“The main goal of my photography is to capture, but I still like it if the story really strikes people, in a good way.”
Prins de Vos (born 1991) is a young Dutch photographer.
For him photography is a means to put things into perspective and to explore personal issues.
His recent project Enclose is a photographic diary about the relationship with his boyfriend.
In this interview Prins de Vos shares his experience of being photographer and subject at the same time in this project and how seemingly random moments add up to a story.
The series Enclose will be published in English later on this year.
Interview with Prins de Vos
Prins, your recent series “Enclose” is a very personal project. What is it about?
“Enclose” is about myself and my relationship. But I think, while time goes on, it is getting a deeper sense.
Recently somebody called Enclose a portrait of a generation and I really liked that expression.
I am taking photographs of me and my boyfriend for about two years now. It has been evolved out of an obsession, just like, actually, all of my work has been.
This time, the object of the obsession was my own boyfriend. I wanted to catch, to capture him so badly. But it was not only him that fascinated me, but also our way of being together and relationships in general.
It is one of the most special things in life. Two people (or three, or four, could be possible as well) starting a relationship. How people join and form a life together interests me seriously.
Up to me, nothing is that complex as a human being, and then having two human beings living together, just imagine how complicated that must be.
And, talking about Enclose, that is one of the reasons that I also take photographs of myself. Being a part of the relationship, I am an essential part of the series.
After you’d decided to take on the subject, how did you decide on the question of how to resolve it photographically, so that form would match content?
Actually, I am not thinking about forming, doing a project.
As almost everything goes intuitively.
Besides that, my work isn’t fiction. I do not plan to set up the picture. It is already there and I am just capturing the moment.
Obviously, it occurs that the result of a certain image or a particular series is not to my satisfaction and in those cases I will not publish it. From that point of view, yes I am in control, and guiding the project.
But I do not plan a certain preconceived result, just because of the simple fact that there is none.
How difficult was it to deal with such close personal matters and even being a part of the photographs?
Until a certain level, yes it was difficult, but I got used to it rather quickly.
“I see scraps out of my life, but on the other hand I am seeing a story.”
Looking at a photo of yourself really differs from looking in the mirror after all. As I wrote before, a photograph is just a small detail of the larger occurrence. And although I obviously was involved, because I myself was taking the pictures, it really feels different to have a look at it afterwards through the photographs, than having been a part of it.
When I am having a look at the photographs in Enclose, I see scraps out of my life, but on the other hand I am seeing a story just by itself, and I just happen to be a part of it.
Why do you consider photography a suitable means to deal with personal matters?
To me it just puts everything in its proper perspective. My life is just one of the many, many existences there have ever been.
A series as Enclose has a mirror function. It gets me out of the daily routine and forces me to have a look at my own life as being just the observer of it. I like that, it comforts me.
What reaction do you like to provoke in people who look at your images?
It affects me a lot when people are touched by my photographs.
The main goal of my photography is to capture, but I still like it if the story really strikes people, in a good way.
At the same time I am not really interested in the opinions people have about my work. I make it just because it is my way of expressing my feelings, not to provoke reactions.
At the beginning of each project one often has some kind of idea in mind as to what the result could be like. Sometimes that changes along the way and the result is quite different. Was that the case with “Enclose” and if so what did you learn during the project?
I started Enclose without having any idea. Compare it to starting writing a book without having a clue about the characters and without having a plot upfront, just let the story start.
In fact, the story was already there. I just had to capture it.
I was led by my own intuition and that made the series to what it is now. For me, we cannot speak about having a final result, because I am still making “Enclose” photographs. The book was just a chapter of the story and the further course is still unknown.
You also turned the project into a book. Can you tell a little bit about the editing process? From choosing the images, putting them in order, finding an editorial, the printing etc.
Making a book of a series is a very educational experience.
You have to focus on your work on a different way than you usually do. You are forced to consider about the way you want your photographs to be seen. That is a thing that you do not often do when you just put your work online.
A book is such a specific format. It is fixed and you cannot change it anymore. Fortunately I did not have to do it all by myself. Teun van der Heijden of the graphic design agency Heijdens Karwei took care of the design. And that is something that I need.
Somebody that can have a look at my work objectively. Putting everything in order was not the most difficult part of the whole process, because I wanted a chronological oversight. That truly is a main issue in my work; the observer being able to feel a part of our life, empathizing and seeing us getting older.
The growing older process is not something that I wanted to appear from the photographs consciously, but from the beginning till the end a difference is noticeable.
It is not fiction, so I thought I should deal with the order of the photographs carefully.
Susan Sontag once said “The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own”. How has photography changed the way you look at the world and what have you learnt about yourself?
On the contrary to what Susan Sontag declared, I do not want people to feel as a tourist, looking at my pictures.
Evidently they do not know the people I make photographs of and no they are not familiar with the spots that I capture so yes until here it is comparable to being a tourist in an unknown city, but I think it goes deeper than being just a tourist. At least, that is what I hope for.
“I am having a new look at my life from a completely different angle, since I started photographing.”
A universal language is perceptible. How people circle around each other, relate to each other, look at each other. Recognition could be at issue even so much as having the feeling of being just a tourist. At the same time I am definitely having a new look at my life from a completely different angle, since I started photographing.
As if it wasn’t me in the pictures, but somebody else.
A person living on the other side of the world, or the neighbour, that does not matter. You will see as much from yourself in any picture taken, as you will see from the other items captured within the frame of a photograph.
Just like you will learn as much about yourself being a tourist in an unexplored city as you will learn about the city itself.
Last but not least, let’s switch roles: Which question would you have liked to be asked in this interview about your work that I didn’t ask? Please feel free to add it – as well as the answer.
I would like to mention that an English version of my book is coming out later this year. You can contact me to pre-order a copy.