‘It is the glory and good of Art that Art remains the one way possible of speaking truth – to mouths like mine, at least.’ Robert Browning (1812 – 1889)

When I continued my conversation with Danielle van Zadelhoff I was amazed by the simple fact, that actually, there was no single moment in which the presence of very talented Dutch artist, could make me feel uncomfortable. On the contrary – speaking to this prominent citizen of Antwerp had nothing to do with a traditional interview. Usually there is ‘an invisible journalist’ hidden somewhere in the background and then ‘the star in the spotlights’. In fact this particular artist made me feel like I was talking to an old, good friend that I met up after many years. I have not expected the interview to be this amusing, enjoyable and even relaxing. To say more, I experienced Danielle’s personality as an irresistible combination of quite reverse features: gentle-hearted yet strong, very humble, yet self-confident , highly creative yet very much down-to-earth, with two feet on the ground. She spoke to me with a kind honesty that is so easy to see on her photographs. With Danielle there are simply no taboos, there is no sugarcoating. There are only the bare truth, speaking from the heart of the real artist and her art.


(c) Danielle Van Zadelhoff

Before we moved on to another question I took a quick look at the page that was lying on my desk. I’ve noticed with contentment that the list I prepared for our ‘little interview’ wasn’t finished yet. The ‘hungry feeling’ and the eagerness I felt could be compared with eating a piece of your favorite cake when you know that there is still much left. There was one thing I was sure of. Namely that all that I was going to hear from the photographer shall put a new light on the way I perceive her artworks. What I learned in the end of our conversation totally amazed me and became my personal ‘eye-opener’ as it enabled me to relate to my own experiences. And that was the existentialism  described in books by Sartre or Camus, the deep understanding of humanity dilemma’s captured and presented on photography that makes the mind keep coming back to a photograph and reflect on it.

Danielle van Zadelhoff_KLUCZ

(c) Danielle Van Zadelhoff

 -‘For me art is like breathing’– said Danielle looking me straight in the eyes – ‘Of course in my life there are always my family, my husband, my son, my daily habits and duties. But whenever I turn to the creative process,I feel like I am opening the window and letting the fresh air in.’

Let me take a analyse these words after deep breathe in and breathe out. When we think of the process of breathing, at first this activity seems to be very simple and instinctive. But then, if you look closer, you realize that letting the air inside of the lungs is an effect of  cooperation of so many cells and nerves of our body and fundamental for the survival. It engages many muscles, nerves and requires constant work of human brain. So in fact it is very complex. The same thing one could say of Danielle’s photography. It is simple and complex at the same time. Whenever I look at the images that undoubtedly keep ‘unfolding the beauty’ of human face I am touched and intrigued. And this is how start to think, and see more, I open myself up to the psychology, the invisible aspect. I think anybody who has seen some artworks of this Dutch artist would agree with me that there is a ‘haunting simplicity’ that leads to complexity. In fact the majority of images are stunning portraits, presenting a beautiful young boy or a girl wearing a vintage dress or antique clothes. In consequence, what you notice at the first sight is a captivating, angelic face, unusual hairstyle etc. But then comes the mystery behind the artwork, the enlightenment. This is when you find out that the sincerity, and the ‘naturalism’ of art turns out to be only a sophisticated and well-thought medium in the hands of the artist, that is necessary for the transmission of a message. That way we, the onlookers begin to read between the lines, or to be more specific between the images. Artwork by artwork you begin to realize that ‘what you see is not (always) what you get’. There is no doubt that if you look closer, you may get a lot more.


(c) Danielle Van Zadelhoff

The real art, according to me,  shall offer the entire richness of the underlying meanings so you could move from the aesthetic aspect to the spiritual, intellectual one . It shall not come as a surprise if I told you, that in my opinion looking at Danielle van Zadelhoff artworks is like listening to the classical music. When you listen to it in a free and unfocused way, obviously you do enjoy yourself, taken in by the very beautiful and harmonic melody that soothes your nerves. Nevertheless, that is only the first impression. But then, if you listen further and start paying attention – this is when you discover all that the inspired and passionate composer wanted to share with you. The waterfall of emotions. This very moment of letting the music in, deeper into your soul, like a silent surrender. My conversation with Danielle was slowly coming to an end. I knew there was one more thing I really wanted to ask her. Namely, there was a quite recent series of photographs where she presented a girl and a broken egg. I was really curious to learn more about these works. When I saw them for the first time I found them very intriguing, thought-provoking since they were quite distinguishing from other photographs.


(c) Danielle Van Zadelhoff

– ‘For me an egg is the origin of life.’ – explained Danielle – ‘On the first photo you can see that the model is trying to protect the egg, on the second one she is taking distance from it. At last, the third image shows that the egg is broken. This way I wanted to show that on this earth you cannot protect anything. You cannot stop things from happening. To give some examples – your beloved mother or father will get older and die at some point no matter how much you love them and want them to live. Your partner or friends may leave you too. We all need to learn the difficult art of letting things go. The truth is that it is not all in our hands.’


(c) Danielle Van Zadelhoff


(c) Danielle Van Zadelhoff

When Danielle said this, she was smiling, and that was both very reassuring and uplifting, especially that for me the topic of ‘letting go’ and ‘accepting the reality’ was never easy and usually caused negative emotions and sadness. But deep inside I knew the artist was right. No matter what we do, it is simply not in our hands, it is not on us to decide about everything that happens in our life. There are external factors too. When I finished the truly fascinating conversation with Danielle I knew that the next thing to do, after saying goodbye,would be looking at her photography once again. There was so much that has been ‘decoded’ and I felt there is still so much more to unfold. The interview was indeed very inspiring. I agreed with Danielle, the art is like breathing of the fresh air. And if we are to compare the art to the air – I think that Margaret Atwood, the Canadian poet, activist and literary critic found the perfect words to express the nature of that air: ’The air that inhabits you for a moment only, that unnoticed and necessary’

*To learn more about Danielle Van Zadelhoff Photography – please visit NUNC Contemporary Gallery Belgium (www.nunc-contemporary.be),  Fotogalerie Utrecht (www.fotogalerieutrecht.nl) or the artists official website (www.daniellevanzadelhoff.com)