Let’s meet up with… Chris Rijksen!

Chris Rijksen, the winner of our 2012 contest with a photo from his series ‘Gender as a Performance’, returns to Pride Photo Award 2 years after his victory to photograph our 2014 jury.
Gender as a Performance © Chris Rijksen (deleted 5004185d-18765-fdd87e67)
What happened with you since you won the 2012 Pride Photo Award for ‘Gender as a Performance’? How has your work as an artist photographer developed since then?
Last year in June I graduated from the Academy of Art in The Hague and I have just finished my first year of the two-year Dirty Art Master at the Sandberg Institute. My work has developed tremendously, I always try to challenge and shift the power (im)balance between artist and viewer to bring them to a point of agreement. I am currently working more on performance and interaction. At the same time, I am also doing quite a lot of portrait photography, for Expreszo Magazine among others. So it is a lot of fun for me to portray the jury.
You talk about an agreement/collaboration between artist and viewer. What does this mean for you?
Viewers of art (including photography) are much more intelligent and more capable than is often assumed and made use of. Spectators can be co-creators of art, because their effort makes the artwork possible. This is my attempt to solve the hierarchy issue between the creator and the viewer. I hate it when you visit an art exhibition and it is experienced as completely inaccessible, as something that makes you think “apparently I am too stupid for this.”
My last project was an ‘acoustic inauguration of the space’ at the opening of a new project space in Amsterdam Noord. There, I worked together with all the people present and used their bodies as sound-making machines to fill every single nook and cranny of the room with singing and clapping. We were working with acoustics, we looked in a different way at the room in which we found ourselves. The artwork could not exist without the people I realized it with. I find it extremely interesting to do more of this kind of work together with the viewers rather than before they arrive.
So how interactively will you be working with the jury, when you take their portraits?
I do not know yet how much I will get to see them. Photographers (or editors or art critics) are generally rather normal and intelligent people. I hope to win their trust and have them open up to me for a beautiful portrait session. I also hope to engage in interesting conversations, whether or not on photography. I did a little bit of research on who they are, in as far as I did not know. What is interesting to me is not only what they do, but also who they are. This is what I will use the most for my portraits.
What makes you interested in doing portrait photography?
It is wonderful to just be able to look at someone, because everyone has something beautiful (trite, but true). Besides, portrait photography still seems to be an essential type of medium, given that images of people are generally considered as interesting as a written description. However, the power relation existing between the one with a camera and the one without – the person portrayed completely surrendering to the skills of the photographer – creates a loaded situation.
Is this ‘loaded situation’ when making portraits fruitful or detracting for you?
It is primarily a side effect of portrait photography that I need to deal with as a photographer. I am the person who has the last word on the picture, and I have the choice to print a photograph that fits my vision, rather than an ‘objective’ image that goes against it. The illusion of photography is that the camera does not judge, but in reality you are constantly judging and telling a story as you think best. I want to give people who see my pictures (now, perhaps even more than before) the opportunity to look at someone and form their own idea about the person, rather than determining in advance that ‘everyone is going to like this person’ by the way I photograph them.

Pride Photo Award is an annual international contest for photos about sexual and gender diversity.


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