The extra winter issue of this lifestyle/fashion photography-oriented magazine features part of my House Parties series as an editorial. The subtitle: New Symbols for a New Age hopefully puts a new public on the right track in looking not just for appearances, but for intentions and possible meanings. The fin-de-siècle mid-1990’s dance scene in the Netherlands, as shown in these pictures is still visibly an indicator of the changes of an increasingly urbanized population looking for new ways of expression for their common feelings in spite of all cultural and social differences. Values and traditional roles are challenged and tested out, while the relentless beats of the new music never stop. Somehow I felt like it would always be 1996….
“I want to photograph the considerable ceremonies of our present because we tend while living here and now to perceive only what is random and barren and formless about it.
While we regret that the present is not like the past and despair of its ever becoming the future, its innumerable inscrutable habits lie in wait for their meaning.” [….]
Diane Arbus, start of 1963 Guggenheim Grant proposal.
How do you find your subjects? The question arises when people are really interested in photography, but cannot put themselves in the role of a photographer, especially not a street photographer. When I think about it, I don’t often go look for subjects myself. I go out and come across them sooner or later, if not today maybe another time. Other photographers may do so too. Obviously my all-time favorite Garry Winogrand made good use of what he called the omnivorous nature of the camera, pointing it at every interesting situation involving people, on a daily basis. He started with sports photography, stage photography, he photographed both the politicians of the day and his own family (it is said that he took a picture of his children every day he put them on the school bus, almost a ritual); he photographed festivities, parades, the zoo that he took his children to, and above all, street life: happy, lonely, indifferent passers-by, women, other women and more women, a life-long fascination. Walking the endless pavements downtown, as well as countless suburban streets, carparks, malls, airports, boardwalks, you name it… People blown like bits of paper in the wind through the inhospitable streets of life. People lost in thoughts, in love or phantasies, in pain, looking for meaning. He one of them… You ask me how to find a subject ? If you go out, it stares you right in the eye.
I have been editing old contact prints, and quite a few at that. You can only do so much in one run, it’s tiring. After a few hundred you have to pause or you don’t really LOOK anymore – and you have to be aware of minute details sometimes! It’s your second chance of making the right choice – educated and instinctive – from the material that you have brought together in the past. You lookthink and themes emerge; even though I never work in projects, there is a clear preference for certain subjects. The individual in the crowd, possibilities and difficulties of communication, the human condition. Those moments that some higher meaning shines through like a ray of sun on a cloudy day…
How to get content in an otherwise interesting picture. I have already decided that while taking the photograph (this is analog photography, what you see is what you get). It is the art of instantaneously choosing the elements that can do the magic within the frame, the personal symbolism. The old metaphors won’t do anymore, moreover it’s rare you encounter the white horse of freedom with its waving manes on mainstreet, so you find your own images to carry your thoughts. You may look for one thing, find another, and still be happy. Improvising, being open to the world around you is what street photography is about. Analog photography with a small camera is perfect, I’m sure it has a future. There’s so much freedom in showing your reality, no matter what others call it: humanistic, political, individualistic, poetic, religious, they are all only aspects of our appreciation of “the world”, but meaning and a growing understanding of it should be the criterium, not the fashion of the moment.
…Personally I was struck [by the image of]…young people showing a great sense of self-awareness of their own beauty. Christian Perring Ph.D., Metapsychology Online Review
…very striking and powerful… Susan Krane, University of Colorado
…lively documentation of the club scene in Holland. […] The heat is almost palpable. Gordon Baldwin, The J.Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
…There are so many that I like (or should I say: that appeal to me)… Georges Vercheval, Musée de la Photographie, Charleroi (Belgium)
Whereas other photographers […] seem to be mainly fascinated by the extreme and the bizarre […] Stappers has consciously attempted to catch the deeper meaning of his observations […] giving shape to a subjective experience… Joost Meesters, Het Belang van Limburg, Hasselt (Belgium)
I know by now what kind of images I want to make. Your eyes should dance with excitement exploring all the visual elements and points of interest that make up the image: light and dark, suggestions of closeness and distance, movements frozen into beauty of shape, possible symbols. Those are facts, is there a meaning? Discovering what’s inside the frame should be an adventure, not a checklist. There’s so little to go by, o.k., there’s the definition and the details – we feel assured by that – there’s the placement, the suggestions and hints. But there are no sounds, smells, colors or movement for me to include, yet I must create a little cosmos of interconnections, of possibilities and realities within or (suggested) without the frame! This is all done improvising like a jazz musician, instantly and “onstage”, no second thoughts or withdrawals. This is it and this is exactly what you get. Don’t expect me to connect the dots for you (I may even throw in some extra dots); I can only do so much for making the picture alive, and relevant to your experience.