From where did the idea come to produce your series of genetically mixed young-adults?
When Hedy van Erp asked me to make a series for the new PHoA exhibition themed‚ 'Identity Kit' I started thinking about my own identity. “Who am I? Where am I going? What is my past and what is my future?” I was thinking of aspects like language, family, culture and ethnicity. But identity is more than that. To me, it is the assembly of characteristics, beliefs, talents, quirks and behaviors, what we show in interaction with ourselves and others. It is also how we experience ourselves when we’re compared with others. I think identity is not fixed from the start but shifts with time.
For my portrait series I wanted to highlight one of these aspects to show that we are all different and yet the same. My great grandmother was Swedish, I’m Dutch (or at least I think I am), my daughter is half Turkish… Aren’t we all mixed? And actually: does it even matter? We are all visitors to this world and therefore equal. By making a series about genetically mixed young-adults my plan was to emphasize this.
How do you feel about the launch of this series one week before Momondo’s viral video, 'The DNA Journey' went live?
I’ve been busy with making my series and thinking about this subject for a few months. It was such a nice coincidence that right after the launch of our exhibition this video went viral. It stated exactly what I wanted to illustrate with my series. I hope lots of people will realise that we are all mixed and that’s a blessing.
Do you believe the future is mixed?
Who could possibly think it will not be? It was (we humans have all the same ancestors, groups of people who left the African continent between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago), it is and it will be. And that is something for us to celebrate! Diversity is in my honest opinion the key to success for humanity.
It feels awkward to have to discuss something that is so obvious to me. But apparently it is needed. Always and everywhere there will be people feeling superior to others. Why? To dominate over others? Out of fear? Lack of education? Please, go and check your own family tree and find out that you are mixed too!
What was the definitive moment that you decided to become an artist?
That was only 3.5 years ago when I moved to a new district in Amsterdam. To get to know this district better I photographed my own integration and posted these photo’s on the internet. People started following me and soon I was nominated for a Cultural prize within this district. People started asking if they could hire me, but I didn’t know anything about photography. I started following a course in photography, quit my job and became a full-time photographer. I’ve been busy with it ever since, 24/7, quite obsessively. Photography has definitely captured my heart!
Why is it your intention to work in black and white portraits?
I greatly admire the work of master photographers like Richard Avedon and Irving Penn who created instantly iconic and memorable portraits. The compositions, the light, the shapes and lines… but also the absence of color draws and keeps my full attention to the subject in the photo. That is what I feel attracted to as a viewer and that is what I try to achieve as an artist too.
If you could have a studio in a secret location, where would it be?
As long as I have enough space and a white wall I’m happy!
What are 5 things you would put in your identity kit?
In my personal identity kit you will find:
1. All my ancestors with all their qualities and imperfections. They formed and shaped me the way I am.
2. The forest where I grew up that gave me the freedom of a carefree childhood
3. The high school where I learned to be open minded, to think creatively and was shown that diversity is a blessing.
4. My beautiful daughter who teaches me things I did not know before
5. And last, but definitely not least…. yes, my camera of course!