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Women and their Harleys

Chris de Vos, 1984

It really is a pleasure to have most of your negatives digitized. Well, certainly not all of them, but I keep finding series that I have long forgotten.

This was an assignment for a Dutch weekly, and it is one of the very few series that I actually planned with the help of someone who knew how to make a planning. The whole series of about 12 photographs was done in two weeks. If had done the planning myself, it certainly would have taken at least three months. Once I have a subject, I start living it.

I was particularly impressed by this woman, Chris de Vos, if I remember well, who also owned a trike. She did not mind riding her bikes in the rain, which is not all that common among Harley-Davidson owners.

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1999-2000 Role Model

1999 and 2000 for me were the last years of analogue photography. I believe I switched to a Nikon D1 by the end of 2000. I was recovering from major surgery at the time, so it was not a period of my life I wish to remember in detail. Not being able to walk properly for many years prior to the operation, I was trying to catch up with life and I acted like I was suffering from a midlife-crises on steroids.

I guess I was a major pain in the ass for everybody around me, including the person who was generous enough to give me a studio plus equipment to continue my photographic career.

Most of the analogue material I created there, wasn’t scanned in high resolution, so I could not supply large digital prints. Currently, I am re-scanning most of these negatives, such as the image above, which is a remastered version.

This photograph is important to me, because it marked the beginning of a new era. I sent this photograph with two others to a juried art show in Seattle. The jury, consisting of people with lots of expertise, sent me a very nice E-mail and all works were admitted.

I did not visit the exhibit, but somebody I knew, who lived in the area, did. At first, she could not find this particular photograph, although she did find the two other photographs. Those photographs were quite prominently presented.

Later I found out that this image was hung apart from my other works, next to the latrines. A little investigation learned that volunteers who were responsible for hanging the works in this very large group exhibit, thought that the image was provocative in a way that made them decide to hang it out of view for most visitors.

This was new to me, then. I like to create works that provoke a discussion on aesthetics, and I was not used to volunteers creating their own censorship rules. To me, that was up to the jury to decide. Of course, this was the beginning of more censorship by people who have no expertise or background in art or photography. You see it everywhere now. Computer programmers on social media who decide what is porn and what is art. It is quite normal now, but it wasn’t then.

The person who posed for this photograph was not directed to sit with his legs apart. It happened when I was loading film. When I saw him in this position I decided to add the broom, and I was quite satisfied with the result.

To me the photograph represented a very common discussion between feminists at the time. Just before I made that photograph, I had read an article written by a woman complaining about men doing the laundry, cleaning the house, cooking etc. They did all the things she had hoped for, but in the end she had to conclude that these men were simply not attractive enough.

I thought of that article, when I added the title ‘Role Model’ to the photograph.