Persona February, 15th 2024 by

Berry van Galen

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World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 453 – Berry van Galen

At the By Photographers Art Fair in Loods 6 in Amsterdam I saw her special work: from old family photos edited into collages in a series to painted women’s portraits with a melancholic appearance. The photo portraits are by Berry van Galen.

I meet her in her home – where she also has a photo studio – near the Vondelpark in Amsterdam. We are sitting at a large round black table with a large computer. Above us hangs a lamp with a lot of small lights, a kind of spaceship. The front and back rooms have a modern, industrial design.

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The ceilings still have the old relief. The colors black and white and wood predominate. The same colors as in her collages. There are various photos, including an enormous color photo of twins and one of her painted female portraits, in large format, 100×100 cm. Diagonally behind me is the painter’s easel.

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The passage of time

Her work, and especially her collages, is about identity and its change over time, she says. “This also changes your place in society.” Her photo paintings are also about the passage of time, it is about beauty and transience.

In her collages she captures people’s emotional connection with the world around them and how it changes over time. “For this I use layered images, photos that I have taken myself, as well as family albums and old magazines.”

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In the booklet ‘Omdat jij en ik’ (Because you and I) she tells – with these collage images – the story of her life as half of identical twins.

“You are never seen as an individual, but as twins. No one is looking at you. From birth I could be recognized by a red dot next to my eye. I was recognized by that. I was the dot. It has disappeared over time. That is why there is often a red dot on my collages. The dot was my identity.”

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Beautiful young women

The painted portraits are portraits of beautiful young women. The painting makes it less about the woman herself, but also about the passage of time. “When you look at the image of such a beautiful young woman, you realize that this is the ephemeral thing.” She paints the photo with acrylic paint, and sometimes also uses other techniques: scratches, scraps from old magazines. “It can still be anything I’m still experimenting with it. I was very happy with the reactions of the viewers to the photo paintings at the exhibition. People were speechless. It really hits home for them.”

She hopes to achieve that with all her work. “That something happens to you, that you think about it, that you are affected by it.”

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Working on commission

She also works on commission. She is currently working on a series of five portraits of a family. “It is a blended family, father, mother, two of his sons, a daughter and two of her sons. It will be five separate portraits that have the same atmosphere.”

She first takes the photos for the portraits in the studio, one floor up in her house. “Then I will paint.”

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Does Berry have a key work?

She has, even two. The first key work is a book about her mother who suffers from dementia, ‘Embrace your memories’. This book is about the life journey of her mother. “It is both a socially relevant theme and a personal thing.” The second key work is the booklet ‘Because you and I’ about herself as half of identical twins.

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“Before my mother got sick, I did a lot of fashion things. A good friend of mine was a fashion designer. We did projects together. Unfortunately he passed away. You can still see in my work that it is fashion related. It’s all quite aesthetic. I look at the world through an aesthetic lens, but it is also substantive. It complements each other.”

She is currently working on the ‘Liefde’ (Love) project. “It is also about identity and the passing of time. Just like in my previous projects, I use old photos and old magazines, and tell a story through collages in mainly black and white.”

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How long has she been a photographer?

She graduated from the Photo Academy in June 2021. She started with theater training, “After that I became a TV director. Then I started filming and then taking photographs. Everything is coming together now. Telling a cartoon story, directing models. Everything I picked up somewhere I can now use in my work as a photographer and image maker.”

What is her experience of photography life?

Sometimes people come in wanting to have a portrait made, but usually Berry initiates a project herself. She gets the models through her contact with a modeling agency. She hopes that the large photo portraits will soon find a nice place in a gallery.

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Finally, what is her philosophy?

“It’s always about people. About time, the passing of time and your changing place in the world through the passing of time. I always try to put emotion in my work. And give my work an extra layer, literally and figuratively.”


1) Brooklyn, 2) Evi – white, 3) Fenna, 4) Fenna light, 5) Alone, 6) Embrace car, 7) Embrace tree, 8) Because…. Beach, 9) Because…. Legs, 10) Portrait Berry van Galen

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