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The photographic world of Max Kraanen explores the limits of space and time. Both in a psychological way and through the medium of photography, where he literally stretches the photographic capabilities of the camera itself. This results in enigmatic images that pull you in from afar. Upon closer inspection, the photographs reveal unusual materials and techniques.
We caught up with the artist ahead of the opening at our Atelier The Vijzel location on November 3rd, where you can join us for an exclusive evening with drinks and a presentation by the artist himself:
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you right now?
I’m in Amsterdam at the moment. I’m preparing for a new project called ‘Welcome to day one of happiness’, which I will shoot later this year on the coast of Normandy. It will be an installation of 1000 Polaroid photos of the ocean.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
It’s difficult to say what my biggest inspiration is but somehow I always end up at the sea. I don’t know exactly why but it’s like it’s magnetic. A lot of my projects involve photos of seas and oceans. It’s always there, ever-changing but also always the same, it’s enormous, it’s cleansing and it has a cathartic effect on me. I love the horizon, the seeming endlessness of the water. It makes you feel small and mortal. So it’s somewhat frightening in a way as well.
Apart from that, the mountains are important to me. They are also recurring in my work an may have played a bigger role had I grown up near mountains instead of the sea.
Another big inspiration is the analogue process. I never use a digital camera to make my work – I love old processes and old camera’s – and I also use simple cameras I build myself. For ‘So it goes’ I developed techniques of my own to create landscapes in the darkroom, without using a camera. By using chemicals and photosensitive paper I was able to create landscapes that up until then only existed in my head.
How do you usually find your theme and how do you get to work after?
I read and think and observe a lot. Ideas arise gradually and take shape slowly. Sometimes I just take photos for a few months and after a while, they start to form a whole. I then try to understand what my subconscious is doing. As soon as it becomes clear what I think is happening I can remove images that don’t belong and add the missing images. Then I will think of how to present the project and often need another half a year to finish a project.
But other times it’s the other way around. For “Welcome to day one of happiness,” I had the title first and had to come up with a project to fit the title. I heard the title when I was asked to join a group meditation session and we used some meditation app. The first sentence used was my title. I couldn’t help laughing out loud and it made me think of the engineerability of happiness. So, in this case, it was a trigger that activated a subject that keeps interesting me.
How did you arrive at the concept for ‘So it goes’? And why is the material aspect so important for you?
‘So it goes’ took me quite a while. I worked for three years on the project and only the last year I started discovering what it was about. I had already made a lot of images but only when I spent 5 weeks in the Canadian Rockies I discovered what I was doing. It’s always a great moment when this happens because at first your lost and then everything starts to make sense all of a sudden. I know what images need to be removed and what images I’m still missing. It’s the end of a struggle and, at least temporarily, rids me of any of doubts and insecurities about my work.
I think the material aspect is really important to me because I feel the image decides how it should be displayed. There’s always the best way to show an image, something which I feel is often overlooked in photography. In ‘So it goes’ there’s an image of a mirror (my favourite image but not displayed at The Loft, unfortunately) which is printed on very high gloss paper, which I normally hate but in this case I love it.
The works you are bringing to The Loft, how did you select them?
I immediately loved the space when I first entered it. So I was thinking to show work that would work well in it. Galleries are often unwelcoming spaces and therefore I’m really happy to exhibit my work at The Loft. I’ve selected work that would work well in the space and I hope it looks like it belongs there.
Apart from that, I wanted to give a good overview of my work to people that haven’t seen my work before. My career isn’t that extensive yet but I wanted to show work from the beginning up until now.
Where would you place your work in the world of photography?
This is a really difficult question. I don’t really like placing my work anywhere and I would want to look beyond the world of photography. I love photography but I have the feeling I’m more inspired by painters and sculptors. This is maybe because of the materiality as well. I want to do more with this in my future work. For example, I want to develop my own photosensitive emulsion so I can use any object as a canvas for my photography.
Drop by on November 3rd and join us for an evening with drinks and an artist talk to discover the work of Max at our Atelier The Vijzel location. Vijzelstraat 77. Doors open from 16:00 – 19:00. RSVP here.
All pictures courtesy of Galerie Fontana