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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Petra Noordkamp: Chasing the Male Gaze

Dutch female photographer Petra Noordkamp reveals her world, influences and future projects in this exclusive interview.

Written by Louisa Lee

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All photographs courtesy of Petra Noordkamp

Louisa Lee: Your photos seem very spontaneous. Do you have an idea in advance of what you’re going to photograph?

Petra Noordkamp: Most of the time I have a specific idea of what I want to photograph: lovers in an intimate situation, healing men hanging around the streets or dark seventies hallways. Sometimes I just wander around in big cities and around their outskirts and photograph more intuitively. I search for situations and locations which have a cinematographic quality.

LL: Despite your photos suggesting a further narrative, information pills they have a real stillness about them. Is this something you intend?

PN: It is not something I intend but when I come home after a trip and make a selection from my negatives it is the photos which possess this stillness that I like the best.

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LL: Some of the photos, for instance your ‘Lovers’ sequence, are very intimate. How do you go about capturing this?

PN: I have to admit I really sneak around people. I never ask for permission to photograph them because I want to capture the ‘real’ emotion of that moment. I have a small zoom lens and I make these photos like a paparazzi. I also like the tension and excitement which goes along with these secret operations.

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LL: Your series of photos for the Purple Journal are very beautiful, what initially inspired them?

PN: For a long time I tried to photograph young and older men in public places. I like the way men hang around on the streets. How they just stand on a street corner and look and wait. I am fascinated by the male gaze. So in a book about modern architecture in Casablanca I saw beautiful pictures of men hanging around an enormous public swimming pool hollowed out of the rocks. Because most of the pictures were taken in the fifties it wasn’t clear if the swimming pool was still there. I found the photos so appealing that I bought a ticket to Casablanca to take a look for myself. I discovered that this large public swimming pool was demolished in 1986 to make way for Casablanca’s grand mosque, but to my joy there were still some swimming pools left on the boulevard de la Corniche. Unfortunately there were no men hanging around the pool but I really loved the architecture of the pools and the buildings around them so I decided to photograph them.

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LL: You’ve also produced a series of book covers. Is text and photography important to you?

PN: I like it very much when my photos are used as a book cover or in a magazine together with a short story or a different kind of text.  I think it has to do with my love for magazines and books. I’ve worked in a bookshop for ten years now and I worked as an editor for magazines for quite a while. But I also think my work really comes to life in combination with a text, maybe it has to do with the narrative quality I am searching for. I would be very interested to do more with this. I am thinking of using a combination of a fictional story combined with photos like W.G. Sebald used to do in his books.

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LL: Which author’s work would you like to produce a cover for?

PN: I am very inspired by the work of A.M. Homes, Lorrie Moore, J.M. Coetzee and Richard Yates so it would be great if I could produce a cover for a book of one of these authors.

LL: Who or what else influences your photographs?

PN: I collect second-hand film-scripts; books in which a scenario is combined with photos from the movies. These books are an enormous inspiration for my archive and photo project Cinecitta. This archive consists of photos of locations which remind me of images I have seen in films of Antonioni, Rosselini and Godard; filmmakers who really influenced my way of experiencing and looking at the world. I admire the way the artist Aglaia Konrad uses her photos of buildings and cities in installations and books and I love the songs of PJ Harvey. Her CD ‘Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea’, inspired me to make the photo series ‘Pictures of the Sea.’ Also, the book Youthby J.M. Coetzee made me look more intensely at ‘normal’ men.

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LL: Where might we see your work next?

PN: I am working on different projects at the moment but I have no exhibitions planned in the near future. You can see my work on the internet on my website and on two blogs. One at petranoordkamp.blogspot.com where I write about my latest projects and publications and the other is a more commercial one where I post pictures which I think will work as book covers.

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