MY PHILOSOPHY

The world is a bumpy road with thousands of layers, it's not something that we can just smooth out in black or white, good or bad, yes or no. This is something my photography has helped me to accept.

 

When I was 13 years old I wrote my own 'novel' about the Second World War. The main character was Arnold, a boy of my age. I ended the story with the heartfelt cry: 'Why do people never learn!!' More frustrations followed during my adolescence and in my early twenties. I read tons of books about politics and war and sifted through newspapers to find out what the answers, solutions and above all, the truth were. Half the time I was angry about the TV-news and even on the newsreader, and when discussing world politics with others I tried to dominate the conversation with Google-facts.

After years of discussions, I was lucky to get assignments that gave me the chance to start travelling a lot and even on my first trip to Sarajevo I simply found out that my strong opinion didn't work at all. When people noticed that I had judgments about their way of life, culture, conflict, religion or their country, I couldn't take their photo anymore. What I needed as a photographer wasn't a strong opinion about everyone and everything, but ears to listen en a sincere curiosity. 

During many conversations, the most surprising thing I learned is that every person - without exception - has a personal story to tell. It doesn't matter if it's the general director of a worldwide bank, the baker living in a war zone, or your own neighbor. The only thing they need is the chance, trust and time to speak. Maybe it feels like those personal stories are not important on the huge stage of world politics but they gave me the nuance, recognition and understanding. During the years the conversations made me softer. 

Besides the conversations, I learned a lot from the documentary 'Which way is the frontline from here' about photographer Tim Hetherington. I recognized his longlife search of the 'why' behind the cruel wars but it seemed like it didn't made him cynical or angry. In stead of that he focused on fathoming the layers of power that humans have in them as long as humanity exist, and it seemed like accepting this was an accelerator of letting his judgments go. His way to share a nuanced and in-depth vision with the world inspired me so much.

I like to share too. In a time where people receive constant news updates on their devices, it's almost fascinating to hear the extreme judgments people have about populations they've never met and regions they've never been. Sometimes it scares me. But what I understand is that an ongoing focus on exceptional news makes people comprehensible feel unsafe and angry. Even when actually nothing has changed in their personal environment or situation. 

By adding my personal projects to the daily news, I try to create situations where people get the chance to recognize each other as a mother, a family, a son or a colleague. Due to the fact that I'm a realist and aware of the difficulties, I hope my work prevents us from thinking as opponents. It feels like a longlife search for an antidote against extremism, agression or simplicity. I think that's why I, as a 13-year old, wrote in my novel: 'we're together, we're the same people.'

Examples are projects like Baghdad Today (2012), A Monday in Kabul (2013), Das Paradies (2014), Outside Syria (2015) and The Island of All Together (2015) and Letters to Joep (2016). They are partially funded by my own commercial assignments. 

 
 

        My first trip to Sarajevo