Marrigje de Maar: 'Over the years my backpack got lighter and lighter.'

Blogathon 5

After a brief interlude we resume our series of bite-size interviews with participating photographers about the work that was selected for An Ocean of Possibilities. Today, Dutch photographer Marrigje de Maar is our guest for blogathon issue #5.

Noorderlicht: Could you say in what sense your project relates to the overall festival theme, from a personal point of view? Where in this bigger picture do you feel your work fits in?

Marrigje de Maar: I work with a pinhole camera - the least impressive tool in the photography world. I still use old fashioned film and make prints from the far past - the time we still used chemical processes to get a real image. It is a troublesome way of working, time-consuming (who has time nowadays) and expensive. And most of all - together with Peter Svenson (my printer) - we produce a kind of beauty that is hardly acknowledged any longer in these ever more speeding times. To „see” my work, you have to take time and let the work slowly come to you. No quick passing by and looking from a corner of your eye. You have to look at it, give it time to sink into your body and then savour it. You do not need to look for a hidden message or story - it is not there. Just come and walk besides me, talk to me when you look at the pictures and take from the images what suits you best. It is what it is in its own right - no more, no less.

My personal footprint gets smaller by the year. Today I can do without a lot of things that only a few years ago I could not imagine not having at my daily disposal. Wisdom of the aged or a new trend among the more sensitive consumers? To which community do I belong? What is my new identity  - too old to matter or in the forefront of the new and coming. Only time wil tell…..

Noorderlicht: Based on your experience working with different communities and individuals who are affected by this 'crisis of agency', what impression did you get about the likelihood that common people can regain such a sense of agency? Do you feel there are grounds for a realistic hope for improvements?

Marrigje de Maar: In the years that I travelled in China, I made pictures in rural communities. I came into the houses of courageous people, who lived a very frugal live. I have always admired the beauty of their interiors. I was never tired or troubled by the hardship of the trip, and always had great difficulties adjusting to „our” way of life upon returning. When the level of consumption started to rise in China, I stopped the project. From that time on, I also stopped using cars and crews of assistants. I started to walk on my own over long distances. For this I had to change my camera as I had to carry everything myself. Over the years my backpack got lighter and lighter. In former „poor” areas I think people will want to raise their level of consumption. I do not blame them. But perhaps in some communities in „our” world, there may be a change. For how many, how soon - no idea? I can only talk for myself.

I have a tiny apartment on the Zuidas in Amsterdam. The most expensive, luxurious and materialistic part of the city and perhaps in the Netherlands. In my building the luxury in many apartments (also of young people) is appalling. Some neighbors get almost angry, because of my very modest car. But outside I see small changes. People walking around noon with their own lunch bag, instead of having expensive company meals.The whole neighborhood is overflowing with bicycles. But at 5pm the beer and cocktails seem to be free again, so I am not so sure. Many of my former „alternative” friends are now very well-fed, happy house owners. Some of the less alternatives one followed my footsteps. I feel it is more the individual who changes his community, not so much whole communities choosing a different life style.

Noorderlicht: What is the audience that you'd hope would look at your project / series? Who should see this work?

Marrigje de Maar: Who should come and see my work Rendezvous? Nobody. It is up to the individual. Do not come if you want to be told something. Perhaps if you want to experience a bit of beauty, or get some rest at the end of the day when you cannot absorb more images. The combination of the two projects in the Natuurmuseum is very well chosen. If you - like me - now and then want to "stop the world and get off", then perhaps a visit to my work will be interesting. I myself do not intend to disappear like the hermits in Danila Tkachenko's Escape. I stay connected with this world, but I only take part in so far as it suits me. It is possible to step out while staying. If there is a message in my work, perhaps then that is it - no more, no less.