INTERVIEW – SCARLETT HOOFT GRAAFLAND

Pink Lady

Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get your start taking photos?

I am trained as a sculptor, first at Minerva Academy in Groningen, the north of Holland, later I did a MFA in sculpture at Parsons School of Design in New York. During my studies in sculpture the surroundings of the work were always a very important part of the practice; where is the sculpture located, what is the context of the site. This is something that is still essential in my work. So I guess I am a photographer with a ‘sculptor-mindset’. The ideas arrive from a sculptural way of thinking, then later I registrate them as a photograph. I really like the medium of photography; that you can orchestrate the work in a certain way, search for the most suitable landscape, for the right weather circumstances.

Chairs

What is your creative process like? What inspires your photographs?

I love entering the unknown. In the wilderness, I become conscious of being alive; and within foreign cultures I’m made aware of my own identity. This sense of liberation often contrasts with the fascinating traditions of the local culture. When entering and living within an unfamiliar culture for the first time, its compulsory behaviors and restraints can be felt. Within these extreme environments I’m being challenged in so many ways, nothing is obvious, not even my notion of self. I really come alive when I enter what I’d like to call the “hyper-real”.

 

Dragon's Blood

You still use analogue photography. Why do you prefer this method over digital?

I make my photos with an analogue medium format camera and print directly from the negative. I like this old way of producing the work, even though it is much more time consuming then the digital process. I do not feel the urge to manipulate my images in a digital way. I never felt attracted to those tools. Maybe because then the options would feel infinite. I like to work in a framework with the possibilities that are on the site. That also defines the work, and limits as well. With these limitations, you have to find solutions, improvise, to see what materials are available, what can you do with the different types of weather, etc. These effects almost look like there is some trickery done, some surreal effect.

Fish

Haystack

Your image of the women in a beach in Yemen is extremely powerful. Could you tell us the story behind this image?

I really wanted to visit the island of Socotra, Yemen, because of the very special flora and fauna and its almost surreal landscapes. Just to go there and work was really tough, and would be impossible at the moment because of the civil war in Yemen. At that time, in 2014, I was lucky to discover a very nice contact, a war photographer from Sana’a assisted me and helped me to enter local society. That way I was able to meet a local family, they were my models for my photo ‘Burka Balloons’. In this photo, I wanted to create an image of women in burkas that is different from what we see in the news so much nowadays, something more joyful but also somewhat ambiguous.

Burka Balloons

Do you have a favorite image you have taken? If so why is it your favorite?

No, I do not have a favorite photo. Some are really special to me because the circumstances have been so difficult, like living for many months in the arctic for instances. Or spending weeks traveling in an old truck in Madagascar, accompanied with a team of some Malagashy local artists, crossing the island searching for the right places, etc.

Journey

Your work focuses a lot on travel and showcasing these destinations. What is your favorite place to travel to/have traveled to?

I love the vastness of the Altiplano in Bolivia: incredible landscapes, the cloud formations at 4000 meters high. As if you are traveling in a painting of Rene Magritte. And I think it is very powerful that Bolivia, is the only country in the world that has a law that defines Mother Earth as ‘a collective subject of public interest’ and declares it as titleholder of inherent rights specified in law. You can feel in the culture the respect the Aymara people have for their surroundings.

Lemonade Igloo

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

These days, being pregnant, I’ve become especially aware of my own physical state; like the tip of my nose, it always feels numb after being frozen on the arctic. Yet, it has inspired me to write a new book, about all my adventures, about the hardships and marvels I’ve encountered. I’m grateful for my temporary time-out and hope to deliver the book as well. I’m also preparing for another trip in April next year to the desolate salt flats of Bolivia. The recently evaporated lakes have inspired me to document its impact on local culture and vice versa.

 

Mothers of the Forest

My White Knight

Polar Bear

Red House

Resolution, Malekula

Sons of the Forest

Turtle

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