A journey is the conquest of time and space, both a discovery and a photographic experiment at the same time. Over the past 20 years I have crossed the European continent from Tromsø to Bordeaux and from Cardiff to Katowice. I visited landscapes that derive their existence from human intervention. They were all touched by the human hand and therefore ambiguous in their origin.

The first landscape I remember well is the heathland on the north side of Hilversum, Netherlands. I could see this plain from the third-floor window of the apartment I grew up. In the far distance I could see the water towers of Laren and Bussum. It became my personal landscape. I discovered the small hidden paths, I got to know the way in trees through which I could climb to the top and I knew how to make myself invisible for my parents.
Years later, I traversed it on my bike on my way to high school. At first only during the day, later also at night. In the light of the moon and stars I steered my bicycle over the narrow sandy paths. I knew every bump and hole.

Between 1995 and 2012 I lived in Flevoland, reclaimed land from the former Zuiderzee. Now I had two young children of my own. I already knew the vastness of the polder landscape from my early childhood in Hilversum. There was little more to discover in this flat empty world than the vast fields. In this landscape, it was not the natural aspects that fascinated me, but the ideas or concepts with which it was created. The size of the fields was tailored to the exploitation possibilities. Trees were planted with a future image of nature in mind. The largest nature reserve was created in an unused reservation for heavy industry.  Flevoland was a landscape experiment with man as its creator.

The interweaving between culture and nature fascinated me. The seed for this was sown during my study Cultural Anthropology. Is reality something inside or outside us? Is the distinction between nature and culture a contradiction? Our concepts, our ideas are connected with our natural environment and in constant interaction. So, can I consider a landscape as ‘nature with a meaning’? And how is that influenced by the medium with which we express ourselves? The observer influences what is perceived. This indicates to me that the instrument and technique with which we observe (and represent) must be objectified in order to say something about reality, both on a material as conceptual level. These are the key questions in my work and leads me to extensive experiments in my printing.

The landscape is my playing field were the interaction between culture and nature has become visible. Years ago, I chose to have a camera built for me the size of a small telescope. The instrument has given me stability in a world that is always on the move. I work with a camera that produces negative material with an enormous amount of information. Even with the naked eye, it is often not possible to see everything that has been captured. My prints are the result of the analysis of that captured image. The print is an objectification of this. By using handcrafted printing processes I maximize my representational possibilities and experiment until I see what I have not seen before.

I am a landscape myself and cannot separate my feelings as a child from the vast heathlands near Hilversum. The empty polders in Flevoland and forests in Finland and Sweden cannot be separated from manufacturability, the photos of coal mountains not from its matter and the landscapes in Norway cannot been separated from a historical photographic approach.
The country in the Netherlands has fallen below sea level caused by its exploitation. A coal mountain can be transformed into a park, forestry in Sweden and Finland is sustainable and the Norwegian wilderness is an idealized image. What do I see?
We need to strike a balance between exploitation and conservation. This insight has been applied in the forests of Sweden and Finland. The Dutch have experienced that a centuries-long process of poldering leads to a struggle rather than an equal existence with the sea. But a landscape that has been formed by exploitation such as the polders, the coal mountains and the forests have sufficient restorative capacity, sufficient intelligence to do what is necessary to become vital again.  

Photography was once considered “a pencil of nature”, an instrument with an objective representation of reality. Now it is the most important instrument in its falsification. Photography can equally obscure our view as it can open our eyes. I try to locate the truth even though I am aware that it was created by myself.  In this process, my ideas evolve and lead me to my next destination.


Witho Worms