Q&A: Pieter Henket

Just a Dream II, Katja Schuurman and Joep van Deudekom, The , 2012

ZWOLLE – Five years after taking the photograph that would launch his career – a shot of Lady Gaga which constituted the cover of her debut album – Pieter Henket saw the first solo exhibition of his work come together at Museum de Fundatie in Zwolle, the . The young, internationally recognised photographer studied film in New York and, even though photography brought him the success he presently enjoys, his love for film is evident in the staging and storyline of his photographs.

The new, dome-like superstructure in which the exhibition is installed – The Eye – is part of the extension and renovation project of the museum by Dutch studio BiermanHenket. This meant that the artist was able to work with his father Hubert-Jan Henket, one of the studio’s founders, to find the best solution for the presentation of the photographs. ‘My father and I were able to design the exhibition together and came up with the idea to have the pictures floating in the museum so they don’t cover up the flow of the space,’ he explains.

Compared by some to Anton Corbijn for portraying the character of today’s celebrity culture much like the latter did in the 1980s, Pieter Henket spoke to St-Wweb about the new exhibition, the relation between film and photography in his work and his upcoming project.

How does it feel to see your first solo exhibition?
It feels like a birth of myself. I’ve worked so hard for so many years to build something and this is a moment when I can stand still and look at everything I’ve accomplished so far. To get to share that with my father and best friend, makes it even more special. It shows that if you work hard and put your heart and soul into something, good things come out.

Do you have a favourite photograph?
My latest work is always my favourite because it’s new to me, but a picture that I can look at and know it is a solid great picture is Brothers (Argentina, 2012). It features in my new book that is coming out later this year called Stars to the Sun about a carnival in the mountains of Argentina.

How did photography take over your career?
When I worked for a furniture designer, I went with him to the Philippines to make a short documentary about how he made furniture there. Back home as I edited the film, I kept pausing the images and printing them out, and I realised that if I wanted to become a great filmmaker I needed to first be able to tell a whole story in one frame. My love for photography was born there.

You’ve incorporated the moving image into this exhibition in a very interesting way. Could you tell us a bit more about the film installations?
I am a storyteller by heart, my whole life it has been in my blood and telling a story through photography or film is very much the same thing. In the film installation, I made both media meet each other very closely. I built a 1950s interrogation room set, locked eight Dutch actors inside by themselves for a period of two hours each and filmed the scene with an immobile movie camera.
So, in the museum you see four big screens with the same setting, each with a different person reacting in their own way to the same situation. I had an original classical score composed by Massive Music to pull all the screens together as one.
It was very challenging to find this fine line between film and photography.

Do you still consider pursuing a career in film?
I think there is a bright future for so many fun projects and film is definitely one of them as it is my passion.

What’s next?
Later this year, my first coffee table book, Stars to the Sun, will be published. This project started last year when I spent a month in the mountains of Argentina where my friend Rodrigo Otazu is the creative director of a carnival. The result is a very strange fantasy world of different cultures.
I documented the carnival and built a studio in a tent and during this month did black and white portraits of the people involved in this project.
I chose to not stage the pictures of the carnival as it was already a very dreamlike subject. Hopefully the photos leave you with questions about what exactly you are looking at and that is my goal: letting people use their own imagination and fantasies while looking at a picture to make up their own story about it.

will be at Museum de Fundatie until 17 November.

Blijmarkt 20
8011 NE, Zwolle

Images courtesy of Pieter Henket and Pedro Sluiter

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