Delsbo, Sweden '22

Mees Klompenhouwer is an artist who works mainly with analogue photography. He focuses on nature and landscapes, and uses them to tell his story. In March, he spent a month in a remote cabin near the village of Delsbo, in Sweden. In this remote place he hoped to find the space to work on a new project. Away from the hustle and bustle of Rotterdam, where he lives, he found here in the silence a chance to reflect and get to know his own work better.

Graduation, and everything after 

At the end of February, I left by car with my dog for Sweden. I had no concrete plans about what I wanted to do there, but trusted that work would arise when I isolated myself for a month. I had a bag full of film reels in the back, empty notebooks and books with me, and the plan to go completely offline. While in Sweden, I wanted to not only work on a new project, but also get a better idea of what I wanted for my future. I've known for some time that I don't always want to live in the city, that I feel better surrounded by silence and nature. The question is whether the space I am so looking for can be found in the Netherlands, this is one of the reasons I started looking abroad. So I wanted to discover if Sweden might be a place I would like to move to, to live and work on my practice. In addition, I am also graduating (Fine Art: Photography at WdKA), and saw this as the perfect time to take the liberty of making this trip. After all, I can then use my work for my graduation project, and use the experience as a kind of recharge moment prior to a busy period. My motivation to seek out the silence of the Swedish landscape was as much personal as it was practical, and was therefore all the more intense. 

Reflection and Recognition 

Once I arrived in Sweden, I first needed a week to land, recover from the trip, and get to know the surroundings. My rhythm began to adjust to the rising and setting of the sun, and I began to go along with the rhythm of my surroundings. By not using my phone, there was hardly any distraction. It was an uncomfortable realization to see how much longer a day seemed to last, and how busy my head was without distractions.

At times when things just didn't work out - I felt lonely or bored, I learned that I had to go outside, or write my thoughts off. In this way I became aware of what was going on in my head, and I found the space to think about things I had been hiding away for a long time. During my walks outside I always had my camera with me, and I began to notice that I was photographing images that reflected my mood. In the nature around me I found recognition, and with that a certain degree of comfort. Whatever I was thinking or feeling; there was room for it and it was allowed to be there. Nature helps me with my depression, anxiety disorder, and grieving. Nature is a space where I can be free without limits, where the seasons provide the space for every kind of emotion. For this reason, it has long been the most present element in my photography. What I capture are moments of peace, balance, and comfort. These I hope to be able to share with others. 

Going offline

The work that has emerged in Sweden revolves primarily around my inner experience of this journey, and the insights I have gained. I make an attempt to visualize what I have felt, thought, and discovered. Now you may wonder why this emotional rollercoaster is fascinating to another person, but I see a link to a broader context. My need to get out into nature and go offline comes from a way of life that is moving too fast for many people. One in which the individual is central and everything is about progress. Life feels like a competition where everyone is trying to get noticed as fast as possible and materialism prevails. Everything is shared online and has to be seen. I see a huge lack of balance and peace in this, and sometimes can't do much more than walk away from it, into nature. When I talk about nature, I'm not just talking about a physical space. I envision an environment where everything and everyone is equal, even part of the same infinite system. Man is not above it, is not worth more than animal or plant, but simply a part of a greater whole. I think of pantheism, in this there is no boundary between the divine and the natural. It is a philosophy of life that assumes that everything is divine. I find inspiration in nature because this 'divine' can still be found so purely in it. 

The nostalgia of film

I work mainly with analogue photography but could never really describe why. Until one day I was walking through the forest in Sweden and thought of my mother. When I was five years old she passed away. All that is left of her now are the stories, memories, and a box full of analog photos. These photos in particular offer me a glimpse into life during the time my mother was around. It feels like those photos give me a chance to know her better by- that they allow me to go back in time. The quality of photographs taken on film gives me a nostalgic feeling for this. I think this is why when I discovered analogue photography I was immediately hooked. Every picture I shoot on film has that same feeling as the pictures from my childhood. It doesn't even matter so much what's in the photo, simply the quality - graininess - color - or sharpness, immediately makes an emotional connection for me. 

In the days when analog photography was used only, or mainly, these character traits were not special. They were a natural part of the photography of the time. This ties in with the "noise" theory, which talks about the fact that technological developments make the noise of older mediums visible, but for that reason it is also impossible to detect noise in mediums used today. 

The layer of this noise present in turn contributes to the experience of my own work. It turns an existing physical environment (the nature in which I photograph) into something in which there is room for personal perception. Because the image is not perfect, there are signs of an analogue creative process, space is created for an (emotional) interpretation, a story. It abstracts the physical space somewhat, and creates a degree of disconnection with the literal landscape. This makes the medium an active participant in the story that I, as a maker, am trying to tell. Nature, the medium, and I as a maker work together in a balanced whole. Each part is on equal footing, there is an interaction. My feelings the driving force, nature a landmark, the medium a way to make the two come together. All elements work together and bring the same value, are part of the greater whole. 

Retrospective

What I discovered after four weeks in Sweden is hidden in the landscapes I photographed. These will be presented together with audio recordings (made during my stay) and pieces of text at the Graduation Show of the WdKA. I have learned that I can be fine with myself for a longer period of time. That I make better and more work when there is no obligation, there are no deadlines, and I only have to follow my intuition. It helps to be in an environment that stimulates rest and invites self-reflection. These are the kinds of places I will continue to seek in the future, to be able to take a step back from the speed of daily life. 

Photos © Mees Klompenhouwer

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