We asked Erik Vroons, an Editor-at-large for both GUP Magazine and Newdawn Paper, 5 questions to know him better. Erik will hold a 2-day workshop at this year’s Organ Vida festival edition, called Signature Development. You can apply HERE.
Which photographers have influenced your interest in photography?
I arrived in this realm from a slightly different angle. That is to say, my initial interest was an academic one, to investigate in visual culture at large and how images communicate. So I was more into semiotics and the social impact of photography than in authorship. In fact, now that I’m so closely involved with the makers of so many great bodies of work, I still understand their achievements mainly as successful visual communication, first and foremost.
Without having any particular preference for a certain ‘author’ I have come to learn that there are many good photographers but that it’s very difficult task, in the long run, to be a great and outstanding visual ‘translator of ideas’.
What is the last exhibition that surprised you? Why?
I would like to state that the kind of exhibitions that positively surprise me are the kinds in which there has been a smart use of the space itself. To me, the best presentations of photography are those where it is apparent that the curator has made conscious use of the tangible qualities (photography as an object) and phenomenological aspects of an exhibition (the fact that there is a space and that there are visitors that activate that space. In short, that there is a ‘presence’). I find it rather odd that there is much thought in that direction when it comes to book making and yet so little in establishing exhibitions. That needs to change!
Do you have a gallery/museum-going routine?
Living in The Netherlands, it’s a hard job to keep track on all the things that are happening. Even seeing all shows at the many museums and galleries is a difficult task but I’ll try to see as much as I can. One thing that I try to avoid are openings. Or if I go I’m mostly gone within 5 minutes. I love and admire most of the people there, I just can’t handle seeing them all at once…
How did you get into photography?
I was in my early 30s and then it hit me: I can be in photography without being a photographer! So I gave up the idea to do a PhD in Journalism and instead started an MA in Photographic Studies at the University Leiden (The Netherlands); to gain expertise in all aspects of the medium, other than producing the images. I might have moved from investigating photography to investing in its overall quality over the last few years (by being a critical writer, an editor, and by mentoring workshops for example) but I will always be more a representative of the other side of the brain in comparison to the half that stimulates a great artist. I really admire that creative stimulus, though, with a healthy dose of jealousy.
What do you desire to achieve through photography?
Ah, yes. Desire. The desire is to understand something of the world that I could not see with my own eyes and looking at images – all kinds of images – is an excellent addition to the deep thoughts of intellectuals that can be found in writing. Meanwhile, my ambition is to raise the overall level of visual communication, for the sake of the quality of the public sphere. That’s the activist in me and it is my experience that what we do in these workshops is putting that ambition into immediate action, together.