‘The Project’ is an ongoing series of portraits created by Sander Dekker from 2011 onwards. His subjects are never his friends or acquaintances, but people he finds on social media. He chooses people he admires as his subjects: outgoing, spontaneous, and always a bit eccentric. He contacts them to ask if he can photograph them at home, then books a ticket and gets on the plane. Raging through their house together, Dekker captures the high energy of that first encounter. A shoot usually last for an hour or so, before he’s off to his next visit. Meeting his models just before the session and working without a preconceived concept, creates the spontaneity that is distinctive of Dekker’s work. It results in great compositions and surprising crops that reflect the freedom and expressiveness of the people in front of his camera. When trying to capture their personalities, it’s almost as if Dekker hopes that these qualities will rub off on him. Yet after all these years, he prefers to stay behind the camera, where he can admire their eccentric beauty and pay tribute to them through his pictures.
Text: Samantha Hoekema, MA
Natalia was the first person I contacted for my trip to Moscow. ‘This is exactly what I need!’ she replied, which made even me more excited to meet her. I traveled to her studio, north of Moscow in an abandoned military plant. She opened the door beaming and full of energy. While she rearranged the paintings in her atelier for our shoot, she told me she has always been the odd one out: in her family, in school, even in the artworld. And with hardly any commercial galleries in Moscow, being a young artist is especially hard. But none of this prevents Natalia from making art. With no money for materials, she paints on anything she can find: old packaging, pieces of wood, found canvas... She often even sleeps in the complex, on a shelf in the storage system, to save money on housing. Art is her reason to live and she’s fully committed to it. Her dedication and enthusiasm were infectious, and I followed her through the building like a puppy in love. Before I left, Natalia made a self portrait, which is now in my collection to remind me of her.
This is Anthony with his Otto, sharing a moment in front of a portrait of Anthony’s mother which he painted himself. Like his mother, Anthony’s husband deceased and Otto is the only remaining connection of the love they shared together. So this photo, shot in his home in Brooklyn, is kind of a family portrait that captures a life that is almost all in the past: a turbulent life with Andy Warhol, Lady Divine and lots of parties with his friend David Hodo, the construction worker of the Village People. Not a surprise that these days Anthony is a muse for many artists.
When Samia opened the door, I instantly fell in love with her energy and stunning smile. Born in Sudan, a country at war, Samia and her sister were forced to take care of themselves from an early age. After wandering through several other war-ridden countries, she found the opportunity to escape to America. Living without sorrows gave Samia the possibility to start a successful modeling career, and this new-found sense of freedom just radiates from the pictures. Her positive energy was contagious and made this a particularly fun shoot.
In this shoot, I captured Devin halfway during her transition into becoming a woman. She had only realized what she wanted to change six months before the shoot, and was now exploring her true identity for the first time. Devin moved to New York to do so, because she didn’t feel she could be herself in her home city of Texas. We met up in her apartment, where Devin proudly flaunted her new body.
At the night of the vernissage of my exhibition in London, I was talking to a friend when I saw a yellow Rolls-Royce parked outside. The car was hand-painted with a red flower pattern. The owner, named Ian, was an eccentric guy, who stood out of the crowd. After our introduction I asked him if I could take some pictures of the car. That same evening I had met Tess, who joined the vernissage with a mutual friend. When I told her about the car, she was very excited to join me at the shoot. The next day we went to Ian, who was wearing his ‘regulars’ and after a small talk in his canal boat, asking him if he got something cool for Tess to wear, he pulled out this green bodysuit out of nowhere.
I was introduced to Joffrey through one of my best friends. His open and friendly mind together with his characteristic physique, sarcastic sense of humour and narcissistic traits make him really stand out of the crowd. It didn’t take long before a shoot was planned. Packed with my camera I went to his house, where Joffrey moved around like a kid on a sugar rush. It was hard to keep up with this rollercoaster ride in which he surprised me with so much silliness, great props, and ideas, that it was the shortest shoot I ever did with such great result.
Get my latest book -> My name is Sander Dekker / 1.5
The 144 pages hardcover contains a story shot in six cities all over the world, covering pictures of more than forty extraordinary people.
Edition: 5 + 2AP
Technique: Lambda print on Fujicolor Crystal Archive paper, mounted on dibond, plexiglass and black wooden frame
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