Hans Eijkelboom: famous Dutch "old school" street photographer
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I was very happy to be able to interview the famous street photographer Hans Eijkelboom live in Amsterdam. He turned out to be a very pleasant person. I was curious to find out how someone could continue to make photos of people in the street for many decennia. I met him in his studio in the typical Amsterdam neighbourhood “De Jordaan”.
Hans Eijkelboom during the interview – by Marc van Kempen
I am looking at a photo your grandfather made in one of your books and I really like this photo.
Here’s another photo of me as a young boy. It will be included in my next book.
Can you tell us a bit about your youth?
Did your grandpa teach you?
At a certain time in your life you had to choose. Why photography?
At the Art Academy I took the course “Monumental Design”. I wasn’t involved in photography at that stage; I was only busy designing squares and parks. I made models and slowly photography was introduced again; this time to photograph the spaces I was designing for. I documented my projects through photos. I was also interested in how nature could influence architecture. And I was intrigued by the relationship between my own identity, architecture and the entire social environment.
Another example was a series in which I portrayed myself as father of a random family.
A number of people who I knew quite well about ten years ago, but who I’ve never seen afterwards, were contacted by an assistant of mine, with the following questions:
Each interview is illustrated by a photograph of Hans Eijkelboom in which he personifies the profession attributed to him by the people who were interviewed.
When I first became artist I was constantly searching for my identity and the relationship of my identity with the society I lived in.
Was that a revolutionary period?
I was caught in the middle. On one hand I adhered to the conceptual art form but in the end I realised that the image was still very important to me. It was difficult for me because I am not a photographer and photographic criteria are not applicable on my work. My work has gone through a long period of development and funny enough in the last few years my earlier work has attracted more attention.
Why do think this is happening?
Did you see the change from analogue to digital as an advantage?
Tell me a bit more about the background of your diaries.
How do you proceed in the street?
Do people in the street notice?
Does that create problems?
I do send photos to people who have seen themselves in a book and who have asked for a photo. I also take care that they are well portrayed and that there could be no reason for complaint. I love people; if I didn’t you would get totally different photos.
Doesn’t it drive you mad to see so many themes in the street?
Which ones are those?
Do you always carry your camera when you go down town with your wife?
You’re famous for those series but do you also get commercial assignments?
Do you use Photoshop a lot?
What is your source of income?
The two people from Rotterdam who are trying to imitate your work: that must be a huge irritation in your eyes?
What about plagiarism in general? Can you just copy ideas of others?
What do you want to reach with your work?
Do you sell a lot at your expositions?
Do you have tips for amateur photographers who’d like to become professional?
Thank you very much for the interesting talk and for your time, Hans.
For people interested in Hans’s oeuvre I recommend the book: “Hans Eijkelboom Concepts 1970”. A very interesting work of this exceptional photographer.
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