It's easy to see a fiery soul when you meet one. We came across Sven Signe den Hartogh and his multimedia work and are we grateful that we did. His story is free flowing, his ideas liberated, and his passion towards his art is nothing short of admirable. We had the pleasure of getting to know him and his process in this short interview. We promise, there's more to this feature than just words and photographs.
Hello, Sven! Welcome back to the Lomography Magazine. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Sven Signe den Hartogh and I create from the endless need for self expression. I live in the Netherlands on a small farm in the middle of nowhere with my lovely girlfriend and our two cats far away from the city. Haha!
How would you deﬁne photography?
It literally means painting with light, which it is for me. Just capturing the moment doesn’t really cut it for me because it feels so much more abstract.
In our society taking photos whether that’s a selﬁe or a random food photo is part of our everyday life but I’m not sure if people ever think about how special it is that we are able to use the light and direct it via a tool to capture something. It’s pretty amazing!
What's your favorite thing about taking photographs?
For me it’s about translating my emotions into a visible piece of work, art for me is putting form to energy and photography is a beautiful and necessary way to do so. I’m very afraid to lose things so when I capture something it feels more lasting, more permanent in a way... I need photography in order to translate and understand life.
Let's talk a bit about your work -- how would you describe your photographic style/approach?
I’m not a technical guy at all, so my approach to photography is literally all I have, I can’t rely on knowledge because I have none. But to me, art in general has never been about knowledge instead I try to translate my feelings and desires into the work and try to let my inner self guide me.
Who or what would you say was the biggest inﬂuence in your work?
My dear friends Edwin van der Sande and Tim Collins, both amazing artists! They had a big inﬂuence on my work from the start. From there on I got a lot of inspiration from legendary artists that have created before me. Saul Leiter was a big one, he really opened my eyes to diﬀerent realms of photography. Vastly misunderstood artist.
A lot of your photographs are like glimpses into your inner circle. How does photography ﬁt in your life?
To me, I try to honor the creation process and try to keep it as pure as possible. That means that all that I create has to be honest, which more often then not means that I try to work with people that are dear to me. Especially in my own personal work. But photography is always around and I use it to create worlds with the people that I would like to invite into these ethereal places.
We just get this honest and nostalgic vibe from your work. Was it a particular style you were going for?
It sort of organically evolved but I was always interested in the look that ﬁlm photography oﬀered, the rawness and imperfect aspect of it really suits the way I work and the way I see beauty.
What inspired you to pick up a camera and take photos?
Before this, I used to have a blog which was called The Stranded Sailors.
We did the blog with a few friends and it focused mainly on denim and good crafted products. We were in Antwerp, Belgium to write an article about a denim brand and one of my friends (who was taking the photos) asked me if I wanted to take some shots. I replied pretty nuanced with ‘Yeah, ﬁne’ and the moment I took that ﬁlm camera I knew this was what I wanted to do.
From there on it went pretty fast...
What is your favorite subject to photograph?
My girlfriend, by far.
It feels like a big responsibility to create something beautiful with and for her, but also as my duty to capture her beauty in new ways.
We noticed that you're into painting and ﬁlm making as well. How do you balance your time and creativity for your different work?
Well, that’s something I’m working on haha! It can be diﬃcult because there are so many things I want to create on a daily basis but I try to combine it.
I just can’t only make time for photography, that’s not enough. I need the other forms of art as a way to express myself.
How much of yourself are present in the photos/ﬁlms/paintings you create?
A lot, I think even if you create on a commissioned base it’s still your translation. You always put something of yourself in everything that you
create. But my personal work is a direct reﬂection of what I’m going through in life or what has inspired me in a certain way.
What's your favorite photo? Could you tell us the story behind it?
I’m not sure, a lot of photos recall a lot of good and beautiful memories so I can’t really pick one to be honest.
In your opinion, what makes a 'good photograph?’
I’m not sure, we always talk about it in terms of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ which is a very platonic way of looking at something which is very much based on emotions. But what about, how do YOU feel when you look at a photo? Do you feel euphoric, nostalgic, sad, lost, mad and so forth or do you feel nothing at all and is it just another brick in the wall? I think that is what makes a so called ‘good’ photo... unleashing deep emotions within.
Deﬁne your style in 5 words.
Cinematic, Raw, Imperfect, Pure, Gritty.
Who are the artists that you follow on a regular basis?
I have been deliberately unfollowing everything and everyone on nearly any social-media platform because I want to minimize all the information that I take in on a daily base. But there are a lot of artists that I do look up on a regular base such as: Edwin van der Sande, Edie Sunday, Laura Kampman, and Carla Andrade.
What advice would you give to aspiring photographers and creatives out there?
Be concerned with making work that YOU want to create, work that matters and comes from within. It’s very easy to get distracted by what others want or expect but it is YOUR magic that lies deep down. Try new things, look at what others are doing and let the inspiration guide you.
What do you think matters more -- talent or skill?
Talent, always. That is if we can claim that which we receive as ours.
I don’t have any skill or knowledge, I base everything that I create on the input I somehow receive from the universe. You have to trust the fact that everything simply happens whether you like it or not.
What was the most memorable advice you've been given in your career as an artist?
A writer, or any artist, can’t expect to be embraced by the people [but] you just keep doing your work, because you have to, because it’s your calling.
What's your favorite song, movie, and book?
Favourite movie is The Lord of the Rings trilogy, by far.
It’s hard for me to express my feeling for LOTR, as if all my imagination, youth and dreams come together in one big feast of artistic creation.
How does a perfect day look like for Sven Signe den Hartogh?
Well, that obliviously works in many ways but it’s a combination of spending time with people that you love, outside in nature with lovely food and when I create something that I’m really proud of.
What's next for you?
I’m always trying to expand my artistic boundaries and always up for trying new things. I can’t say too much about it but it might involve music.
Besides that I’m really getting more and more interested in the medium that is ﬁlm, so looking forward to experimenting with that.
Any last words for our readers?
Thank you for reading this, although this may seem like a standard message.
I do really appreciate it if you have gone all the way to this line to read it…so thank you!