Kahlo was born in 1907 in Coyoacán, just outside Mexico City, in ‘La Casa Azul’, the Blue House, the same place where she died 47 years later, after a tumultuous life with numerous affairs and a husband, painter Diego Rivera, who she married twice. Daring and stubborn already as a child, Kahlo was quite precocious for her age and certainly far ahead of her time. In her youth, she challenged the strict customs of her community by wearing men’s attire, proclaiming herself communist, and experimenting with bisexuality.

Kahlo’s life and art were defined by an extreme consciousness of her own body, which started at the age of 6 when she was struck with polio, and culminated on September 17 1925, when a serious accident that marked her destiny took place. Returning from a trip to a nearby town, the bus in which Kahlo was travelling collided head on with a trolley car. Several people died in this accident, and Kahlo got heavily wounded. A metal railing pierced her body. She broke her spine, her pelvis, some ribs, a collar bone, her right leg in eleven places, her right foot was crushed, her left shoulder dislocated. After being discharged from the hospital, she was bedridden for a long time, and it was during this period that she took up painting. Her mother had a mirror installed just above her bed, which made it possible for her to use her own reflection as the main theme in what became the fascination of her life: the self-portrait.
 
In 1953, after successful exhibitions in New York and Paris, the Gallery for Contemporary Art in Mexico City organized a retrospective exhibition of Kahlo’s work, which was her first solo exhibition in Mexico. Now being one of the most respected painters in her country, the Surrealists attempted to convince Kahlo to become a member of their group, but she persistently refused, saying: ‘I never paint dreams. I paint my own reality.’  For Kahlo, art was a form of surpassing her limitations, a way to imaginatively overcome her physical shortcomings.
 
When the doctors decided it was necessary to amputate her right leg from the knee down, due to gangrenous condition of her foot, a newspaper wrote that Kahlo must have said: ‘Feet? Why should I want them as long as I have wings to fly?’

In her attempt to relieve the pain, she became addicted to painkillers like Demerol and other drugs. Her health continued to deteriorate, and on July 13 1954, several days after taking part in a political demonstration in the rain, she died of pulmonary embolism. There are rumors that her death was caused by a drug overdose and alcohol, possibly deliberate. An autopsy, however, was never performed.

According to her own desire, Kahlo’s body was cremated. Before her death she had said, with a touch of her typical black humor: ‘After having spent most of my life lying on my back I don’t want to end up lying in the ground.’

Critics have speculated about why she was so obsessed with self portraits. Some have stated the theory that her concern with self portraiture represented a form of exaggerated narcissism, as a way to overcome death. If at least your image was left, the victory of death would not be complete. But perhaps the best explanation is provided by Frida herself. When asked why she painted so many self-portraits, she simply replied: ‘Because I’m lonely.’

With thanks to James Geary

 

Pat Cleveland, Stresa 1987

Pat C Josephine B '87 03

Pat Cleveland, Josephine Baker, Avenue Magazine 1987

“Pat is the greatest runway model of all time. A sparkling personality with an unmatched style. A comeback? She’s never been away. At the last Moschino show she entered the runway wearing the same outfit that she wore when she left the catwalk twenty years ago: a red dress with black polka dots, some vegetables, and a French loaf of bread under her arm. Exactly like she did every year, in exactly the same way since that very first time.
Sometimes I wonder how many shows she has done.
Her career started in 1965, when she was fifteen, and she had the ability to invent a new ‘walk’ every season since then. She walks faster than any other model, and all of her moves are more expressive and precise than anyone else’s. She understands, beyond compare, what designers and photographers want her to express, and adds her own ideas. Once, in 1987, when we were shooting a Josephine Baker story for Avenue in Italy, she prepared all her moves in advance.
Fortunately, she still loves to act and dance enthusiastically. Models that move like her, with so much character, humor, and originality are hard to find.” – Frans Ankoné in Vogue NL, Jan/Feb  2014

 

Tights, Amsterdam 1997

Carole Jewelry '97

Tights, Amsterdam 1997

When photographing jewellery you are confronted with the question: how can I capture images of bracelets, rings and colliers without resorting to polished poses like fingers touching lips or a hand on a shoulder? You want to create something personal, not just a packshot, a close-up without a setting.
Everyone in the team you’re working with shouts something different: hold the ring between your teeth, stick your finger in your ear, braid that chain into your hair, pull your tights up!

 

Olga Pantushenkova, Paris 1998

Paris' 99 Olga Pantushenkova

Olga, Kult Magazine 1998

“Olga Pantushenkova was one of the first Russian models to achieve international fame. The world thought that only babushkas came out of the East, but when the Iron Curtain finally fell it was revealed that Russia held a rich treasure-trove of beauty.

Born in 1975 in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, Olga dreamed of becoming a model. At the age of fourteen she participated in a ‘Miss USSR’ contest and was spotted by someone from Red Star, the first modelling agency in Moscow. They sent her to Paris where the photographers didn’t know what to do with her slick Slavic looks. After she’d cut her long hair – the pride of every Russian girl – she was signed by Elite. A star was born.

Pantushenkova had joined the select group of supermodels. This made her an idol – a role model – in Russia, where millions of girls from Wladiwostok to Voronesh, dreamed of nothing else than following in her footsteps.” – Derk Sauer in 40 Years of Dutch Magazine Photography

 

Park Washington Hotel, Miami 1990

Park Washington Hotel

Excerpt from ‘Nabelichting’, Chapter 22, South Beach 

Miami South Beach, the ‘American Riviera’, offered almost every location you could possibly think of. Tropical beaches lined with coconut trees suffused with a beautiful light reflected by the ocean. The Art-Deco district with its wonderful little buildings from the Twenties and Thirties. Wild nature including exotic birds and crocodiles. Genuine sand dunes and yacht harbours. The dynamics of a big city with all kinds of restaurants, French terraces and hotel rooms in any size. An old movie theatre, the 5th Street Boxing Gym, made famous by Joe Louis and Mohammed Ali and even a Western movie set with a saloon and a little church in a nearby fishing village. Incredible villas in every style: Modern, Classic, Art Deco, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, mostly with a pool. Name it, you would find it.

Staff members of the hotels on South Beach were familiar with ‘the industry’ and usually very cooperative. Never surprised by anything. International model agencies had Miami offices, excellent photo labs developed films within a few hours, the airport was near.
So, while I stayed to do another job, stylists and art-directors would fly back to Europe with perfectly developed films and a nice tan.
The usual comment upon their return: “Miami again?”

 

New York, New York 1976

12 US NY 1976 Traffic 01

Excerpt from ’Nabelichting’, Chapter 2, The Bullshit Business

It was 1976, I was 26 years old and in New York for the first time. A year later than I promised myself but I’d lost a lot of time due to a million things since I started to work as a fashion photographer. Aside from my work, it were romances, dinners, parties and more parties that had taken up my time but now, finally, I was here.

Overwhelmed by the energy the city generated I was convinced that in New York everything was possible. It felt like balancing on the edge of time and while my blood ran through my veins at double speed, I realized the expression ‘the sky’s the limit’ originated right here. The first two weeks I hardly slept. I felt the urge to go out again and again. Exploring, absorbing, perceiving. Looking for more, more, more…

 

Germaine Kruip, Amsterdam 1994

Framed in Print 000

Germaine Kruip,The Bitch Is Back, Amsterdam 1994

“During my career as a model, being the subject of the photographers lighting, I became intrigued by the effects of light.” – Germaine Kruip in Dutch Masters of the 21st Century by Helena Muskens and Quirine Rackee. 

Exhibition ‘Framed in Print’ – Foam – Amsterdam Oct.10 – Dec.11, 2013

 

Obsession, Cévennes 1992

Obsession

Punto e Basta, Avenue Magazine 1992

‘Ossesione’ is a 1943 Italian Neorealistic movie by Luchino Visconti. The main characters are played by Clara Calamai and Massimo Girotti. It was the inspiration for Punto e Basta, a story I shot for Avenue in the South of France, May 1992.
The film is based on James Mc. Cain’s novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, in which the idea that no one can escape their fate is the central theme.
An American version was made in 1946 by Tay Garnett with Lana Turner and John Garfield playing the leading parts. In 1981 Bob Rafelson did it again, this time with Jessica Lange and Jack Nicholson. Ten years later I tried to illustrate the story with a handful of pictures. I didn’t copy scenes from the movies or try to tell the whole story. I just made pictures that I thought would reflect the mood, the ‘noir’ tension of Visconti’s masterpiece.
Anja Henneman, starring as Giovanna, did a wonderful job. Like always.

 

Herman Brood, Amsterdam 1988

Herman Brood '88 02 Orig kopie

Excerpt from ’Nabelichting’, Chapter 15, Beyond Fire

It took years before we worked together again. This time Herman made a gigantic painting, measuring about 2,5 x 8 meters, commissioned by an advertising agency. The idea was to cut up the painting in small pieces which would be used as placemats at a society dinner. In my studio I photographed him during the whole process, which took almost a week. For practical reasons he stayed overnight, like in the old days.
The difference was that his daughter Lola was there, for whom he made breakfast in the morning. With toast and jam and lots of tenderness.

 

Ladyshave, Amsterdam 1977

Philips Ladyshave '77

Excerpt from ‘Nabelichting’, Chapter 2, The Bullshit Business

In a few years time my life had changed completely. From a shy boy with a camera, living in a basement, into a fashion and advertising photographer with his own studio and a day rate he had never dreamed of.
When I started out working for magazines, I photographed people who were growing their own vegetables, protested against ‘the bomb’ or got stuck in traffic, now it were mainly beautiful women, artists and musicians that appeared in front of my camera.
I slowly acquired an artistic freedom which made it possible to express my feelings and ideas in the widest sense. It was great fun.