Remembering New York, New York

/ Monday, December 31, 2012 /

Now that this year is almost over, I can look back at the past two years. Making the bold move to the big city for an internship changed every little aspect in my life. Travelling on my own far away, for the first time. Meeting new friends there, meeting my future husband. Making a series about Hope, which would change my perspective on so many things. In six weeks I will make the big move to Austin, Texas, the United States. New adventures to follow.

Meet me in Sweden

/ Monday, December 17, 2012 /
When my brother and I were children, my parents preferred to spent our vacations in Scandinavia. We'd stay in a little wooden house, set in a sleepy village somewhere between the dense forests and mountains of large rocks. We would splash around in the chilly water of the nearest lake when the sun was out, and listen to the rain dripping at night. Every time we would hike out into the hills, I'd think of the trolls in hiding while climbing over the mossy boulders of their home.

Untitled, 2012 © Chrissie Smolders

This July we spent a week in Ramkvilla, Sweden. Roughly 150 people live there. Though we were far from remote with neighbors and a camping ground nearby, the village was indeed quite sleepy, and it would take you ten minutes by foot to be away from it all. Once you're by yourself, there is a quiet and loneliness to be found that is hard to describe. I found it very inspiring, and the idea of a new project rooted itself my head. Now that I'm leaving Europe, I hope to find the inspiration this silent land brought me somewhere else.

The Greenhouse

/ Wednesday, October 17, 2012 /
                                                                                                                    The Greenhouse, 2011 © Chrissie Smolders

My grandfather has a greenhouse in his small, well-kept garden. It has a very distinct smell; every time I sneak inside it reminds me of my childhood. I would go inside and look up at the growing grapes and small, green tomatoes. The leaves would cast their shadows on me and it felt warm, damp and safe inside. 

Nothing but one thing has changed over the years. Now, the grapes touch the crown of my head as I walk inside.

Family Series #1

/ Monday, October 8, 2012 /
I didn’t really like the photos at first. I’m slightly difficult with photos not in a project. A single picture might have its beauty, but what is the message? What is the meaning, value, worth? Slightly shortsighted, but an interesting subject nonetheless. One to be discussed in a future post.

I assume I got this way of thinking in the four years of attending art school, and focusing on concepts and shaping projects constantly. But I got my BA, so I’m trying to let go of those thoughts. It’s a barrier in focusing on one single picture, on what it shows you and tells you. In that sense, it was good that I hadn't seen the photos for a few months. When I saw them again last week, they struck me with their beauty and meaning. Not only do they tell of the person in the picture, they also tell of the relationship between us. We are not only family, but at that moment also subject and photographer. And it makes us look differently at each other.

The photos are portraits of my close family members. This is a picture of Walid. He is my youngest cousin, and being the furthest away in age, it makes us the least naturally close to each other. He has a certain affection for me, even though he is often shy. As I’m staring into his eyes, I’m trying to find words for how this portrait moves me. I wonder if maybe, he reminds me of myself. I think of the beauty of seeing a human growing into it’s own personality. And I ponder the way he looks at me, while I look at him through my camera. I wonder if it will move others.

                                                                                                                                   Walid, 2012 © Chrissie Smolders 

We used to be friends

/ Monday, May 14, 2012 /
                                                                                                             Anne, from 1994 to 2002 © Chrissie Smolders                                   

Let's ignore the fact that I haven't posted in two months and that I'm about to graduate. I've talked a lot about my project of Hope, the young mother living in the projects of Brooklyn. But there is something else I created, that deserves some attention. 

I went to visit friends from the past. I was very intrigued by the idea of these people, with whom I've shared intimacy and trust, and who have turned to strangers over time. We  used to mean something to each other, influenced each other and shared secrets. With some I've played in the playground, we had class together and watched videos. We had sleepovers, ate chips and candy. As I got older, we stole things, drank cheap alcohol and wrote on the walls of my bedroom. But at a certain point our friendship started to fade, we stopped seeing each other. Now all we share is memories.

Though there is still some kind of intimacy left through our shared past, the obviousness of a friendship is gone. I felt good being with my old friends, talking about the memories we have and getting back the feeling of that time. But after I'd left them, I would feel a sting of loss. What we used to have is gone. And I wonder if I could get it back, if I tried. Sometimes I wish I would have still been part of their lives.

Pastor Tony

/ Sunday, March 4, 2012 /
                                                                                                                  Home Line, 2011 © Chrissie Smolders

It was late December and I was walking around in Midland. The roads were wide and open, with bare trees and bushes covering the dry grass. Though the sun shone, it was cold and there was no one on the streets but me. I felt happy that I was walking around in this little town in Texas. It felt real.
At the end of the street, a man appeared. He went from house to house, knocking at their doors. Sometimes there would be a brief conversation, sometimes the door would stay shut. We greeted each other as he passed, and I looked back at him. It looked a little sad, how he was being sent away time after time. As I walked on, the well-known "I'll never forgive you if you don't take a picture of him!" started repeating itself in my head. I wanted to talk to him. I put a new roll of film in my camera and began walking after him.

Our conversation took a while. He told me that he was from Pennsylvania originally, and had moved to Midland to preach at a new baptist church. Today, he was visiting people at their homes to tell them about the ways of the Lord. He was raised a catholic, he said, but lost his faith when he got older. He told me he got a family at a young age, that his life was good. Then he started drinking. He became addicted to drugs. He lost his family, his job, and everything else. At his lowest point, he didn't want to live anymore. That's when God came back into his life.
I asked him if he was happy now. He said yes.

Afternoon Roadtrip

/ Thursday, March 1, 2012 /
                                                                                            ©  Chrissie Smolders

From Brooklyn to Princeton. It was my first time outside of town, and it really was a beautiful day. Princeton felt like a fairy-tale town, and the highlight of our trip was probably when I shouted for joy at the sight of my first Walmart. I enjoyed walking around the campus with my friends though, while I got my first taste of America outside of New York. On our way back we listened to Motown's famous hits and Black Sunday from Cypress Hill. It was a good day.

                                                                                    ©  Chrissie Smolders

Alec Soth on Portraiture

/ Friday, February 24, 2012 /

Mr.Soth makes some interesting points here, in line with my previous post.

A Soft Spot

/ Thursday, February 23, 2012 /
On Tuesday I visited Joel Sternfeld's exhibition in Amsterdam, called Color Photographs since 1970. Foam has over a hundred photos from ten different bodies of work on view, and I think they did a great job at showing Sternfeld's extensive and colorful career. I don't know why Sternfeld hasn't come to my attention before; with rosy cheeks I have to admit that I wasn't too familiar with his work. I'm happy I was able to experience it all by prints on a wall, instead of on a computer screen.
You'll want to spend some time alone with this work.

  A Man on the Banks of the Mississippi, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, August 1985 © Joel Sternfeld

Stranger Passing made me very happy, this photo in particular. It kept me lingering for a while; I got closer, looking at his expression while pondering his life. It's a photo where everything comes together, but it doesn't seem to fit quite right. The man reminds me of Twin Peaks; there is something off about him. I wonder what he and Sternfeld had been talking about before they took this picture. I wish I'd have been there for it.

What I love so much about this series is that it makes me very aware of the possibilities of everyday life. All of the people he photographed, they're people we could meet at any given moment. Be it in an unfamiliar town, or the corner of the street we've been passing for the last eight years. Everything we need for a great picture is within reach; still often I wish I would be in a place more lively, strange or beautiful than where I live. But I know that even though Williamsburg seemed lively, strange and beautiful for the first three months, that wore off too. Which means it's just a matter of opening your eyes and making contact with what's in front of you.

The two hours spend in the museum were incredibly inspiring and I walked away with a light step. Sometimes I need a wake up like this, a reminder of what photography means to me. A reminder of what it can do. Without a doubt, photography is limited in some ways. But the lonely interaction between the image and the viewer still exists. And that is ultimately what I want to achieve.

Keep on keepin' on...

/ Wednesday, February 8, 2012 /
                                                                                                            Alpine, 2011 ©  Chrissie Smolders

Oh, the great plains of Texas. Where there are beautiful sunsets to be seen without a city skyline. Just the dark outline of a mountain against the pastel gradient in the sky. The romanticist in me can't wait to live in a little hut somewhere for a few months. In my dreams, I see myself rising with the sun, drinking coffee while baking some bread. And when I look out over a beautiful landscape through the kitchen window, I won't miss the big city at all. When the bread is done, I'll butter up a thick slice and then get my camera to take a walk outside with the dog. In the evening a fire will be built, and we will cozy up beside it. Most likely we'll toast some marshmallows and drink loose leaf tea.

Secret team!

/ Sunday, January 29, 2012 /
Warning: Don't like dramatics? Look away now!

                                                                                                                          ©  Chrissie Smolders

Poems should be written about him. Poems that cry of love, of passion and sometimes tears. He's someone I found during the most memorable time of my life so far. And even though he may be across the ocean, and we certainly have some mountains to climb in the future, I found something that I never want to let go.

                                                                                                                        ©  Chrissie Smolders

Dreaming of West Texas

/ Wednesday, January 25, 2012 /
                                                                                                                    Van Horn, 2011 ©  Chrissie Smolders

Last Christmas I was in West Texas for the first time in my life. I spent two days in Van Horn, population 2,500. This small town is covered in silence and surrounded by great mountains and desert plains. The roads are wide and empty, and when the sun shines everything is coated in gold. I walked the streets and climbed the mountains, taking photos of every house, plant and dog that caught my eye. I felt very much an outsider, and I couldn't imagine ever living in such a solitary place. But while working on these images, a new plan formed inside my head.

                                                                                                          Big Buck, 2011 ©  Chrissie Smolders

Someday, I want to pack up my things and move to a place like Van Horn for a while. Next to experiencing a new way of life, it would be the perfect opportunity for a long-term project. I can see the images in my head; perfect compositions of stately mountains, mysterious portraits of the few residents, night photography on the poorly lit roads... Somewhere, there are stories waiting to be told. 

                                                                                                       For sale/lease, 2011 ©  Chrissie Smolders
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