Photograph created by Astrid Wijdekop
Following is my ongoing series of 'Saturday Salons' - where I will continue introducing and sharing the work of other artists who I've met along my creative journeys here on this great world wide web.
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'"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one."
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I see you live in the Netherlands. Can you describe the town in which you live? Are there really windmills? Do people swim on frozen canals? Do you wear wooden clogs?
I live in the middle of the country in a delightful town called Gorinchem. A town founded around the year 1000 by fishermen. Over the years it became very important. It got city rights in 1322. By then big palisades were built around the city to protect it from the enemy . It still is possible to walk all around the citadel on top of the palisade. It takes almost 55 minutes. There are 4 windmills left, two of which are in use for pumping water from the land into the river, to keep the land dry. Gorinchem has almost 35,000 inhabitants, small enough to feel comfortable and big enough to have ‘everything’.
I love that you ask about wooden shoes (=klompen). I used to wear them while working in the yard/garden. At the age of 16/17, I wore them to school, just to be different. Wooden shoes are still worn by most farmers.
We cannot wait for the ice to come. When the canals freeze, we get a kind of fever because we have to be on the ice. We skate from village to village on the canals through the fields. We don’t have to stay hungry because there are small booths that sell soup, hot chocolate, sausage etc. on the ice. It is too bad that only in very severe winters we are able to skate on the canals. It has been 4 years since we skated on natural ice. Once I skated a tour of about 40 miles. But remember, we skate on the ‘speed skates’, the ones with the long blades.
Can you tell me what first ignited your creative spark and interest in art and photography?
My granddad, who was a captain in the merchant navy and sailed many times from Holland to New York, bought for my dad a Kodak Baby Brownie Special, a Bakelite box camera made in the USA between 1938 and 1954 (the year I was born). The images were 15/8 x 2½ inches (~4x6.5cm) on 127 film. When I was about 6 years old I was allowed to use it. Both my parents were into photography and so is my 3-year-older brother, so it was in the family.
Do you have any favorite artists that you believe have influenced and informed your work?
That is a question very difficult for me to answer. I really have to dig into my memory to give the right answer. My mom was taken out of school at a very young age to work. “Education is wasted on girls,” her parents told her. So my mom made sure that we had a proper education by walking in all kinds of museums from a very young age. I think I was 4 when I saw the “Night Watch” of Rembrandt in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Not that we always liked to be ‘dragged’ into places like that, however we learned to appreciate art in general.
One artist I absolutely adore and love is M.C.Escher. He taught me to notice details.
I'm intrigued with your sense of humor, and how you incorporate 'Astrid' as a part of your photographic art. Can you tell us more about that?
It is sometimes difficult to know where things come from. My sense of humor I might have inherited from my dad. My imagination has almost no limits, which helps too. Being at Shutterchance, a photo blog, I started out signing my name at the bottom right. Like ‘everybody' else. There I was again. I wanted to be different. I wanted to add something to my pictures. I found a way to put my name into my pictures in a way that people first start looking for my name and then look at the picture. Of course it is not always possible to really hide it. Sometimes before I even take a picture, I already know where my name will be. Processing the picture sometimes takes 5 minutes but putting my name in more than 30. That is the fun part, creating again. It is like drawing with the computer instead of pen and ink. So it became my trademark.
Long before you embraced photography as your creative medium of choice, I see you were trained as a graphic artist. Can you speak to how one evolved into the other?
Being trained as a graphic artist, I loved the pen and ink, the smell of paint, the material I worked with. We were trained to look at things differently. We looked at the subject but we were told that the space around the object sometimes is more important. I only know the translation from Dutch, called ‘negative space’. I think in photography we do the same. We try to make a composition within the picture, like we are using paint and a brush. So in that regard we created with our camera. It does not need to be an expensive camera, for if you do not see it, it does not matter what camera you have. Experience over time helps. It helps to recognize what needs to be done with the settings of the camera in certain situations, just as experience helps with what certain pencils will do on certain paper. What do colors do when we mix them. In time you know exactly what colors to mix to get a soft green. Photography and being a graphic artist is creating a vision. That vision is unique for the creator and gives a wonderful feeling if somebody will say that they enjoy that vision.
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