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INTERNATIONAL 3

UK 5 - 22 SEPTEMBER 2011

school

own preschool

Photo Wout Overkamp

Adam in a lab

Hungry for more | PH O T O G R A PH Y | The Noorderlicht festival is regarded

as one of the top five photography festivals in the world. But it´s not just the cream of the crop who take part, local talent can have a shot as well. One example is PhD student Wout Overkamp, who collaborated with Saskia Jeulink on the exhibitions The Last Days of Adam and Idea. By RICHARD KOOTSTRA

Photo Reyer Boxem

s make funny jokes’ are a lot less strict here. They make funny jokes.” The students are distracted when Roelof Hars, a history student at the RUG and one of the conference’s hosts, brings in some food, a big pan containing Indonesian fried rice. He is rewarded with a long burst of applause and has to pose for pictures for several minutes. The Japanese fill the room with the flashes from their digital cameras. While eating, Shogo gives a monologue on why the centre of Groningen is impractical. “A few things are very strange”, he said. “Why isn’t there asphalt on every street? Those cobblestones are very uncomfortable when you’re riding a bike. And the moving bridges puzzle me. In Japan bridges are high enough for ships to sail underneath.” He frowns and looks at his flashing Nikes. “And another strange thing, you have to signal to bus drivers that you want to get on their bus or else they don’t stop! After I missed a few buses, I finally found out that just waiting at a bus stop doesn’t do the trick.” “I just think

your city centre is very beautiful”, says linguistics student Ritsuko Kameyama, a shy-looking girl. She proudly shows the pictures she has taken in the past few days. It appears that she has taken a picture of literally every moment of her trip. Meanwhile, Kentaro is almost falling asleep on the couch. Host Roelof winks and talks in Dutch so that the Japanese can’t understand: “I think he’s got a hangover. They were pretty drunk yesterday!” When Roelof translates what he said, Kentaro laughs. “The parties are very nice here. In Japan you just sit with your friends. Nobody talks to strangers. Here everybody is very kind”, he says. “And Dutch boys are very tall and handsome”, adds Ritsuko, who obviously isn’t as shy as she looks. She grabs her camera again, saying: “Look at this movie!” The sound of some drunken students singing ‘Het gras van het Noorderplantsoen’ fills the room. While everybody is laughing, she senses another photo opportunity: “Everybody say bambooooo.”

What started as a casual photographic record of his holidays is now, some five years later, a fully fledged exhibition. “When I got my first digital camera, I realized there was more to photography than taking pictures of monuments”, Wout explains. The 27-year-old student of Molecular Genetics started a photo blog to keep himself motivated and to hone his craft, and now he is having his first exhibition. The concept was simple enough. “Saskia wanted to make a sort of documentary, but instead of a film, she wanted photographs staged like a movie”, Wout explains. The only thing missing was a photographer. “And that’s pretty much where I came in”, he adds. “I had worked with her before on a play a couple of years earlier. We worked on the concept of an exhibition and there you have it: The Last Days of Adam and Idea.” The first exhibition is a series of six photos depicting one man: Adam. He is not the biblical figure but a firm reference. “It’s about the younger generation losing touch with religion. There’s not really a Christian message. I’m not a Christian and I’m not preaching”, Wout says with a smile. “You could also see it as a commentary about technology, about losing touch with nature.”

The first photo shows Adam in a lab, genetically modifying an apple and creating apple sauce. The apple is a biblical reference, as is a rib in the next picture. Eventually, spare ribs become a sort of Last Supper, with Adam not really enjoying his own cooking. The last picture depicts death, with Adam lying in a bathtub, his eyes closed. “Staging the photographs really makes them look more dramatic, more sinister”, Wout explains. “I think you could call Gregory Crewdson one of my biggest inspirations. He does pretty much the same thing, only on a much larger scale. It’s like a film, but there’s no movement, just pictures frozen in time.” The other series of photos was inspired by Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. For those not educated in Greek philosophy, the allegory is about a group of people chained up in a cave. The only things they can see are shadows projected on the wall by the fire behind them. The shadows are their reality. “What we wanted to show”, Wout explains, “was the true reality, not the shadows. But you can’t really show that because we can’t perceive that ultimate reality, we don’t know what it looks like.” But they came up with a solution. “We photographed people ‘seeing reality’ in different situations, like a doctor in a hospital for example. The look is mostly surprise.” For Wout the exhibition only made him hungry for more. “It’ll probably be a part-time thing, because there’s not a lot of money to be made in photography,” he says. “But it’s definitely more than a hobby. I’ve found my niche in staged photography and we’ll see what happens from here.” www.woutoverkamp.nl

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uk 5 - 22 september 2011 | jaargang 41  

Onafhankelijk weekblad voor de Rijksuniversiteit Groningen; Independent weekly for the Groningen University (Netherlands)