“Where we make a friend of an artist, those personal qualities that evoke our love and admiration are intimately related to the qualities of the work, the public statement that he or she has given to the world.” John Wain
My travelling to the past and learning about the isolated paintings naturally resulted in reading more about Fine Art Photographers and their use of “painterly techniques” in their artworks. In fact I wasn’t interested in talking to just ‘another photographer’. My goal was to get the first hand information from ‘ a real talent’ that creates ‘a real art’. Fortunately, I did not have to look far since there was somebody quite remarkable whom I’ve known already for many months.
The artist I wanted to speak to was A Dutch Fine Art Photographer living in Antwerp, Belgium – Danielle van Zadelhoff. As a matter of fact her artworks have been an instant inspiration for my poetry.
When I called Danielle via Skype – and saw her sitting in her apartment, on a beautiful, wooden antique bed, we started our conversation from exchanging smiles and moved to the topic ‘favorite books’. I thought that talking about the literature would be a perfect ‘bridge’ the shall naturally take us to our main destination, the Art.
‘There is no particular author or writer that I could label as my favorite’ – said Danielle – ‘I have read so many important books in my life that it is simply impossible to name one or two that I are could call ‘my number one’.
I wasn’t very surprised hearing this words, knowing the exceptional intelligence and eloquence of this artist. But on top of all features of her personality – there was her kindness and respect to the one she spoke to that made you feel very comfortable while interacting with her. And there is something more than that, her honesty that makes you trust her from the very second you start talking to her. There was something about Danielle that made me wat to tell her all my secrets.
‘I am constantly searching, looking, exploring’, continued Danielle while touching her beautiful, dark hair. This simple, very feminine gesture made me pay attention to her very appealing, almost girly charm. While listening to the photographers words it stroke me that an artist of her caliber simply must be well-read. This is where the symbolism, the underling meanings of her photography are from. I should have known that before I started the conversation. It was like asking a professional musician about his or her favorite musical scale. Or a painter about the most beloved color. You need it all, even though your preferences could depend on your mood or stage of life you are in.
‘While reading a book’ – Danielle continued, playing with her beautiful pearl necklace that made her look very noble – ‘I do not like to stick to the facts or to concentrate on one particular character. For me reading is all about imagining the scenery, the details and other things that pull the stings of my soul. Actually, I used to attend monthly reading club for women where myself and rest of the female members had to read one book per month. When we met later – we could discuss all the interesting aspects of the book that for us were especially intriguing or fascinating. I really liked these meetings, because in my opinion the real beauty lies in diversity. All the women from the club were so different when it comes to the profession, background, education and age. And that was exactly what made our conversations so interesting and enriching. For me it has been a great journey to hear their interpretation – and exchange our point of view and our different perceptions of the book.
I had no doubt that the understanding of Danielle’s Art had to start from understanding what really matters to her and where does her inspiration come from. Since almost every biography of her contained information about how her work was influenced by ” The Golden Age” I wanted to find out, what in particular inspires her in that period of the history of art.
When I asked my question the artists looked with a kind of smile that told me – that her answer will be quite contrary to what I expected.
‘-To be very honest with you – said Danielle- I am totally not that much into the Golden Age. What I like about the paintings from that period is the technique used – the ‘camera obscure’ – the dark background, the things you do not get to see as an onlooker and playing with the light. But what I do find very interesting are the themes that give me plenty of room to “speak” of the universal emotions, dilemmas that people experience. And what is beautiful about emotions – they do not change over the time, through the centuries. For example, from looking at my work “Story Of Lucretia” you can easily figure out that it was inspired by Rembrandt’s painting.
‘Why was that particularly moved you about Lucretia?’- I asked spontaneously
– ‘When I saw the movie produced by Rijksmuseum I was deeply moved by the Rembrandt’s painting showing suffering Lucretia, the victim of a rape who did not how to live further after the drama that happened to her.- answered the artist – ‘ We all know that Lucretia committed suicide. But what I wanted to explore and capture in my photograph was ‘the moment before making the decision’. The “not knowing what to do” that all the people experience in their lives. So when I was with the female model in the studio and we were working on the image, at some point she got very tired, even wrecked I could say, like she could not stand this posing anymore.
And this is when I said to myself, ‘Now’ and quickly took the picture, that expressed the despair of Lucretia. When it comes to the male model on the artwork, who represented the one who committed a crime , I wanted him to express the deep regret. No matter what he did – he could not turn back the time. His real tragedy lied in the fact that it was not in his hands to protect the young woman from killing herself.
-So the scenes you present on your photographs are in general all about capturing the real but also universal emotions, the psychology? – I asked just to make sure if I got it right.
– Yes. I am interested in capturing the emotions, the feelings. What I find most important in my work as a Fine Art Photographer , but also in the work of other artists, is the ability to be honest and authentic, make the onlooker believe in your story. Actually, the work of photographer could be compared to de work of actor. If you’re looking at a good theater performance, you don’t actually try to figure out the acting techniques. You just allow the actors to engage you as a viewer and make you part of the story. This way you no longer think you’re sitting in theater. In fact good actors can convince you that what happens in front of your eyes is real. The same applies to the photographers. Unfortunately – ninety percent of the images that I see – do not make me believe. I look at it and think to myself- the light is great, the model is great- but I still don’t believe a thing the artist tried to “transfer”. All I see is a posed, artificial scene.
The main goal of photography is to cause an authentic feeling, an emotion, ‘the real thing’.
Therefore my models wear almost no make-up and I do not use any Photoshop. The real art is like faith or religion, you want to believe in it without any doubt because it helps you to understand that there is a meaning, beauty and lesson hidden in the most difficult feelings and emotions.
The atmosphere of our conversation was getting warmer and both me and Danielle had wonderful time talking to each other. There were still so many things I still wanted to ask the talented, Dutch artist. Speaking to Daniele about Art was like unfolding the meaning of the words “Purity, Beauty, Love”. I felt happy and ‘energised’ from deep within because all I’ve learned during my last journey to the past, started to make sense.
Note from the author: If you want to find out more about Danielle van Zadelhoff you could visit NUNC Contemporary in Antwerp, Belgium (www.nunc-contemporary.be) as well as in Fotogalerie Utrecht in Netherlands (www.fotogalerieutrecht.nl) or the artists official website (daniellevanzadelhoff.com)