“Only speeding cameras are objective” says Mischa Keijser. ‘Photography is about lying”, and what visual and emotionally compelling truths Keijser reveals with his nefarious craft
In the world of photographer Mischa Keijser nature is not at all…’natural’. For sure, there are landscapes, animals, and humans, but their relationship is ever so slightly…
His work visually explores the curious manners and etiquette of our relationship with nature and his irreverence lends his work a refreshing and bracing honesty, “Mankind is shaping nature, and her beauty can be really boring,” he writes in the intro to his Nature series. Like the brevity of Keijser’s introduction, the stillness of Keijser’s images suck you in. It’s partly due to a sense of composition and a skill with colour that enables the viewer to discover the idea in the photo themselves.
The effect may also echo a practice he occasionally uses he calls “Slow Photography” which entails waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more. Patience is not a virtue, it’s a skill, easily ignored and forgotten in the age of digital. And it’s why whether Keijser is shooting Lifestyle, Landscapes or Lighting, the image is singularly ‘true’.
A shot of a single object that expresses a powerful memory/event
An image of three books that have inspired you?
Gilles Perress, Farewell to Bosnia. Teun Hocks, Het Late Uur. Gerhard Richter, Landscapes
Favourite photo you have taken?
I find it hard to choose one favourite; today I’d say it’s the Dutch movie director Alex van Warmerdam. Powerful styling, bizarre sense of humor and great acting. And very, very Dutch.
What’s your background as an image-maker?
I started oil-painting when I was 11 but converted to photography when I was 15. Sitting all day inside, behind an easel, made me feel a bit claustrophobic. Photography was a good excuse to go outside. I was also attracted to working in the theatre (light and sound), so I worked as an intern for one year in a Rotterdam theatre. Learned a lot, especially on lighting. But after working for one year behind the scenes, I understood that I did not want to be invisible for the rest of my life. So I went to art-college, and studied photography.
When did the exploration of nature and culture become the focus of your work?
After I had finished college, and got myself a car (a Citroen AX). My girlfriend was photographing in South Africa, and I started to drive around in the countryside. A short while later, we moved to a farm that we rented. Our house was standing in the fields, and I could see the light/the weather changing all day. And all kinds of animals were living around us.
To what extent are these themes played out in your commercial work?
When making landscapes, I often concentrate on those places where human intervention is visible.
When looking at humans, I try to show their imperfections as well. I think that overly-perfected images of people, will make other people unhappy in the long run. I believe that stock photographers/agencies have a responsibility in this because their images are everywhere, people get influenced by them. It’s a bit unrealistic to depict only woman wearing size 8, and males that look like Tarzan.
In the introduction to your series Subjectivity you say, “Photography is about lying.” It’s so refreshing to hear a professional photographer celebrate the skill and artifice of craft, can you tell us a little more about this project?
I’m fascinated by the fact that waiting for a short while can result in a completely different photograph. I’ve been making double-takes of Dutch landscapes for three years now. I put the 6×12 Cambo on a tripod, and wait for changes in the light. It has been a very interesting experience; instead of moving around all the time, you just wait. ‘Slow Photography’, so to say. I’m currently finishing this series, and will start looking for a place to exhibit the work.
Your series Nature feels like a narrative piece, juxtaposing technology and nature, it very effectively conjures up the feeling of a strange world. Were these images planned or ‘found’?
Mostly planned, sometimes found.
There are two images, I need you to tell me that they’re not stuffed animals and secondly how did you capture these shots! The Deer in the field and the hawk and the pigeon? And are you constantly on the lookout for birds, animals…?
The animals were alive (but not kicking). Deer are extremely shy; I used a Rolleiflex, because it has the quietest shutter, connected with a battery powered flash. I tried to lure the deer with pieces of bread; as soon as it came close enough I could make one photo; than the deer would run away.
And the whole exercise started all over again. This went on for three hours, before I got the right shot. The hawk is owned by a falconer, so it was tied to a pole when I made the picture.
I used a Profoto flash in this case. I’m a rubbish nature-photographer; I prefer animals that are in captivity.
To view more of Mischa’s work, visit his website