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A maverick with a Sunday child’s charisma, Amsterdam-based Sander Dekker (b. 1980) is an unconventional photographer with a remarkable talent to capture magical moments. He can best be described as open-minded and inventive, with the quality of turning unexpected situations into opportunities. He frequently travels for new impulses and treats his surroundings with an accessible attitude and mentality that also apply to his work, in which spontaneity and wild energy are key.
From an early age Sander developed a deep fascination with extravert and outgoing individuals, partly due to his own juvenile insecurities. This admiration is clearly conveyed in his photography. From his late twenties Sander acted as art director in the fashion industry, working for various labels. This turned out to be of pivotal influence to his career, as Sander’s reality merged with one he always considered far away. Being relatively introvert himself, his world gradually started to overlap with that of self-confident and sexual individuals – subject of a budding photographer’s fascination.
From 2011 onwards, Sander went on exploring the autonomous and non-conceptual field of photography. He works with unpolished male and female models, which he selects on distinct facial or raw features – such as androgynous types or edgy and eccentric characters. Sander and his models strongly share a positive mind and free spirit, creating an unrestrained atmosphere as well as a solid connection between the person behind and in front of the camera. The intriguing air of boldness, confidence, and autonomy displayed by the models is a feature envied by the photographer. Sharing many qualities, while at the same time having such a vastly different personality; Sander would never dare to take the role of his models.
In the present time of virtual voyeurism and increasing narcissism, every individual has endless possibilities to find an audience and be expressive, usually portraying themselves at their best. Admiring his subjects and adapting the role of observer, Sander might be labelled a voyeur as well. However in contrast to filtered photos or perfected shots in today’s fashion or social media, Sander captures his models as they are in reality. Not being perfect nor trying to be, yet they are extraordinarily intriguing and pleasant to look at. It’s the real deal, as his models are autonomous and express their own identity. That is exactly what Sander pursues: to him imperfection reflects personality.
Sander’s idiosyncratic technique is to not pay attention to the technical part; he works with an external flash and 33mm (wide angle) lens – to mimic human eye vision – very unlike studio or staged photography. Despite his background, Sander doesn’t pursue fashion quality in his photos. In fact, he aims for the opposite and prefers miss matching as to deliberately keep the vogue out of his work. He consciously avoids styling or fashion (notably, Sander persistently revels in black shirt and jeans himself), which would limit his photos to a specific timeframe. Hence his images embody a relative sense of timelessness, whereas at the same time being a genuine product of the present day.
His work is highly spontaneous and impromptu in the sense that he often shoots at locations he has never visited before, meeting his models just before the photo session and working from zero concept. Deliberately he doesn’t allow his shoots to last long in order to maintain a certain level of energy, and he interacts to feed his models with crazy ideas. It’s just what’s there and then. Spontaneity and improvisation are therefore crucial, often resulting in surprising crops and spectacular compositions.
Candy for the eye with an appealing aesthetic quality, Sander’s photography is defined by humour, positive energy, and infinite freedom. Using photography as a tool to capture moments created through interaction and synergy, his work can be considered a reflection of his own personality. The beholder is treated with a glimpse into the amazing life of this amiable photographer and it’s an enjoyable experience.
text: Drs. S.C.A. Rietveld, MA