Annabel Oosteweeghel is a professional photographer based in Noordwijk , The Netherlands. She recently published her photobook ‘Oblivious’ – a collection of finest images from her various projects and series. These are visual narratives that can be arranged to create an abstract or linear stream of stories. Annabel’s education in film helps her in forming a better view to make her viewers focus and comprehend her work.
Most of the images of ‘Oblivious’ strike loneliness, ennui, alienation, separation… but there’s solace and harmony in images where there are two characters in the view. They complement each other and form an image that is alleviating. Overall, Annabel’s work is impressive, distinctive, and a pleasure to the sight. Here’s our Q&A with this Dutch photographer:
I’ve studied Audio Visuals arts. So initially I wanted to make films but after the Academy I started to photograph and enjoyed making photos with a story.
What is your statement as a photographer? You’ve been taking a variety of pictures… what do you like shooting most?
“I don’t make it more beautiful than it is, I make it as beautiful as it can be.”
That one second:
- … when the sunlight is just right
- … when your hair is nice
- … when all the colors fit together
- … when your eyes are laughing
- … when all is well
My photos and movies are not more beautiful than the reality. They are as beautiful as the reality can be. I prefer to photograph people and their story. What they’ve been through, what they experience, what their feelings are and what they dream of.
I have two method’s of working. My commercial work usually is a lot of pre-planned. Models, locations, styling, the whole idea of the image. In which I closely work with an art-director.
For my personal work I am much more spontaneous. I have an idea for a story and the images develop gradually.
The title refers to the both series of ‘Oblivious’. The characters in ‘Oblivious’ are of that of an older generation. An ever-increasing ageing population forms a larger part of our population. Oblivious zooms in a poetic way on their insecurities, disappointments and desires.
The reason for this project is my move from Amsterdam to Noordwijk 5 years ago. To my surprise, I discovered after some time just behind the dunes several still authentic 1960s bungalows. Two of which were uninhabited but still furnished houses. Curious as a photographer, I peeked through the curtains and my imagination was triggered. After a while I had the right contacts and had the permission for shooting in the two houses.
In the first house I made the series ‘Everlasting’. ‘Everlasting’ speaks about the beauty and tragedy of a marriage… where kindred spirits find themselves and where they are losing… about the passing of time and what remains. It’s a story about a couple set in the suburbs behind orange bricks and sheer curtains situated at the end of the 1960s.
Both so brave and convincing the role as spouse fulfilling. The interpret the unconscious and stick to an ideal image. The pictures tell the naturalness of the marriage and the imperfections of the other. It’s about bonding together in a relationship yet always alone, thrown back on yourself. The couple in the story accept their place and try their luck to find.
‘What happened to the time, where we chased our dreams, our hearts beating faster?’
‘When we were young, what did we know about fulfilling a life together?’
Love comes and goes like the ebb and flow of the ocean.
And small gaps in their story highlight the loss which becomes obvious: the end of life announces itself
subtly – the holding on to that which is known and the secret longing for so much more…
Where did we lose each other? Where did we let each other down? Our thoughts vanish like mist and yet our disappointments linger…
As intangible as the breeze which blows through the curtains and seeks to cool, so are their thoughts and reflections. Are the whispers the only voices that can be heard?
Could life have been more beautiful?
The photo series from second house is titled ‘I Won’t Say Goodbye’. I wanted to make this because I was moved by the true story which developed there quietly. ‘I Won’t Say Goodbye’ is based on a true story about a demented old lady who has been living in an old age home for four years.
Her beautiful old styled seaside bungalow still stands exactly just as she left it after all these years. It’s become a museum full of memories.
‘Is it fair to say: What did I do to deserve this?’
Life takes it’s own route. The cost is determined without even asking my prior consent – Carry on alone.
No full laundry baskets with children’s clothes and that of my hubby.
No tables to set for the family.
Too much time at hand.
How do I full these empty days?
No socks to darn, nappies to wash, scraped knees to take care of or tears to dry.
Who will wipe my tears?
I think nowadays it’s very important for a photographer to present their work as good as possible and to publish a book is a very good way to communicate to a wide audience. I luckily found a very good publisher for my book and he took a lot of work out of my hands. Though I’ve still been very active myself in promoting my book by doing exhibitions, a yearlong through the Netherlands. I also approached a lot of magazines and newspapers so they started writing about my book. In the meantime I got a lot of media attention like radio interviews and articles in photo magazines and newspapers.
Self publishing a book also requires a lot of work but I think it also pays. About the financial part, my Publisher also asked a contribution because they didn’t wanted to take the whole responsibility for the book. It’s an art project and there is usually not a very large audience for. So you have to invest in. I think it is worth because with a book you get visibility and recognition.
I mostly work with my Hasselblad with the Phase one back. I love the colors and the sharpness. For quicker images I work with my Canon 5D. Editing is the most difficult though the most important part. Nowadays everyone can take a good picture but to tell an intriguing story is a practice in itself. It’s good to show your work to other people and colleagues and be open. where it is needed. Just to tell your story as clear as possible.
Personally digital manipulation does not play a big role in my work. I try to shoot as good as possible on set and I don’t want to deviate far from reality. I also bring a lot of photo lamps with me on set so I can create every atmosphere I like.
Do you have a favorite photo or a project having a great story behind?
I’ve just finished for a Dutch newspaper a story called ‘IN TRANSIT_ Strand Hotel’ what affected me very much. It’s a story about an old former Hotel in my village where Polish people temporarily live and work. They work for many hours in the factory as they can to earn enough money so they can return as soon as possible to their homeland to be with their families and beloved ones.
In the bare stuffy hotel rooms I saw the waiting, the desire, the resignation, the displacement and sometimes love. An intimate look into their life in which time passes too slowly. And the painful waiting seems to cause a void in which I saw frustration and despair at the same time.
Tell us about your achievements, awards, clients, etc.
For my photobook ‘Oblivious’ I just got nominated for the “So Awards 2015”. It’s the most prestigious awards for professional photographers in the Netherlands so I’m very proud and happy with it. This year I have 6 solo exhibitions with the work of my book. I was published in several magazines and newspapers. An important radio program about art, literature and music did a story about me and my book and interviewed me about the project.
What are your future plans/projects, ambitions, inspirations etc.?
I want to continue working on personal projects and stories about people and try to get published as much as possible. I want to develop my work to make intriguing and interesting stories that have ability to move people.
Follow your dreams, believe in yourself, do not hesitate to ask for help, and work hard to achieve what you want. Let nothing hold you back in what you want and enjoy being creative and making pictures. Often there is a lot many possibilities than you think.