Photographer Daniëlle Van Ark has a unique work process. To create new pieces, she scavenges for vintage ephemera and souvenirs, before arranging these items for artworks that cross between photography, collage, installation, and sculpture. Her most recent series Share Moments. Share Life come from visual snippets of American magazines, captured in medium format.
Get to know Daniëlle and her exquisite oeuvre through this interview.
Hi Daniëlle! How is your creative journey so far in photography?
It’s been like a roller coaster ride. From being totally excited to frustrated to somewhat excited again about the medium and its possibilities I think I'm now coming somewhat to peace with it.
You mostly work in collage, how did you get started with it?
Some works look like collage but I actually don’t make collage in the classical sense. I work with a lot of different media but my recent photography is only 'reproduction of a reproduction'. There are so many images being made and been made I wanted to create work that somewhat already existed and make it my own. This started with images from the Tefaf Art fair catalogs in 2014. Tefaf is a decorative, ancient and art fair, very decadent.
In these catalogs, you can see the images of the works on the sale thereof, for instance, Greek vases, Egyptian sphynxes, and marble statues. I wanted to use that imagery. I felt like for a change I didn’t have to travel around the world and put a lot of energy in getting permission to photograph a place or something like I did before for earlier series I worked on. The world and history were represented in these catalogs and I could just take it and make it my own. This way of working I’ve kept up with three different photographic series.
You mentioned in your series ' Share Moments. Share Life' that you get your images from magazines. Do you already have a pre-planned image in mind before looking for the right elements/cutouts?
I bought a stack of Life magazines from the mid to late 1960’s for an installation and they ended up afterward in my studio. With no setup plan, I was going through these magazines and noticed how photography brands were marketing to mostly capturing family moments and remembering the moment. With slogans like ‘It’s so easy now even your wife can take pictures’ for instance.
On the backside of that advertisement/ page there is an advertisement for cigarettes or alcohol, those companies had a different marketing strategy, or you could see the news of the week. It all just looks so damn cool compared to contemporary advertising.
So basically it is just flipping through a lot a lot of magazines, I also used the magazine American Photo for this series.
If I see what I like I tear the page out, put it in front of the lightbox and if the backside and frontside ‘work together', I use it. So these images come together pure by chance. Of course, I decide what I like or what fits but there is no digital manipulation or cutting up pages. All my work is photographed on film.
You actually have a unique workflow! In series 'Contemporary Art' you first photograph the front and back of the pages. May you enlighten us more about your work process? What is your goal for this?
Thanks! So 'Contemporary Art' is the second out of three series that are made by putting pages of catalogs and magazines in front of a lightbox, it is one picture I take not putting layers on top of each other. These three series have their technique in common but communicate individually something totally different. WIth the 'Contemporary Art' series, I wanted to expose something that interests me since I’ve graduated from art school in 2005 when I made a series of art gallery openings in New York.
The value of art, the art market, status, authenticity and authorship. With making this work, coming from the pages of the catalogs of auction house Christie’s literally everything I mentioned above comes together. With morphing two artworks together I make a new image, a new ‘artwork'. On these pages, now my work you’ll also find some sort of secret art language existing words like; provenance, estimated worth (in a lot of cases ten times the worth of my work, the image you’re looking at) and exhibition history which all contributes to the value of an artwork.
What inspires you to create such unique pieces?
The art market haha. I have a difficult relationship with the status and value of art, artists, curators, galleries and museums and how I and my work related to all of that.
If you could work or collaborate with any photographer, artist or person, dead, alive or fictional, who would it be?
Teleport me back to the 1950’s please to see Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, and Helen Frankenthaler at work in their studio’s and I would watch and learn from them.
Describe to us -- what's a day in the life of Daniëlle van Ark?
I work six or seven days a week but there would also be days that at the end of the day I am thinking ‘what did I just do today?!’. I work very studio based and am in the fortunate position that I have two different places to work at. One for computer and ‘clean’ work, so works on paper and my photography for example, the other studio has a workshop and I do all the other work there like making frames, painting, working on sculpture or installations. I go back and forth through these two places which can sometimes also be a burden because I have stuff that I need laying at the other place.
A lot of my time goes to the computer, finding materials or researching things. I start around 9.30 end at 6/ 7 but if I am at my ‘clean’ studio I also work a lot till late/ midnight. A lot of time goes to contemplating and just looking at the work before I can take the next step. In September I start a teaching job one day a week at the Royal Academy of the Arts in the Hague at the photography department, very much looking forward to that. And I must not forget to mention I look at Instagram every couple of hours and make coffee three times a day.
What do you usually do during your downtime? Any on-going project, or other plans you're keen to work on?
I take too little downtime actually. I am always in some way working, downtime would be visiting a museum or visiting a flea market to pick up stuff. I’ll occasionally have a drink with friends at night too. I take too little time to really do nothing and clear my mind.
I need to make a book, that is becoming a problem for me that I never published a book. So that should and will be my next step but instead, I am making new things all the time. Some successful some really not.
Visit Daniëlle's website for more of her works.