Interview: Rutger ten Broeke


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The main photographic love of Rutger ten Broeke (62) is nudes. The former fashion photographer loves to have beautiful female bodies in front of his lens. But his love of photography is greater than this alone, in the past, he organised the first photograph auction in The Netherlands and ran his own gallery F.32. What is Ten Broeke doing now?

Why photography?
Initially I wanted to become a graphic designer, which is why I went to the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam when I was 20 years old. Soon I became more interested in photography, so I chose that discipline in the second year. I remember that my senior teacher and mentor Jaap D'Olivera (Founder of Bound Artists Federation - GUP) saw one of my photos and said: “You are a thrifty person". The photo hadn't been developed long enough and he held the image upside down. This way he judged the abstraction behind the reality.

You were also busy with extracurricular activities ...
That's right. While I was studying at Rietveld I started my own business as a commercial photographer. At first I only photographed bottles and packaging, but not for long. During that time in my life I also became interested in fashion, and most of all in women. It wasn't long before well-known Dutch and German women's magazines asked me to work for them. I left the academy in my third year to dedicate myself to my work.

You waited a long time before exhibiting your work. Why?
My photography is based on curiosity, but even more on a personal passion for the photographic process and the relationship between photography and reality. In 1981 I had a spot of luck when the famous photographer Marry Ellen Mark cancelled his exhibition at a gallery in Chicago and the gallery owner asked me if I would like to show my work. All of a sudden my nudes were hanging next to the world-famous Charles Harbutt and was my work getting publicity! People everywhere wanted a piece of me, and suddenly I could exhibit where I wanted. I knew that money was paid for great masters, but it was hard to relate that to my own work.

Judging from your photos, you are always searching for the balance between subject and surroundings. Why this specific interest?
The relationship between the human body and the surrounding space gives the photo a special layer. It's about the emotional re- lationship between them, but also about the physical space of man in relation to nature.

Who are your sources of inspiration?
The graphic designer Ab Sok and photo- grapher Wynn Bullock. Especially the photograph of the girl lying head first in a bed of ivy, that image has always stuck with me. I tried to do it myself, but on 35mm. I admire the Czech Joseph Sudek for the very personal quality of his prints, which makes his images really tangible. If he photographs a simple glass of water, it becomes a magical object. I hope my nudes will become magical as well. With August Sander, I share a fascina- tion for extensive series of portraits.

Some photography increases in value in the course of time. Do you ever buy photography?
There is a lively bartering trade among photographers. I am also collecting, for example work of Edward Weston, Paul Huf and the fantastic Dutch-Latin-American photograp- her Diana Blok. Besides, I have a number of photos of the American Harry Callahan and the Frenchman Lucien Clerque. I don't know if the value of my own work is going up, all I know that it is not devaluating.

What can we expect from you in the future?
My dream is to organise an enormous exhibition with a selection of portraits from the 10,000 Portraits Project, as a great retrospective from the 1980s until the present. Then one could see that the earlier photos display the character of their own age but also show continuity."

Don't forget to check out ten Broeke's portfolio.


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