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Maarten Rots: Seeing Abstract Photography

by Editor Wicher Bos
Published the 29th of May 2020

Maarten Rots, a Dutch photographer (1982), is renowned for his abstract photography. He finds art in places where most photographers simply walk by.
What is his secret?

Maarten, thank you for freeing up some time for the community and providing some background to your photography.

'Untitled (Facade 02, 2018)'



'Untitled, (Berlin, 2019/2)'



'Untitled (Rovereto, 2018/2)'

Maarten, I noticed you call yourself a visual artist, not a photographer per se. Why?
Although for the past five years my main output has been photography, I do not see myself as a photographer. My interest is much broader than still photography, before I picked up the photo camera I worked with video and made installations. Last year I collaborated with a stained-glass maker and together we translated three of my photographs into stained glass objects.


'Stained Glass Triptych, 2019'

That was a very enriching experience and I have since been musing about other ways to use my photography as a starting point for new work.  The medium is not leading; my ideas and interests come first and along the way the medium slowly becomes evident.

How would you describe your work? What is it you want to achieve?
Photography gives me a sense of being in control of a situation. When I go out with my camera and I spot a situation I can photograph in such a way that it becomes something new, that it transcends its mundanity, my sense of being in control of where I am becomes greater, physically as well as mentally. For a brief moment I can shape reality.

This is one of the reasons I am so attracted to photography. It is so much more than just clicking the shutter, the entire process of walking around in a different kind of concentration, where I fail to notice most of what is happening around me, hyper-focused on seemingly uninteresting details, that is what draws me to photography.

To be part of reality but to experience it in a different, for me more approachable way. I’ve had an interest in perception and the effects of light for a long time and that’s something that comes through in my work.

I try to capture everyday situations in an abstract way and hope to show that the mundane can be spectacular.


'Untitled (Facade 01, 2018)'

How do you see your work evolving?
My work slowly developed into the direction it is now and I’m sure it will be different again a few years from now. For some years now, I’ve been quite fascinated with the abstract qualities that can be found in our everyday surroundings, that will probably remain a motive for the foreseeable future.

Light is always an important ingredient in photography, but lately light itself has taken on a more important role as a subject. The current situation has made me start constructing my own situations and photograph and film those. That’s something I have been considering often during the past years so this was the moment to go with it. Not sure where it will lead, but it’s been an interesting experience so far.

You train yourself in looking for abstract images, can you tell us more about that?
I attempt to see reality without its meaning attached, to reduce everything to shapes and lines and colours and texture to find interesting compositions. I try to look at what I see around me without considering the individual objects. It’s something I do all the time, not only when I am having a camera in my hands. I want to understand why light and shadow cause certain effects so I can become better at identifying situations that may show these effects when I see the circumstances that should produce the them.

I try to understand the properties of the materials that our world is made of, so I can get a little closer to figuring out the interaction between these materials and light and shadow. When I have a better understanding of this I become a little bit better at predicting the possibility of an interesting photograph when I encounter a situation before I have seen the actual composition.


'Untitled (Quarteira, 2020)'



'Untitled (Berlin, 2019/3)'



'Untitled (Langenlois, 2019/1)'

The goal is to recognize when there may be something of interest, instead of accidentally walking into it by the grace of coincidence. It’s an ongoing journey towards becoming more deliberate and intentional about my photography.

Slowly the act of spotting these elements becomes part of my ‘visual toolbox’ and I don’t have to constantly look for them but they will start to stand out in a way that kind of feels like it’s automatic, it becomes second nature. Usually that also means my focus shifts and I start to look for other things that may become part of this toolbox, which slowly changes the kinds of photos I take.

Is there one image in your portfolio that makes you feel proud or has a special emotion to it?
In 2015, I committed myself to work within a one-kilometre radius, only capturing photographs within this area. In order to push myself further, I had arranged for an exhibition to take place by the end of the week with 7 large fine-art prints. Each day I chose one photo that would be printed in a large format.


'Untitled (Siting Qlick Editions Day 5, 2015)'

It proved to be a very fruitful project, I learned a lot about making choices and persevering. On the fifth day of this project I took a photograph of a reflecting building in a weathered window, resulting in an abstract and geometric representation of the situation, with a particularly painterly feel to it. Amazed by the result and realizing that this was possible simply by taking a photograph initiated my continual search for situations where I can capture my everyday surroundings in a way that is less descriptive yet more open to interpretation. Taking the time to analyse what the ingredients for this particular photo were and how I used the camera to create it accelerated my process towards more abstract photography.

That said, analysing the photos that don’t ‘work’ helps just as much to find out what you want and how to do it. If you know what you are after you can figure out where you can improve and get closer to where you want to be.


'Untitled (Ponte di Piave, 2018)'



'Untitled (Berlin, 2019/1)'



'Untitled (Júzcar, 2018)'

What other artists, be them photographers or not, do you see as examples or do you admire and why?
A photographer I really admire is Erin O’Keefe, she’s also an architect and I think you can see how that translates in her photography. The way she plays with perception and uses the two-dimensional translation of a three-dimensional situation through photography is mind bending.

Natalja Kent works with photographic materials but doesn’t use a camera to produce stunning abstract prints, completely made by her moving in the darkroom with a flash light and chromogenic paper.

Coen Kaayk was a Dutch sculptor whose main subject was abstraction of light, colour and transparency. Every time you see his sculptures they are a little bit different as the light constantly changes. The light projected through his sculptures change the space they are in, incredibly fascinating.

Is there anything else you wish to add?
To take my work off the screen I have been self-publishing my own magazine March & Rock for the past 5 years, and continue to do so 4 times per year. The magazine gives an insight into my process and provides an indication of how my work is developing.
If you’re interested to see more of my work, please consider subscribing, you can do that on my website.

ALL PHOTOS COURTESY Maarten Rots © Maarten Rots
For further reference see
Maarten’s website:
Instagram: @maartenrots

Thank you, Maarten for sharing more about your passion in life.
Welcome to the community!
We’re excited to see what works of art you come up with next.


'Untitled (Torremolinos, 2020)'



'Untitled (Albufeira, 2018/6)'



'Untitled (Cascais, 2020)'



'Untitled (Krems and der Donau, 2019/10)'



'Untitled (Krems and der Donau/5)'



'Untitled (Krems an der Donau, 2019/2)



'Untitled (Krems an der Donau, 2019/6)


Stunning abstract work, superb interview, congrats Maarten. Thank Yvette !!!
Very impressive abstract works. Intriguing interview which gives insight to Maarten abstract images. My compliments dear Maarten for sharing and thanks Yvette for shading lights on this excellent works of art.
Congratulations, Maarten! Thanks for your fine collaboration and welcome to 1x. Your vision on abstract art in its purest form is so excellent. Thanks to Wicher too, for leading this great interview. Best regards, Yvette