Publisher: Stichting AIDS Fonds
Never truly leaving, always returning…
“I’m a picture taker, not a picture maker”, says Van Hees about his work. That might be so, but it takes remarkable skill, exceptional intuition and, at times, patience to produce the photographs and films that constitute his artistic output.
Van Hees’ intense black and white images are rooted in the strong Dutch tradition of human-interest photography. His world is the world of recording without commenting. Starting his career as a photo journalist in the early eighties, he worked for several Dutch newspapers. At the moment he is in the midst of making several independent documentaries. Most of his projects result in books and exhibitions.
Van Hees tries to capture the poetry and drama of everyday life through the lens of his camera. The life he captures is the life that escapes us--we are either in a hurry or so conditioned by our environment that we are not able to see the true meaning that is hidden beneath a glance or a gesture.
Human nature is central to his work. This fascination takes him from crowds to the lone individual. The city of Rotterdam and its inhabitants are recurring subjects in Van Hees’ images. His passion is the metropolis that hardly sleeps. He ‘tinkers’ with this theme in his work, rarely leaving it and always returning.
‘PLAY, a photographic record by Carel van Hees, shows us this urban world, depicting young people at the beginning of the 21st century growing up in metropolitan Rotterdam. The smells and sounds of the streets are palpable; speaking of love, vitality, expression and aggression. And then there is the privacy of the back room, where beauty, heartbreak and cockiness meet. Van Hees’ Rottterdam is a specific city with a universal theme: the chance to be young--everywhere, time and time again. The documentary ‘2km2’ also has Rotterdam as a backdrop, showing the demolition and resurrection of buildings in the ever changing landscape that symbolizes a city. It is a world inhabited by people of different races, customs and religions, trying to find their own corner in the universe.
Van Hees’ black and white photography and films are confrontational and show everything in a stark light. People are exposed with such severity; as if they cannot escape the camera. There is a certain grittiness and desperation, but also an alluring loveliness in the world Van Hees displays to the public. The beauty in his photos might look like a snapshot, but in a ‘flash’ Van Hees captures the essence of his subject.
Although Van Hees never speaks, his work embodies a feeling of deep empathy for his subjects. ‘Resistance, living with Aids’ is a perfect example. One cannot escape the quiet anguish that occupies the people he portrays. To be able to depict people in this manner, speaks of sensitivity and compassion but also diligence. Van Hees can only unveil a person with such clarity if there is respect between the ‘picture taker’ and his subject. The photographer is an artist revealed—his photos take an instant, but reveal an eternal truth.