“Whereas photography excels in showing exactly how the visible word looks like, this doesn’t satisfy me. What I’m always searching for are ways to catch an inner world into an image.”
Paul Bogaers. Born in 1961 in Tilburg, Paul Bogaers is a Dutch visual artist and photographer. He studied photography at “Academy for Fine Arts, Tilburg” (The Netherlands).
Association and suggestion play an important role in the work of visual artist and photographer Paul Bogaers. In his combination of photographs – his own as well as found snapshots, postcards and other pre-existing images – he invites the viewer to perceive surprising new links and meanings. But equally in Bogaer’s individual photographs, associations are being revealed that generally remain unnoticed behind the facade oft he common and insignificant.
Interview with Paul Bogaers
Paul, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
My first camera was an Agfa Ambi-silette, a manual rangefinder camera that was formerly used by my father. It was my aim to take only good pictures, and my theory was that I would be able to avoid any failed or poor photograph by keeping a film roll as long as possible inside the camera. I’d take the maximum of time for every shot and, still more important, I’d weigh very carefully the importance of every intended photograph before even getting the camera to the eye. If I wasn’t convinced of the value of the photograph beforehand, I wouldn’t even try. It was disappointing to experience that even with these strong precautions, the pictures of my first films didn’t exceed the average in any way. I had to change my approach.
Photography, as I thus experienced for the first time but certainly not the last, is a breeding ground for misconception.
Why did you become a photographer?
I never asked myself that question. I guess that I was born that way. As a matter of fact, I’d rather been a painter. But I don’t have the talent for painting, and for photography I possibly do.
(People often assume that there is a lot to choose in life. Which I don’t believe.)
What does photography mean to you?
Photography is my means of expression. My profession is an artist.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
I couldn’t tell. There were lots of photographers that inspired me, all for different reasons and on different aspects. But none of these influenced me decisively.
Your favorite photography quote?
Again, nothing comes to my mind, I’m sorry. There must be a thousand of exciting quotes from famous photographers that I’ve come across, but they’ve all gone back into oblivion.
How would you describe your photographic language?
I like to describe my work, metaphorically, as thought photography. Whereas photography excels in showing exactly how the visible word looks like, this doesn’t satisfy me. What I’m always searching for are ways to catch an inner world into an image. Photography as a means of expression that is – which is inherently impossible. Just like thought photography.
But I force my way. By making combinations of two images, for instance. Provided that it is done properly, this introduces a third one that is imaginary, and this one can slip from in between the two visible ones right into the head of the spectator. Association and suggestion play an important role in this.
Apart from my own photographs I also make use of found snapshots, postcards and other pre-existing images.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic style and how did you achieve it?
It’s important to look at the work of other photographers; in my opinion however it’s even more important not to get influenced by them. For myself, I always tried to keep on my own track, without taking notice of photographers or photographs that are in fashion.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work?
Technically there is no axis of my work whatsoever. In technique I’m hardly interested, and I don’t care about it at all. To me, it’s not the point.
Conceptually, my work has much to do with the imperfection and the limitations of photography. Especially in this area, I try to explore the possibilities of pushing the boundaries.
What qualities does a good photographer need?
To be fully independent, and to have a world of his own that he is eager to express.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
To be astonishing, even in the most modest way.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
From the way I respond to the beautiful, dreadful and senseless world around me.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
In the analog days, I preferred to use rather rudimentary cameras, with lenses of such simplicity that they allowed, together with the light, various personal experiences and associations to reach and affect the negative. One of my favorites was the “Pack-126”, a kind of toy camera with a single plastic lens. No camera settings, not even a viewfinder. I loved the wonderful gifts of coincidence this camera supplied.
When this way of photographing became fashionable and even got labeled (lomography), I switched to digital cameras – always compact ones because to me it’s essential always to carry a camera with me.
By the way, I consider the importance of the quality of the camera and equipment as strongly overrated.
It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer.
What’s your favorite website on photography?
I’m sorry, I don’t have one. I guess I’m still living in the real, material world.
What photography book would you recommend?
It has been a long time since I’ve read it (and still longer since it was first published), but to my opinion “On Photography” by Susan Sontag still contains one of the most mature and lucid collection of thoughts on the medium.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
You have to realize: nowadays everyone is a photographer. Do you really want to practice this professionally? Be very honest with yourself, and also critical of yourself.
Do you have something to add to the billions of photos that are already there? Do you care to think about this, and are you still able to remain optimistic?
Then go for it, to the end.