Interview with Jamie van den Heuvel

When life becomes suffering, even unbearable suffering, it is time to let go.

I found making a book a very exciting challenge. Especially because it was the first time that I made a book and it was also my graduation project. I photographed so much for this project, that I was afraid I would get terribly lost in making the right selections, order, etc. Your story can lose its power so quickly due to incorrect combinations or placement in the book. For me, this was the biggest challenge and I really enjoyed it. It felt like a real puzzle tour without a map, so that you are the only one who can solve the puzzle. This puzzle only felt solved when all the images were in the right place in the book. I always find it very interesting to move images around and combine them to create beautiful diptychs. Images can change their message or atmosphere very much when they are used as a single or duo image in a story. Fortunately, I had a lot of help from professionals in the field along this puzzle journey. This worked very well for me because without outside help you stare blindly at your own work and therefore may not always make the right choices. Of course, I kept control myself, but with support from outside, that now and then gave me very enlightening and innovative insights.

Can you find 3 words that describe what your book is about?

For me that is very clear in this project… Unconditional love, tenderness, and the inexorable passing of time.

Why did you decide to give this project the form of a book?

The story has become quite an emotional and intimate process. I didn’t want to be too ‘rough’ about it. By this I mean that I wanted to guard the intimacy of the story and visualize it as a beautiful whole. The images strongly reinforce each other in a narrative context. Precisely because you look at it frame by frame, the story build itself as you leaf through the book. The viewer has his own time and space to let this story sink in, because it is designed in a book. This also makes it something personal for the viewer themselves. I think this is very important given the emotional charge and perhaps recognition for the viewer.

As this is our first interview, can you introduce your work in general?

In July 2020 I graduated cum laude as a documentary portrait photographer at the Nederlandse Academie voor Beeldcreatie in Rotterdam.
Within my work I mainly focus on the less exposed side of social issues in which vulnerability and identity play an important role. I almost always work on long-term projects that are very close to me.

Knowing that every detail is important, could you mention some technical detail that was of special importance for the realization of the final product? Like cover design, paper selection, printing technique…

A number of conscious technical choices have been made to enhance the story. For example, I have chosen to cover the photo on which Dieneke has just died with a tracing paper. The material of tracing paper enhances the feeling of transience, something that you cannot see very well, but at the same time can also sufficiently conceal it. In my view, this was a very nice reinforcement for the moment of her death in the book. In addition, I have chosen to enter the date of death as the title on the cover of the book. Below all the photos in the book is the exact time and date of recording the image. In addition, I deliberately let go of the chronology. I made this choice because the time for me during the journey that Dieneke and I were in became a real ‘mindfuck’. The fact that I knew the date and time she was going to die really brainwashed me, so to speak. The last few weeks before her death, I was only counting the hours, minutes, seconds, days and weeks that I still had with her. Time took over… For me every day was one less day to be with her and for her every day less was one day closer to deliverance. The choice to engrave her death date in gold on the front of the book is therefore directly linked to the fact that it was a date that she “looked forward” to. Despite the great sadness and loss, I thought it was important to see this title as an ‘ode’ to her, so to speak.

 

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