Exploring Life’s Fragility it Egmont van Dyck by Anna C
I first came across Egmont van Dyck a few months ago when Jen and I first started the #stilllifelounge. The image he submitted was not only thoughtful, but a true still life utilizing light and subject matter. During the interview process, I found Egmont to be thoughtful, kind, and creative. That is a hat trick in my book. I cannot begin to tell you how impressed I am with Egmont, it is not often you stumble upon such a refined individual.
A: Anna E: Egmont
A: What does your life look like away from the computer?
E: One might say the MacBook Pro laptop, iPad 1 are tethered to me like an umbilical cord, just as much as the iPhone 4S. However there are times, though not enough, when I simple place one on top of the other, then walk away and into the garden, but most likely a set of mundane household chores require my attention. No one will do your laundry, make the bed or make dinner, unless you do it yourself and so I have developed a passion for cooking and especially baking.
I do try to balance responsibility to the family with my creativity urges, but even here the challenge for me, as I have varied interests. Weeks or months may go without taking any photographs because the creative energies flow in a different direction, for I also paint large scale multi-medium sized abstracts. These can take weeks to several months to complete and in some cases 1-2 years. Yet as of last November I have not painted and the iPhone is in large part responsible.
I have not worked since 2003 due to numerous health issues that continue to effect my daily activities and since I am now staying home more, interest in photography waned. It was not until my son presented me with a new iPhone 4S for Christmas, which ignited my interested in photography a couple of months later. Because I was so taken with what the iPhone 4S is capable of, I secured a dot com name and started constructing The iPhone Arts (A) website, which went public at the end of April.
A: How does your life influence your work
E: There were a few pivotal moments in which life had a direct influence in what I was creating. At first it was just taking pictures of abandoned houses in Hercules, California, seven years ago. Within weeks, the project revealed itself to be the unveiling of a deep family secrete, made public.
From over 400 images, I had selected only ten photographs which reflected my story of having been abused mentally, physically and sexual by my mother.
In 2011 the original Black & White series was revisited, taking the original digital files, reworking them in Photoshop and this time decided they were more powerful in color.
The ‘Family Secrets Revisited’ was posted to The Artist Within Us website in August 2011, with a new introduction and epilogue.
Within a couple of months after the completing the first version ‘Family Secrets’, I underwent open heart triple by-pass surgery. During the months of recovery and physical therapy, I would walk the street of Berkeley, where I discovered the beauty of tattered pieces of paper remains on telephone poles.
There are certain streets where telephone poles are used as advertisement billboards, by having flyers stapled to them. Over time, layers of paper fragments and thousands of staples later, these are nicely conditioned by the elements of weather, a nice layer of abstract patterns developed, to which I was deeply attracted to as a source of inspiration.
I have now been photographing these telephone poles for seven years, first with a 5 MB fixed lens Sony digital camera, then using a Nikon D70 and finally in 2010, I began capturing my images with the Nikon in HDR. As the body of worked developed, I was also very curious how I could transform what I was so intensely photographing into large abstract paintings.
A solution was finally found when I created ‘White in White’ a 36 x 48 inch multi-medium painting in 2011.
Though I felt by now I had exhausted the subject matter which I called ‘Typography Graveyard,’ but then I started using my iPhone whenever I needed to visit any of my doctors, I would take long walks after the appointment in order to capture more images, using either Hipstamatic with different film and lens combinations or just straight photography using 6×6.
A: Tell me about your website and how you are using it to give more exposure to mobile photography?
E: Apart from establishing The iPhone Arts website, promoting the hashtag #the_iphone_arts on Instagram, which features other iPhoneographers through my ‘Weekly Showcase’ and ‘Curator’s Choice,’ I am still in the process to create three small collections of high quality iPhone captured.
A series of three different styles of fine art photography have been in the works whenever time and opportunity permit. Each of the series will be different from the other, but reflect my personal passion and love. They are ‘Abstract Realism,’ a description I coined in 2008, when I tried to describe what ’Typography Graveyard’ is. The other series reflects what I excelled in those years as an advertising and editorial photographer, which was creating still-life table top sets.
Lastly, a love for documentary/journalism style photography, which dates back to when I was 14 and first began taking pictures with a plastic Brownie 120 film camera.
So when I visited San Francisco’s Chinatown last Easter of this year and used my iPhone, was delighted by the results. Since than I have taken several trips to Chinatown, trying to capture the faces of the Chinese people and their environment. Unfortunately a few weeks ago, due to a human error I lost about 900 images which had not been backed up and recovery was not possible, setting back this project by 6-8 months from completion.
A: Do you have a favorite image? If so which one and why?
E: There is one, ‘The arrival of winter as autumn passes’ but it was not taken with an iPhone. It was taken a few days after my heart attack, three weeks before the open heart surgery and reflects death not being far away. But since we are talking about mobile photography, there are two and they are different as night and day.
Yesterday I lit a candle to mark the fourth birthday in my second life, commemorating the day I was to have passed only to cheat death, when doctors performed a triple-by-pass open-heart surgery. The residual consequences have been mixed and though I am grateful to be alive, the side effects of the surgery have become an almost daily battle. Especially the bouts with depression have become more numerous these last one and half years, lasting longer and becoming more sever, that I have even begun to question if the quality of life gained has been worth this daily struggle. – taken from Life’s Fragility
Personally I believe it takes one thousand exposures before you have the one perfect image. Though I have reached 9000 exposures with the iPhone, only a handful of photographs I feel will stand the test of time.
A Squirrels Bounty
During a clean up of the backyard, I discovered numerous walnuts a squirrels had hidden away among the fallen Sequoia needles that covered the ground underneath the tall coastal redwood tree, including a several empty half shells. I immediately feel in love with their texture, setting each new discovery aside as my own little treasure.
A few day later I set up a table next to a window for the expressed purpose of photographing the squirrels bounty. First I tried using a few old books as a surface, but it just did not look right. Instead I pulled from storage roof shingles I had collected from an abandoned house for the sole purpose of reusing them in a painting or as a prop. Because I elected not to have any direct light onto the table-top set, I used fill cards to help bounce back any light and soften the shadows. After about 30 plus exposures with the iPhone 4S, capturing various different angles and approaches, I felt I had what I wanted.
While studying the images I had just taken, the light from the window began to strike the set. There was a warm breeze also blowing, ruffling the leaves in the tree just outside the window, ever changing the light on the walnuts.
I quickly seized the moment and started all over, taking another dozen and a half or so exposures. The breeze kept changing the appearance of the highlights and shadows on the walnuts. I went from shooting B/W to color and back again, using Hipstamatic John S lens with Claunch 72 Monochrome, Kodot X-Grizzled and Salvador DreamCanvas film cartridges. After editing all the images I selected the Hipstamatic, Kodot X-Grizzled color version converted to B/W.
Though it was a planned image, a Muse intervened on my behalf, showing me another way and with her help, I achieved a better photograph. It is life’s unexpected moments that can take a good image and make and make it memorable and even exceptional.
Since I did mention there were two favorite photographs, I feel it will emerge from the Chinatown series, but not having stood the test of time, I consider being only infatuated with the image.
Here is the duo-toned version which is the version that is my favorite.
To read and see more of Egmont’s work: