© Hendrik Kerstens, Red Hair, from the series Paula’s Pictures, 2007


© Hendrik Kerstens, Blond, from the series Paula’s Pictures, 2007


© Hendrik Kerstens, Red Habbit IV,from the series Paula’s Pictures, 2009

“When Hendrik Kerstens decided to dedicate himself entirely to photography in 1995, he turned to a model very near at hand: his daughter Paula. He wanted to document all the important moments in her life, to ‘be there’, to capture something of the fleeting moments that fade from memory all too quickly.The inquisitive eye of the photographer plays an important part in the process: he sets out to catch a glimpse of his subject’s secret being and tries to understand what it is he sees.


Something else is going on in Kerstens’ photographs. Time and time again he uses his daughter as a model, immortalizing her, as if to stop time and oblivion.
Not only does he picture her in relation to events in her own life, he also projects on her his fascination with the Dutch painters of the seventeenth century.
Kerstens: One day Paula came back from horseback riding. She took off her cap and I was struck by the image of her hair held together by a hair-net. It reminded me of the portraits by the Dutch masters and I portrayed her in that fashion. After that I started to do more portraits in which I refer to the paintings of that era. The thing that fascinates me in particular is the way a seventeenth-century painting is seen as a surface which can be read as a description of everyday life as opposed to the paintings of the Italian Renaissance, which usually tell a story. Northern European painting relies much more on craftsmanship and the perfect rendition of the subject. The use of light is instrumental in this.


Kerstens is conscious of the fact that people are the same, no matter who they are or what age they live in. Any association with a certain age is determined by the way we are depicted: the clothes and make up we wear, accessories and lighting. He is fascinated by this game with time and is capable of magically separating the portrait of Paula in a hoodie from everyday reality. You could say that he ‘paints‘ with his camera. To him, photography with its technical possibilities is a means of continuing the ‘descriptive’ arts. The association with painting is even further emphasised by the sharpness of his photographs. The combination of his fascination with the ‘other’, the love for his child, his attempts to come to grips with the passing of time and the knowledge of his craft make this a unique series of photographs which can be firmly placed in the Dutch tradition.”

Margriet Kruyver

To see more of Hendrik’s work click here

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