photography, photograph, Rijksmuseum, art, paintings, Nachtwacht, people, light, shadow, light and shadows, wouter brandsma


2014, Photography

photography, photograph, Rijksmuseum, art, paintings, Nachtwacht, people, light, shadow, light and shadows, wouter brandsma

I haven’t vanished. I haven’t stop blogging. And I haven’t stop photographing. When I started this year I was certain that I wasn’t going to work with a new years resolution. My photography and expectations might have changed, and for some it really did. For the better or worse. It all leaves me with doubts. I need to remind myself that I do this all for me and for a dear friend who supports me with my photography since 2007.

But truth be told that I never was so close to pulling the plug then last holidays season. The extreme doubts took their place and almost did their harm, but I couldn’t just make that happen. Talking with my friends helped me to realize that it wasn’t all for nothing. Maybe I’m too concerned about my legacy, too concerned about my intentions, my directions.. Some say you do it all for yourself, but I think that is not really fair anymore. I mean, I realize that others appreciate my photography and writing. But I like to able to change and develop without constrains. And sometimes I led the pressure add unwanted constrains.

I notice that some years the photography goes up and that other years you really struggle. It was intense in our family in the past, but we’ve made such an incredible progress. Photographically speaking 2012 was a turmoil. I stopped my photo a day project in the spring when it really felt like a mirror to me. I did the photography series for Pentax Ricoh in preparation for Photokina and I finished of with my own photo book Saudade. It felt like a closing chapter. It all likely affected my photography. And who says photography can’t be self-reflective?

Last year felt like a year of starting all over again. And start-ups go with ups and downs I guess. And when I did the interview with Don Springer for the photography online magazine Inspired Eye I questioned whether I was a photographer. In David Hurn and Bill Jays book I read the quote: “You are not a photographer, because you are interested in photography.” And that summed it up how I really felt.

Despite not having any resolutions I am trying to figure out how to continue with my photography. The photographs you normally see posted on my blog are not necessarily part of a project. They meander for me like a stream of consciousness. When working on my book I learned that it felt truly liberating to go through my work. And for this year I like to keep more time free between photographing now and the editing. I want to sift through my previous work now and maybe present them in a more unified matter on my blog. I know the project mind helps many, but works counterproductive for me. Sure a lot of projects can be meaningful and important to some, but I tend to filter these like the continuous feeds of information on TV or the internet. Unless the photographs really captures me. I just get out and see what comes up. Remember that what draws your attention is very much related to how you feel at that moment.

photography, photograph, Rijksmuseum, art, paintings, people, light, shadow, light and shadows, wouter brandsma

The same could be applied on story telling too. Should all serious photography be story stelling? Should a photograph tell a story? Photographs can be interesting too in my opinion when a series of photographs are well thought sequenced without telling a story. And maybe these photographs might still be perceived as a fictional story by the viewer and that is also the strength of images. The truth is in the eye of the beholder.

So you see, why bother about how others should photograph? Instead remain curious and keep asking questions instead of defining the rules and requirements. Changes will still happen anyway, no matter how hard you try to defend your current understanding of the medium. Ansel Adams once said: “No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.” The role of art has largely changed in my opinion. Some dislike the “self-role” in art (and photography) and think it needs to be there for a greater good. And in the past this certainly used to be so. Now, “you” have become important. The stage has become smaller, while the means to share have become more universal. What you make is what you think is relevant and it may well differ from what others think.

I might photograph on a daily basis, but in the end week not have more than 35 photographs. Often less. It reminded of what Don wrote in his blog post: “Don, why do you need 70 rolls of film that you can’t afford so easily to make 3 photos? Don’t answer! Just think about a possible answer.” Read the rest here. Don’t let others fill in the answers for you, but question yourself and others to move forward.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

34 thoughts on “Forward

      1. Wouter, you know and feel much more than you let on. Maybe it’s really about the work….funny word, work. I spent my entire life until recently installing hardwood floors. I would come home and get a shower and eat and then process film, print and again…recently work in Light Room. Ya know, all day I would work, run the business and never get tired. I would shoot, sit at the computer and get mentally exhausted in no time.

        That’s real work. We can try forever to work and get something done but when we WORK….it’s the soul satisfying that matters. I know I speak in metaphors a lot so here in a different one…..:

        I was playing the guitar for many years and felt that I was getting good. After many years I decided to take a few lessons from a local prodigy.
        One day I ask him….Jim, when will I play the guitar? He said easily, when you stop practicing and just play.

        1. I have a lot on my mind Don and the future is insecure and unknown. I am a thinker and I need to express myself, I really need it.

          You stopped practicing guitar? Or never played that thing ever again?

          1. Wouter, I played for decades and played in bands, recorded built guitars, sold them on the bay but the key I learned was that I PLAYED. I never practiced again, I was in the here and now and that is what I apply to photography. Be in the here and now. Isn’t that what life is or at least was meant to be?

            You have a gentle soul Wouter, that I respond to….your a good shooter also but that’s besides the point…

            1. With photography, I don’t practice either. And there is possibly even more intuition than experience involved.

              And thank you Don. Your today’s post really struck me and I thought it was the best you ever written. In that post you expressed that you are a photographer.

  1. Wouter, the two images in this blog are FANTASTIC! REALLY interesting compositions, lovely tonality. Wow!

    Now… about all this ‘thinking’ you’re torturing yourself with… STOP! 🙂 Your photography is very good, and it deserves being shared with us. In fact, it inspires us (me). Photography is about seeing the world… nothing else in my opinion. Your photographs feel like honest seeing. That’s what makes them work for me.

    My personal ‘recipe’ for continuing on with my photography, especially when my photography is making me feel stale or bored or stupid or ordinary is this: Go out and see, just see. Put a rectangle around the sight and call it photography. Trust that life’s experiences will improve what I put in that rectangle. And then, occasionally, maybe a project comes to mind and I pursue that for a time, maybe not. But always, keep seeing.

    A tech question: Did you make images in this blog entry with the Ricoh GR?

    1. I know Jamie. It is killing me, but I know it is part of me too. These doubtful thoughts are also framed in a rectangle.

      Jay Maisel said: “Try to go out empty and let your images fill you up.”

      I almost exclusively use the GR and also for these photographs. I was surprised by the way how many Leica M cameras I saw in the Rijksmuseum.

  2. Hi Wouter, As I read your previous post and this one, I know exactly what you mean and what you are getting at. I could recognize myself in everything you said in both posts. I’ve been asked many times “What is your focus in your photography” and my answer is the same every time, “I don’t have a focus, I shoot what I want, when I want”. If I’m walking along and something interests me, I will stop and take a look. I may take shot and maybe not, it depends an a number of invisible factors. On a good day, I may take 100 or so images, but the norm is 35 to 50. I shoot film and digital and the low shot count comes from shooting film where you can’t be wasteful. I just picked up a Ricoh GR III, but haven’t really done anything with it except for testing the Macro function, which is amazing. I bought it with the purpose of taking it on my daily walks. Thanks Wouter, love the images and the posts..!!

  3. Wouter, time to fess up brother. About a year ago I was checking out my friends blogs and I was feeling at a loss. I felt lost in the river and rhythm of life. Then I came upon a blog with a simple but incredibly beautiful photo. I was so moved by the beauty of this image that my soul for once felt alive and slightly healed. I know the real thing when I see and feel it. You should too Wouter ……

    Remember that quaint small photo of the leaf on the ground you made……

      1. Wouter, you do know I am talking about a photo you made. See, it’s great that we can communicate with our own work. It drives us to pursue the struggles.
        The gift of art and photography is not what our work does for us but for what our work and efforts does for others.

        I’ve had a tortured soul since Viet Nam and sometimes along the journey to my death, I find an image that reminds me what life could mean. In this case it was just a simple leaf sleeping in the ground BUT! You captured it’s life force and transmitted it to the photograph.

        When I saw the photo, I understood……………..again.

        1. I am glad Nam hasn’t taken your life. Life is complex and art can be powerful when it is captured in all it’s bare simplicity.

          You’re on to something too Don. I really mean it when I say that your blog post about the curator and your photography struck a chord with me. In those 3 photographs you likely captured it’s life force too.

  4. Although frustrating and maybe even painful, I think your self doubt is a good thing. If you’re content or satisfied, what motivation do you have to continually improve? That’s what separates the *great* from good – it means you’re *always* striving to get better.

      1. Great things take time to develop. 🙂 BTW although your posts from the last quarter of 2013 subtly alluded to your internal struggles, I personally think the accompanying photos, though dark and moody were very powerful.

  5. After years of photographing I started to print my photographs at the end of last year. I noticed that I waited far too long with that because I doubted if my photographs are worth to be printed. Suddenly I noticed that if I do what I do for myself I can let others find their own interpretations & thoughts. I suddenly noticed that even my photographs become photographs when printed. Finding the balance between projects & just get out to let images happen I thought about when it comes to 2014. And sometimes the projects find me. Meaning that you start at one point & later on I am able to see a coherence I did not noticed before.

    Thanks for sharing those thougfhts that once again prove I’m not all alone out there. And thanks for the meditaive Rijksmuseum frames that go so well with the thoughts & your essay.

    All the best & safe travels, Fritsch.

    1. Printing photographs still makes so much sense Florian. You can arrange them, feel them, and get a better idea for how photographs can work together.

      Whay size do you print your images? I’m thinking of printing many at 10x15cm. Multiple years and use these to make new arrangements and a possible exhibition this year.

      There are more like us. I am sure.

      1. There are more like us. I am sure too, Wouter.

        I started printing in 40x60cm. That really makes me feel these frames & dive into those details that mean a lot to me. And since I was thinking about an exhibition this year too, I thought that would be the appropriate size. And I found out it just feels good … the photographs, the size, the atmosphere.

        All the best & safe travels, Fritsch.

  6. These two images are sublime. I would suggest that, as opposed to narrative (story telling), they are lyric (relational and emotive). I think generally that has been a consistent feature of most of your best work. Tools, styles, subjects, color considerations, and much else can vary within the lyric from time to time, be it minutes or years, but its fundamental character remains. Growth is likely an evolution rather than revolution for the lyric practitioner and uneven at that, but it is a necessary outgrowth of the learning process which, so long as one has something left to say, never ends.

    I think it likely (I cannot rightly speak from experience) that all artists do what they need to do, what their vision or voice or muse (call it what you will) compels them to do. Proust avowed that art “object” was both hidden and necessary and was “discovered” by the artist in the same general fashion as a scientist discovered the “rules” of the natural world. I think you should not take too much to heart the Hum and Jays comment about interest not making one a photographer. You, I think, need to photograph and to put certain feelings into images; it is in your heart, doubts and all.

    Best wishes.


    1. I believe in evolution rather than revolution too. Things need to saddle down at some point until you can gradually make a next move. I need that feeling Greg to avoid the rationalizing in my photography. I wish it was easier, but I need the self doubt too.

  7. It is the degree of self-doubt that spurs us on to try and do better, which in turn brings more self doubt that spurs us on to….

    We are trapped in a loop of creativity.

    The real problem comes when we break free. It spells the end.

    1. The doubt is infectious. It all depends on the source of the doubt. Inner doubts can bring us forward. Externally originated doubt can break us down, the same can happen when the doubt stops.

  8. I really enjoy your blogging and your picturemaking, perhaps especially your rural and small town images. They´re often calming and soothing and don´t scream for attention, and neither do you, in your writing. I like that, and your “style” is worth a lot of respect.

  9. You continue with your photography, like you continue breathing. It is who you are. You take photos because the art is in you and must come out. You will fail sometimes and sometimes you will introduce beautiful works. It’s a process. the process is your life. You can’t dismiss it. It’s good & bad both. Embrace the duality. You are an artist. We all know this. Doubt is just the Ego mind trying to distract you into suffering. Your art is the present moment. When you drop the whole suffering and just do it, you are here and now. That’s neither good or bad. It’s observing good or bad and it’s lovely. Disengage from the Ego, the doubtful mind. Get out of your head. I am here to tell you, you ARE and artist. Simple as that.

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