Friday Fry Up: Maurice Van Es


As photography’s authority diminishes with each iPhone photo, Dutch photographer Maurice van Es asks how it can become valuable again. For Now in Milan (2014), he responded to this predicament by deleting the digital files of his photographs of Milan after a live printing. This action produced a 130 foot print that remains as a commentary on the ubiquity of images and the unpredictable effects of time. Mainly, though, the bulk of van Es’s practice is focused on the capturing of objects and subjects with which he has a relationship. Whether it is a doorknob, vacation scenery, or his family members, there is always a connection within his works. These photographs elevate the banal, beatify seemingly simplistic situations, and make photography’s documentary relation to memory freshly relevant again. Whether individually or as a series, his work reminds us to re-think how we view our everyday surroundings and to recognize everyone and everything as the integral elements that shape our lives.

In finding and photographing paint chips, marks on walls or furniture, and other signs of the wear and tear in his parent’s house (Blank Starting Points, 2011), and installations of laundry and other household items made unintentionally by his mother (To Me You Are a Work of Art, 2011), van Es poeticizes and draws our attention to the overlooked details we are surrounded by. Through close-up photographs of wallpaper, sheets, and other textures within his childhood home (Textures of Childhood, 2012), and of the clothing items he wore in one year (Putting On, 2011-2012), van Es reminds us of the subtle intimacy of our relationships with banal objects we interact with for up to years at a time.

He is intrigued by the beautiful simplicity of individual gestures and actions performed daily, such as a sequence of movements made by his grandfather (Before Things Change, 2010), snapshots of his brother moments before he leaves the house (New Life, 2012-2014), stills of his girlfriend waiting for him while he takes a separate photograph (The Past is a Strange Place, Japan, 2014), and images of his father’s car waiting to pick him up (Pick Ups By My Dad, 2013-present). With these, van Es offers a stronger, more sentimental set of visuals he has come to depend on.

Educated at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, van Es is represented by Billytown, also in The Hague. His most recent publication, Now will not be with us forever (RVB books, Paris)—which features eight slim volumes of previous series in a slipcase—was shortlisted for the Aperture-Paris Photo First Book Award in 2015. The dummy edition of Now will not be with us forever (2013) was recently purchased by the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. He previously self-published Wow I photographed a lot of birds in 2014 and Rooms of Now, a series of over a dozen unique slim books of photographs of friend’s rooms.

Van Es was longlisted for the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize (2015), and received the Stroom Pro art projects grant, Stroom, The Hague (2015), the Young Talent Program grant, Stroom, the Hague (2014), the ING New Talent program with Rineke Dijkstra (2014), and was the winner of the Dusseldorf Photo Award, ARTE, Dusseldorf, Germany (2014), and the ING New Photography Talent public award (2014).

His work has been in printed publications including the Dusseldorf NRW-Forum Magazine (2015), Billytown Magazine (2015), British Journal of Photography (2015), Garage Magazine (2015), Sometime Else Magazine (2015), Paper Journal (2014), Les Rencontres d’Arles catalog (2014), Creatie Magazine (2014), Not Today Magazine (2014), and YET Magazine (2014), among many others. His work has recently been featured in online publications including It’s Nice That, American Photo, VICE, Forget Good Magazine, The Plantation, Self Publish Be Happy, One day you will find me, Matte Magazine, Wandering Bears, The Latent Image, Disturber Magazine, Mossless Magazine, and Dust Magazine, among several others.

In 2016, he will take part in a group show curated by Alex de Vries at Galerie Witteveen in Amsterdam as well as Art Rotterdam and UNSEEN Amsterdam. In 2015, he exhibited in SPBH AMS/TOK/NYC, at the Photographers Gallery, London, UK, in a group show at Van Ostadetheater, curated by Gabriel Rolt, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, at RVB Books, Paris, France, in a group show at C&H art gallery, curated by Jedithja de Groot, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in Still / Life organised by FOAM, at the Himalaya Art Centre, Shanghai, China, as part of Blank Starting Points at Format Photo Festival, Derby, UK, in Mixt, Studioegallery, Seattle, USA, in a group show at Billytown, the Hague, The Netherlands, in Sightseeing at G/P gallery, Tokyo, Japan, in Misfit Love at Gabriel Rolt, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and in The Photograduates, WTC art space, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

— Ashley McNelis