Across the World Through Photography: An Interview with Documentary Artist Alice de Kruijs
Welcome to CAMP Conversations, an editorial space brought to you by The Contemporary Art Modern Project! At The CAMP, we’re firm believers in the power of the intimate relationship between art and those who love art, and we’re happy to champion it in our approach to a nearly-inaccessible industry. CAMP Conversations are written to promote thoughtful dialogue exploring the art industry embedded with our sophisticated brand of snark, involving artists, gallery employees, and our beloved audience. Alice de Kruijs is a Dutch artist and one of our newest additions to The Contemporary Art Modern Project. Whether through East African tribes from some of the remotest plains on earth or through individuals with Albinism that she meets online, Alice always uses her perspective to express the beauty in uniqueness and cultural diversity through her photography. Below, she shares a snippet of her processin creating her various series. Stay tuned for 2021, when we will be including her in a group exhibition along with various of our bother established and up and. coming artists. I'm Mario Rodriguez, CAMP's resident social media guru and operations staffer (you can check out my interviews with Silvana Soriano, Aurora Molina and Edison Penafiel, and Marc Brousse on IGTV!), I havethe unique chance to always keep abreadth of all the wonderful things we're working on and new developments with our lovely artists. Although we love all of our artists beautifully, I have to say that Ipersonally find Alice's work to be uniquely evocative and visually appealing. I was so excited to getthe chance to hear more about her process of making artwork, and I am equally excited to share it with all of you!
Could you share your journey so far with CAMP? (I know we have yet to put you in one of ourexhibitions but here you could just talk about how you found out about us and who you have spoken to from our staff, etc.) Through Instagram I have been contacted by Melanie, she liked my work and send me a privatemessage about it. I responded very positively to her message and this is how we started thecooperation. What I really like about The CAMP gallery is that my work is very much appreciated. Also, I feel a very warmwelcome even though I never met Melanie, you, or Estela who I talked to as well. I’m looking forward to a (group) exhibition with my current work or mynew series coming up in January 2021. How would you respond to someone that believes that your work tows the line between portrait photography and travel photography? I don’t see myself as a travel photographer at all, although cultures and specific countries are an important factor in my work. I believe my core focuses are portraits and the storyaround them that appeal to me. My work has a conceptual approach. To think about the story and the message first, before starting shooting right away works much better for me. My portraits and still lives support that story and symbolically bring the message across. If I have to push myself into a type of photography it will be portraits with documentary storytelling. What about different cultures inspires you? I absolutely love cultures and the uniqueness within all the different communities, tribes,and religions. Often, I use specific cultures within my work to express their story. It is so fascinating to me to explore all those different cultures within the medium of photography. At the moment, I’m working on a series that expresses the vanishing islands in the Pacific. The islands have isolated cultures and languages that are about to disappear due to rising sea levels. What about your own cultural background/ upbringing informs your work as a photographer? I’m from a Dutch family that continuously supported my photography and my creativity. My father always had analog camera’s and I love to see his passion for this medium. Later on, he was the one supporting my travels and explorations of a different world from where I was living. From my childhood, onwards I was always very curious and willing to explore. I remember dreaming about the mountains, the sea, the people on the other side of the world. Also, I have a passion for textiles. Before studying Conceptual Photography, I started at the FashionAcademy in Amsterdam. In the series that I’m working onright now, I see some photos to be print on textiles instead of paper. Textiles are always moving are that suits perfectly in my new series. What do you do to make your colors look so deep? Colors are such an important key to my work. I truly believe colors make the art, the mood,even the story. Coloring is about details in the overall composition of the photo. You can slightly change the color and the magic of the photo is gone. Color is about balance and balancing your work. How do you decide on a subject for each series? Do you find that each of your series influences what you’ll do next? For me, it is about the story. I have to catch this idea that keeps in mind. Usually, I think about it for several days. For example, my current work caught my eye as I heard the story about islands vanishing in the Pacific Ocean due to the rising sea level some time ago. I found it so fascinating thatsome people are living on these islands and realizing they have to leave their home ground sooner or later as the seawater will enter their homes. Tribe of the Afar Series: how did you hear out about the afar tribe? How were you able to get in such close contact with them? I was in Ethiopia for a special trip and I saw, a year prior to my trip, that there is a please called Danakil Depression in a documentary. I was inspired and wanted to go there. It is a magnificent place, it looks like Mars for real. There are no trees and the ground is full of iron and Sulphur gasses. The stones on the ground are full of lava as there are many volcanoes around. On the contrary, there are many salt areas as well. With a minimum temperature of 35 degrees Celsius, it is a very surrealspectacle. In this environment, nobody can survive, except the Afar. They are a nomadic tribe moving within the Danakil that lay in the borders of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti. The Afar are remarkable people surviving thousands of years and have an isolated community. Although I could contact them and make portraits they weren’t open, especially when it comes to their wives and children. As I said,they are nomadic and move with many camels through these deserts. The sun is strong and the heat unbearable, this creates this beautiful dark skin color. For the black and white series: how did you find the models for these pieces? I was fascinated with white and black, day and night. I was studying what makes white and what makes black. As a result of this concept, I started looking for models that are either light or very dark. Through the years I have worked with many models and created a lot of contacts. When finishing the concept, I started looking at which models would be suitable for the series. How did individuals with albinism form such a central part of this series? Xueli is a Chinese girl living with Albinism in The Netherlands. Through Facebook, I saw her profile and contacted her. She looks amazing and so unique. Meeting her I liked her even more, as she is fighting for equal rights within the global Albinism rights. As she is so unique the pictures are strong and appealing to many people. Magazines and curators have contacted me manytimes as they like to publish/exhibit these photos. How did you get to the place where you have such a defined style of photography? Even though all of your series are so different, they all still totally feel like they are coming from the same artist? Was that something that came naturally to you? I think the reason for that is the conceptual focus. Every concept is so different. The colors, models, and location are never the same. This creates a variety of work within 1 portfolio. From the people that follow me, I always receive the comment that my work is recognizable as my signature. I sometimes think if my work isn’t too diverse, but to honest, I don’t do that on purpose. It happens naturally. What direction do you see yourself go in for your next project? Can we get a hint of what that is going to look like? Yes, of course. I’m working on a project called Vanishing Islands.I have written a part of the concept below: The Pacific Islands, home to the world's most diverse range of indigenous cultures, continue to sustain many ancestral life-ways. Fewer than 6.5 million in all, the peoples of Oceania possess a vast repository of cultural traditions and ecological adaptations. Oceania thus has the most to lose, from the pressures of global political issues and climate change, which leads to rising sea levels at a high speed! Countries such as Tuvalu, Kiribati, and the Marshal Islands are already experiencing sea-level rise where ocean flooding has washed saltwater onto agricultural lands and inundated sources of drinking water. These low-lying islands do not have forest cover therefore ocean level is rising at a much faster rate. Since we are living in a period where COVID 19 is holding us tight I’m not able to travel. My plan was to travel to the Solomon Islands to tell the story in a place where it is actually happening. Nevertheless, I used photos from the Vietnam delta and Kenia where there are areas having the same problem. For more information on Alice de Kruijs, feel free to email me or email@example.com. You can also follow Alice (@alicedekruijsofficial) and The CAMP Gallery (@thecampgallery) on Instagram. Her work is currently featured with our gallery on Artsy and Artnet.