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An Interview with Teun van der Heijden

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This is the second extract from an interview with Teun van der Heijden,  the designer of Stanley Greene's book, Black Passport.

 

The real boom in photobooks designed by Dutch designers is a recent phenomenon. Hans Gremmen, SYB, Kummer & Herrman, Mevis & Van Deursen, William Zoetendaal and Yourself are among the international elite. How do you relate to the Dutch design tradition?

"When I became excited about photography, I stepped into a world where a special relationship between photographer and graphic designer was not very common.  I knew there was a Dutch design tradition but I never found my place in it. This has a lot to do with my own background. It was never part of my upbringing and I had a lot of difficulty becoming part of the Dutch graphic design culture. On the one hand it intrigued me greatly but I also enjoy working with people I  know. I kept doing commercial assignments which in the end did not satisfy me.  I was looking for something else but I didn´t know what. Until I found photography and I developed a tremendous passion for that ".

You have developed a very personal style and work more like a film director: you keep an overview, but are also very keen on detail. And you make dramatic choices.

"Yes, things have come together. The first time I realized this was when I worked on a book with Martijn van de Griendt about Herman Brood. I was not happy with the edit we made together because it was mainly chronological. So one night I made a completely new edit. The next day I had to explain what I had done. I was already playing with the notion of cinematic editing and with that in mind I told Martijn, "It's music, it's Herman Brood, it's rock 'n roll, a video clip on paper". A few months later, a review in the Dutch national newspaper De Volkskrant said, 'The book looks like a music video'. It made me think, 'I can do this, it is only something stupid like sliding pictures, but I can do it'. That was a discovery. "

You also do exhibitions, which of course is different from a book. Why did you start with that?

"I volunteered at Fotofestival Naarden in part because I wanted to know more about the Dutch photography world. I could turn my interest in photography and the narrative into something other than just flat paper. 

I also did an exhibition on the Chechen War, which included work by Stanley Greene. The original curator had pulled out just after receiving the funds, so all of a sudden I was a curator. After that I got involved with Kadir van Lohuizen. He did projects with NGOs, had seen how I worked and was interested in getting me involved in his Diamond Matters project. I pushed the budget and used it to make both an exhibition and a book. Diamond Matters was later also on show at Foam.

Kim Knoppers

The third part of this interview will follow on Monday.

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