Landscape and long-exposure photography of Dutch photographer Jeroen Bruggenwirth is immensely peaceful and touches the viewers with its aesthetic values. For Jeroen, photography is a medium to get away from the chaotic feel of modern world and its miseries. He’s an explorer and looks for uncharted lands that are waiting to be admired for their raw beauty. Using the same set of equipment of film photography, Jeroen patiently shoots these images ‘as it is’ in their finest moments. Frankly speaking, after seeing work of such quality I don’t feel like looking at overworked HDR images that flood the Internet as ‘awesome landscapes’.
Thanx to Jeroen for providing his magnificent landscape images and giving detailed answers to my simple questions in the interview below:
I was born in Breda, the Netherlands and never really thought about photography. I always wanted to be in the army but due to medical reasons that was impossible. At High school I decided to study graphic design but soon after I held a camera and got to know what I could do with it I decided to take on photography instead. After that I went to the art academy in Utrecht from where I graduated two and a half years ago. In the academy I got “addicted” to landscape photography and discovering new places. Even in my free time, when I play videogames to relax, I sometimes stop and look at the beautiful sceneries these games have today.
The influence of mankind is very important in my photography. In my current project I’m portraying the river Rhine and the landscape around it. It involves the actions mankind took, and still taking to settle around such a majestic and powerful force of nature. I do try to keep an unbiased approach in my photography and just show viewers what the landscape looks like. I try not to fabricate an opinion in the photo itself.
If you had to put my photography in a certain place I would say it would fit within documentary photography simple because I try to capture the subject as neutral as possible. I like to see myself as a 19th century explorer, discovering new, unseen landscapes and rediscovering certain landscapes that became so familiar that we are blind to see their real beauty.
Since my graduation I’ve been only working on my personal projects such as the Rhine. These were only landscapes and that’s really almost the only thing I really enjoy shooting. At the academy I tried almost all aspects of photography but I always came back to landscapes. I soon realized that I needed to perfect my technique with the large format camera and I still learn things every day I shoot.
One thing I always try to keep as a general rule is the time of day while taking photos. The early mornings and the twilight are the most beautiful times to photograph and give me the biggest satisfaction in the end. It is a surreal effect to see streetlights glowing, a red/purple sky and still have a bright image that looks like a regular daytime. As for the travels, I have a general direction and route when I go out on a longer trip but I try not to research too much to minimize the disappointment of not finding what I expect. A normal day shooting for me would consist of a lot of walking and taking one or two photos.
I do plan on publishing a series of books in the upcoming years for my Rhine project. They will cover all sections of the Rhine and eventually will be several chapters in a bundle. First I thought photobooks were only for noted and well known photographers but with the possibility of self-publishing and the increasing popularity of it, it becomes a lot easier to get your work out there. So I think books are important but it’s not the main reason why I do what I do.
I have a fixed set of equipment that I’ve been using for a couple years now - a Toyo 45A large format camera with a 150mm lens. I use 160 Portra Kodak color-negatives and I hope that I can use this combo for a few more years. I am not really up to date with the technology of these days, it does worry me that film companies like Kodak and Fuji are slowly going out of business and sometimes I worry about how long before I need to resource to digital technology instead of analog.
On a lot of my photos I could tell you a great story behind, things I experienced at the time or after processing them but I guess with the travels to these hilly and mountain landscapes I tend to go for limits, literally. I sometimes stand on a ledge where a big drop, just one or two steps away from death. At times I don’t even notice the danger, because I’m so focused on taking the picture but afterwards when I think about it I realize I was pretty close to the edge and a likely fall down, even death.
Photography as a full-time job is never an option with the digital age with the fact that ‘everyone can be a photographer’. Hilla Becher also said once “If you spend every waking day on your photography, you lose sight of your purpose as a photographer. I don’t want to lose that”. It’s good if someone can make photography into a full-time job but it’s not something I want to achieve. What I do want to achieve on long term is a sense of recognition, people saying “Oh, that landscape photographer from the Netherlands!” upon hearing my name. I don’t need to be as famous as some big photographers these days but as long I can have a healthy mix.
I’ve had a couple publications in magazines, websites along with some group exhibitions after my graduation two years ago. Few months ago I spoke in front of 300 visitors of the 4-monthly “Donkere Kamer” - a gathering from the DuPho, the Dutch photographers organization, where I spoke about my Rhine project. Recently I managed to get hold of one of the spots for the Vrij Nederland Photostory of 2016 ‘competition’. It’s a prestigious yearly prize where four photographers spend 6 months on a project that will be published in one of biggest magazines in the Netherlands.
Right now I’m focusing a lot on the project for Vrij Nederland about light pollution. It’s still in a production stage and hopefully will be finished within 6 months. Beside that I’m spending my free time processing the photos from the Rhine project and trying to get it published online and in a book. Rhenus Encyclopedia, as I like to call it, is an ongoing project so I can spend as much time as I want on it without having to meet specific and strict deadlines. I am really excited about both projects and I really hope I can get some good responses from both of them.
A couple photographs that leave me amazed are of Scott Conarroe. I spend 3 months with him in China as an intern. Simon Roberts, John Pfahl, Hans v/d Meer and obviously many more are mainly landscape photographers. I can get really inspired by reading philosophy books and watching science videos on YouTube. I tend to be a very curious person and always like to learn new things and how things work in the world.
Always be true to yourself when it comes to photography. In two years that I spent at the academy I tried all sorts of photography but most of it always felt forced and unnatural. I always tried to twist the subjects so that I could make a landscape of it. If you force yourself into something it never comes out the way you want it and it ruins the quality of the work.
All photos © Jeroen Bruggenwirth : Website