A Quest For New Experiences
Vincent van de Wijngaard, the Dutch photographer famed for his investigative style, talks using the camera as a tool; both in the creation of new experiences and discovering different points of view.
Interview MAXINE LEONARD
Beauty Papers: Where did you grow up?
Vincent van de Wijngaard: I grew up in a small, very quiet village named Warmond, located approximately 25 miles South of Amsterdam.
BP: How did you start your journey into photography?
VVDW: I originally wanted to become a violinist, however, when my grandfather passed away I inherited his camera and it did not take long for me to become obsessed with taking images.
As my dad is a photographer I certainly did not want to become a photographer! It more or less just happened. As a photographer, the camera became a passport to travel the globe.
BP: ‘There is no blue without yellow and orange’ was a feature-length film that premiered in Tokyo. It charted the living and working environments of the painter Vincent van Gogh. Can you tell us a little more about the project?
VVDW: I was commissioned to make a book by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. In the beginning, I wasn’t that keen to take a trip following the footsteps of the painter. I spent a tremendous amount of time studying Van Gogh’s life and work before I left and found that a lot of places connected to Vincent’s life were on the brink of disappearing.
When I set out to make the trip I was very surprised to find no one previously had really done it properly! I found out so many new and undiscovered facts and I was mesmerised. When I finished the book I realised I wasn’t finished at all, it was just the start!
I started thinking about a documentary that would be ‘following Vincent’, that was in concept a travel story and very personal. Following Vincent’s trail exactly as he had travelled, chronologically and very precisely, down to such details as the platform where he had changed trains and so on. The voice-over was written by travel writer Ken Wilkie on the spot, so as to capture the impressions of the journey directly. It took me eight years to research and make the film.
BP: Our theme for this issue, which you collaborated on with us, is ‘The Vanities’. What does vanity mean to you?
VVDW: People who became too obsessed with their own looks. Good looks have very little to do with producing a good photograph.
BP: Who are your heroes?
VVDW: The violinist Jascha Heifetz, it’s like listening to a miracle! The Jazz musician Jeff Lorber, who has become a close friend, is such an inspiration. He has just won a Grammy. The photographer and filmmaker Raymond Depardon, as there are very few image-makers with such a strong sensibility for the image and words (he is a great writer too) and with such a sense of integrity. The photographer Don McCullin.
I particularly love his early work, made in Britain.Larry Burrows, the war photographer who got lost over Laos during the Vietnam War. The Painter Henri Matisse, the ultimate master – simply sublime. Van Gogh, of course! His humanity, his compassion, his perseverance. The writer Edgar Allan Poe. A brilliant mind and an innovator.
BP: What moves you?
VVDW: That’s a difficult question. It probably is a quest for discoveries, encounters and new experiences. Photography is a tool to use for this. In photography, I want to capture life as it is. This never bores me and always provides me with new points of view.
BP: What’s your obsession?
VVDW: Ancient Egypt.
BP: What’s next?
VVDW: A collaboration with my girlfriend Saskia de Brauw, which will be at ‘The Store Studios X’ in London on March 10th. The project consists of a short film and book, entitled: ‘Ghosts don’t walk in straight lines’. Essentially this is a project about a long and slow walk across North to South Manhattan.