From the rooftop overlooking the fireworks in the center of Amsterdam.
I can hardly grasp it, but it is 40 years ago that I ditched the advertising agency I was doing product photography for and started working on the Rockers series. I made thousands of photographs and the project at first almost left me broke, but over the years it became my bestselling project. The photographs are still popular and at times I feel like an old rock band on a come back tour with a public shouting to do my first hit once over.
Of course I am also very proud of this series. During this series a certain style of portrait photography evolved and up to this day I am faithful to that photographic approach.
This is a good time to start thinking about a book and my friend Norm came over to Amsterdam to write some poetic prose about the subject and we made this short movie to hopefully encourage people to buy the book that will be published in 2018.
Filmed by Max van der Kamp.
I was working on the 21st Century Madonnas series when I heard that this year’s group exhibit of local artists of the Nieuwmarkt area was planned to be at the Zuiderkerk, an impressive church around the corner of where I live. I was to select one work for this group exhibit of seventy artists and I had immediately ruled out the 21st Century Madonnas series I was working on. That would be blasphemy. My strict Catholic upbringing occasionally shows in my decisions.
But the idea of exhibiting one of my 21st Century Madonnas in that giant church built in 1603 became irresistible.
So, after a night of feverish dreams and falling out of bed once, I decided to select one of the 21st Century Madonnas for the group exhibit.
Much to my surprise the work was accepted. There was a church service just before the exhibit reopened Sunday on 12:00, but no real protests were heard. The show was a success and I had an unexpected large number of people visiting my modest studio and of course this website.
Here is the the work as exhibited in full detail:
Open house at Hans van der Kamp Photography on Saturday October 7th and Sunday October 8th 2017. You are all most welcome to look around in my modest studio and have a look at both recent and older works.
I believe I started working on this series somewhere in 2008 and I never finished it. I continued working on it recently and I am looking for more models, please have a look at my pious request below this picture. We are living in an age of Holy Wars and blasphemy is mostly directed towards Islam. With the Christian Fundamentalists in the US about to ruin the whole world, I thought it was time to have a closer look at the icons of our own culture of Devotion, Immaculate Conception, Denial and Self-chastising.
My request (in Dutch) for more models to work with on this series:
Recently a friend in the US requested photo copies of the Rockers series for a poetry project and I started looking at the sheets with negatives. Most of these images are digitized, but I like to look at the old sheets. The first sheet had a date on it. April, 1977. That is 40 years ago… The tagline of my site reads ‘a collection of over 30 years of photography’ while in fact I am a photographer for more than 40 years. The Rockers series was not my first project. It was the first successful one. Looking at the copy of the invitation above it is obvious that it took me a year to get the series exhibited.
The Rockers series has always been special to me. At first the series bankrupted me. I shot over 600 rolls of film while I was supposed to work for an advertising agency doing product photography. I hated that. The products kept piling up in my studio while I was drawn further into the world of these greasers as I called them, or in my native tongue vetkuiven. The title of the series was altered to accommodate an international public in Brussels. Soon after the exhibit – which left me broke but convinced of the fact that advertising was really not my thing – I was asked to photograph for several magazines.
In 40 years the Rockers created more income than any other series I have produced.
As requested I sent my friend the photo copies and I also digitally remastered the main series of 32 images to print them and put them in a box that went along with the photo copies. I do not know exactly why I did this, but remastering and printing the rockers felt necessary. It was almost like editing the works of a different photographer, although I have to admit that my style of photography has not changed much since 1977. I am still photographing people against a neutral background.
I often refer to myself as the most boring photographer on the planet because I never changed my way of working. Despite that my photographs often ignite controversy in many countries. Maybe by printing the Rockers once over I was going to find the reason for my consistent approach to photography. I soon realized it was never ‘all’ about photography. I used to hate the technical stuff and especially working with nasty chemicals – until professional digital photography came around in 2000. I was looking for ways to understand others, mostly people I would never meet in day to day life. Until I reached 30 I photographed mostly men. It was obvious I was looking for my own identity.
After 40 my works became sexually charged and the people I photographed were mostly women. It seems logical now. I never understood much about intimacy. This may very well have been caused by a long period of being sexually abused in a hospital during puberty. Sexuality is or can be the ultimate expression of intimacy. Very old wounds rarely heal completely so expect me to create sexually charged photographs until I die.
Most importantly I now realize that I have to apologize to my art teacher who once taught me that all art is about the person creating it. I laughed at him and told him my work as a photographer was about the people I photographed. I now have to admit he was right and I was wrong.
On May 18th the ArtUndressed festival kicks off in Miami, Florida. I am participating in the nude art exhibit with three works. Two photographs from the series ‘The Russians Are Coming!’ and one from the WAM series. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, please stop by and make a few snapshots of my work there. I will not be attending and this should not be considered as a political statement. I rarely attend to group exhibits that require a lot of traveling. Shipping the artworks with all the red tape involved is enough stress for me.