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An Interview with Teun van der Heijden

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

 

There are many conflict photographers. What makes Stanley's photography really special?

"I see it this way. At one end of the spectrum there is someone like Martijn van de  Griendt who I call a street photographer. Someone who always carries a small camera. Every moment is a photography moment. Then you have the archetypal conflict photographer. That is Kadir van Lohuizen. These are people who when they are in the Netherlands never have a camera in their hands. They research their topic and will only shoot when they are in the actual place. I have always recognized those two archetypes of photography.

In Stanley, I discovered that there is both. Stanley has a greater knowledge about an issue than the average person because he is a journalist, but he does not make in-depth preparations for his work. Stanley is a man who started as a street photographer and turned into a journalist. This makes his work different, looser, more intuitive and associative. He  has something almost naive and he is very empathetic. It makes his work very human. He has the courage to tackle what is currently happening. That's what I appreciate."

You said that Black Passport as a book is mainly inspired by literature and film. As one of the few biographies of photographers, have you been influenced by it?

I read the book by Don McCullin, the pictures are really illustrations in the story. Very traditional for a biography. What I like about Black Passport is that it is an ideal combination of text and photography. Many times you have a book with minimal text, or you have a great story with the pictures as illustrations. 

Has the making of Black Passport made it easier for you to work in the way you like to work?

The last year I did several things my way, though I really have to fight. A photographer really has to believe in a partnership, be confident that I partly take the direction. Not to take any glory for myself but because I seriously believe it will benefit the story. The foundation that the photographer has laid is often very good but it can always be improved to ensure the audience fully understands what's going on.

Kim Knoppers

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