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Nature has an undeniable mystery that has inspired artists for centuries. The feeling of vastness and of discovery, the solitude and possibilities for contemplation. These common elements resonate in the work of partners and photographers Zuijderwijk/Vergouwe.
The duo is composed of Daan Zuijderwijk (1974) and Maaike Vergouwe (1978), who both studied photography at St. Joost Academy in Breda. Since 2006 they have work together on various projects. Central to their work is the relationship between man and nature, as artists they are interested in the diversity that nature can offer.
Starting May 2017, Zuijderwijk/Vergouwe hopped on a tiny house on wheels and started traveling Europe together with their three daughters and two dogs. While traveling they have been working on their latest series: ‘ European encounters’. This last series of work defies nature and all its elements – by creating subtle and clever manipulations in the landscape, the duo achieves a surreal effect in their photographs. In these latest photographs, startling effects are achieved by using light and movement in combination with a slow exposure. The artificiality of the light creates beams and playful patterns set against, what seems to be, an everlasting landscape. The resulting pictures are unfiltered and unedited, a pretty amazing detail to realise when you gaze upon their enigmatic images. We caught up with the duo before the opening of their exhibition, 19 May at Atelier de Vijzel:
Hi Daan and Maaike, we heard you were touring Europe, where are you right now?
Right now we are in The Netherlands. We just returned from Scandinavia where we stayed for the winter. In May we will continue our trip to France, Ireland and the UK.
Why did you decide to pack everything up and go on this adventure?
For us this was the outcome of a longer process. We have been living on a historical sailing barge in The Netherlands for more than 16 years. When we just had the barge, we were looking for a nice port for it, but could not find the right place. We skipped the idea of a fixed place and started our nomadic lifestyle. In 2017 we swopped the barge for a motorhome and started our European adventure.
What’s it been like to live on the-go and so close to nature?
We love it. Living closer to nature is something we wanted for a long time. Especially now with our three daughters. We want them to realize the true value of our natural resources. Last winter we travelled through Sweden and Norway. We found some amazing places while experiencing a real winter. We filled our days collecting wood and making water, a lot of the time on back country skis because of the huge amount of snow.
We really enjoy this basic lifestyle, but sometimes when we have seen enough trees we continue our trip in search for some cultural activities. It’s all about finding the right balance.
What did you work on during this trip?
We worked on a series called ‘Mapping’. It’s about the human urge to organize and simplify the world in order to understand, but it is also about different perspectives and subjectivity.
There are many. It can be very challenging to live in a tiny house with five people and two dogs. And workwise; we make our artworks always on the spot in a single image. (No postproduction or photoshop manipulations). When you see the images, you can imagine that something can go wrong easily. Especially when you realize that most images are night shots.
Tell us a bit about the works on display at Atelier The Vijzel.
The works displayed at Atelier The Vijzel are from various series and includes 7 years of work. The earliest work is “Vanishing Landscapes #01”from 2011, and the latest work is from the “Mapping” series 2018.
We made The Vanishing Landscapes-series in the pitch dark from our barge in Vinkeveen. This was the first series were we actually used artificial light in landscapes.
The triptych “New Dawn” is a sunrise at the Dolomite Mountains at our first visit in 2015.
“The Cut” is from the European Encounter-series. It is on the France/Italian border, made in June 2017 “Mapping #01” is the first diptych from the Mapping-series made on the Island Tjörn, Sweden in 2018
Which one of the presented works is your favourite and why?
Our favorite work is the “New Dawn”triptych. In 2015 we were working on the Tree Studie-series. While looking at the images, the idea came up to make a series with the same techniques in a mountain area. Then, suddenly, an invitation came from the Calamita project in Italy. They asked us if we could participate in their project in the Italian Dolomites. A few weeks later we were making the works in the Dolomite Mountains. That was magical. We didn’t plan to make a triptych, but it was hard to decide which moment was right when the sun came up, so we made multiple images. Looking at the results, we decided to use them all and present the work as a triptych. By doing this we extended the duration of the moment.
Any big inspirations when it comes to photography?
Lots of inspiring photographers. When we need to pic one, we would choose Joel Sternfeld. He inspired us the most with his project called ‘The Oxbow Archive’.
We only carry a limited amount of books in our tiny house, but this one will always be on board.