Persona April, 26th 2019 by

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 211 - Harrie Blommesteijn

flowerstone MB – 1, installation Hope and Dreams

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 211 – Harrie Blommesteijn
’Oh What a Paradise it Seems‘ is the title of the exhibition with work by photographer Harrie Blommesteijn in the WM Gallery in Amsterdam. Is paradise a paradise? At least in your dreams. So it’s not strange that Blommesteijn gave a book about his work the title ‘The world is as you dream it’.
I speak to Harrie Blommesteijn at the exhibition in the gallery. Blommesteijn: “There is much more than we see. We see everything, but we filter things out. My dog, a cocker spaniel, sees things differently than me. The world is deceiving us. There is much to see under the surface of things. That fascinates me. ”

flowerstone MB – 2, neon

Multitude of realities
Magic is based on it. He takes a tooth-sticker box and asks me to point it with my right finger. I do it and the box is gone. He takes it out again behind my left ear. “You focus on that finger, then you don’t see other things. My dog Billie can find orange balls everywhere, but he does not recognize a black waving thing which is frightening to him. ”
“There is not one reality, but a multitude of realities. Each of us creates our own world in the ‘quantity soup’ in which we live. It means that we not only create our own world, we also create our own destiny. And the people around us do the same, although not all dreams are the same.” This is where his somewhat blurry photos fit.
“It is an invitation to all of us to build our own reality, to catch a glimpse of this soup that we reconstruct into a stable and controlled image.” The result is a melancholic image of empty locations and landscapes, as well as images associated with the dreams of humanity.

flowerstone MB – 3, hope and dreams

‘The world is as you dream it’ is the title of a book by John Perkins in which he describes his experiences in the Amazon and Andes. “During a trip on a river he meets a shaman. When they talk about the world, the shaman realizes that humanity’s big dreams: peace, health, prosperity have not yet been realized, and what you see is war, poverty and pollution. The shaman then grabs a stone, throws it into the water and tells Perkins who looks at the circles in the water ‘Everything you do causes wrinkles. The world is sometimes on fire. But you can dream the world differently, you can realize that you can change it yourself.’”

flowerstone MB – 4, Hope and Dreams

And Blommesteijn’s images fit into this. “You can create your own atmosphere, just like you do with an impressionist painting. I take photos like a painter. People often talk about ‘paintings’ when they talk about my photos.” He points to the photo of a pink deer behind us. How could he get so close to the deer? “The image is real, nothing has been edited. I regularly come to Belgium, there is a deer farm. The deer stood in the distance in the pink light of the sun below on the edge of the forest. I zoomed in and clicked. It reflects well the whole atmosphere of the moment. “

flowerstone MB – 5, Innocent When You Dream

Pinhole camera
Harrie Blommesteijn has a design background. He studied Industrial Design for a while with Wim Crouwel at TU Delft, switched to graphic design at the Rietveld Academy and discovered photography there. “We had a good photography teacher, Sjoerd Holsbergen, and occasionally he took his students to France for photography. Holsbergen laughed when he saw us students working so much on technical issues such as camera and lens type. ‘You can take your best picture with a pinhole camera’, he said. That is a camera without a lens. The entire negative had to be used at the academy, including the black edges. And editing was out of the question. ‘You don’t take your photo in the darkroom, you take it with your eyes and your camera right at the moment.’ Nobody had a Leica at that time, much too expensive. Often a 6 x 6 Rolleicord. “
He has been a photographer since 1972. It was the analogue time, most of his photos were in black and white and were printed by himself. He had a darkroom in his house. At that time he was already experimenting with non-sharp photos. “I wanted to create a certain atmosphere, cinematic, so I moved the camera.” See also his site

flowerstone MB – 6, Late last Night

Jesse Owens
We turn around and look at the photos of the remains of the 1936 Olympische Dorf in Berlin. The images are sharp but soft, almost as if they are old analogue photos. Among other things, you see the bedroom and bathroom of the runner Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals. “Hitler didn’t want to shake hands with him because he was black, is the myth. But Hitler did not shake hands with any of the winners to prevent him from congratulating non-Germans. Owens felt better treated in Germany than in America, his best friend during those Games was a German athlete. When Owens returned to America he was not congratulated by Roosevelt and had to take the hotel-clerks elevator to the party that was given to him at the Waldorf Astoria. He was not allowed on the passenger lift. “

flowerstone MB – 7, Paradise Lost

Key work
At the beginning of 2000, in 2002 he also started digital photography. At the invitation of an American girlfriend, he goes to Santa Cruz, on the American west coast, for six months. With his wife Birgitt Busz and his two cocker spaniels John and Cheever, named after his favorite writer who also appears in the title of the current exhibition. He bought an expensive digital camera, a Ricoh RR1. “That was a sort of espionage camera. I didn’t have a darkroom available, but photographing with color was very easy digitally. I finally switched, I never used my Leica M6 again. “
Then he also made his key works such as ‘For Hopper’ and ‘Late Last Night’. “The camera turned out to catch color very nicely. The colors, especially blue and green, were very different from what your eyes see. One of the photos was very similar to Hopper’s work, just as melancholic, and I gave it the title ‘For Hopper’. The nice thing was that people themselves had the association, even without that title.”
They are indeed melancholic images, including those with cars at a gas pump with many blue hues and the title ‘Late Last Night’. Last year he also made a film about a swirling leaf that seemed to continue to swirl forever. “Nature gives us small moments of great beauty, as the artist Andy Goldsworthy shows us. That video is therefore dedicated to him. “
He continued along this road with similar photos in Brussels, Paris and Venice. He also wrote lyrics such as ‘Shapes that are strangers are revealed in the night’ that reflected the feeling of his images. “At a certain point you know that the camera sees what your eye does not see, I learned to understand the behavior of the camera and responded to it.”

flowerstone MB – 8, St Hubert

Venice Biennale
He was commissioned by Vredenburg in Utrecht to capture the Music Center in this style. The photos were shown in large format in the outer windows. “A while before, I had conceived the idea of hanging at the Venice Biennale. You really have to imagine that that will happen. If you don’t do that, you won’t achieve anything. If you want to become president of America you do the same, you put in your head ‘I will be president’ and then you are already well on your way. That is how I came to the Venice Biennale.” He shows me the photo at the back of his book. He also landed on a large poster on the outside wall of the Rijksmuseum (with written underneath: to be seen in WM Gallery), at the entrance of the Palais de Tokyo and the Institut Néerlandais in Paris.
It’s a way, at least in mind. “It really happened at Vredenburg six months later. The thought experiment was successful.” Certainly when four years later he was called by an Italian curator who told him that he had seen his work at the Biennale (….) and whether he was interested to show his work again, but now more extensively. In the end he did not do it, it was expensive and there was no subsidy available. But it is still on his wish list.


Optimistic mood
We walk past the work, ranging from the former Halles in Paris to the launch of the Apollo 11 in 1969. There is no rocket in the video clip and on the images, only the audience who are watching with open mouth. He wrote a song ‘You can never take my dreams away’ that he sings with the video. “I got the images from everywhere. I was fascinated by that launch. There was an optimistic mood around the world, ‘we are leaving trouble behind’. It was a bad time, Kennedy killed, Martin Luther King idem, the Vietnam war. But humanity thought that it could escape that. But, fifty years later, we have actually made little progress. I have to see how things are going with the world. It is hard for those who work now and they have to wait and see what it is like when their working life is over. We now have all kinds of new things, such as cellphones for example, but is it really progress? The robots are coming, what does that do to people? Everything has a downside. “

flowerstone MB – 10, Portrait Harrie Blommesteijn (Pete Purnell)

Finally: Although everyone today photographs, not everyone is a photographer, says Harrie Blommesteijn. “That is sometimes confusing and also makes it harder to sell photos. But it is definitely a talent that you must have but also a profession that you must learn. The underlying idea, the concept, determines the image that you get.” Everyone can take a nice photo. But your own original look, your own style and handwriting: that makes the difference. “I have learned from others, but I also think others are inspired by me. And I am grateful to everyone who makes it possible to show my work, such as now at WM Gallery. I came there 15 years ago with my first digital work from America and Wanda Michalak, herself a special photographer with a very own style, liked what I was doing. And so I was the first to exhibit digital work in this beautiful photo gallery. Thanks Wanda, Paul and Sebastian for your support to me and my fellow photographers. ”
1) installation Hope and Dreams, 2) neon, 3 – 4) hope and dreams, 5) Innocent When You Dream, 6) Late last Night, 7)) Paradise Lost, 8) St Hubert, 9) For Jesse Owens_Bedroom, 10) Portrait Harrie Blommesteijn (Pete Purnell

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