You will usually find Sander Dekker in Amsterdam. According to him “there are too many beautiful and crazy people around here to shoot”. Other favorite locations are London and New York City. Since May 2012, The Amsterdam Walls gallery hosts exhibitions of Sander Dekker work while in September he signed with the Pim Thomassen Agency.

An image of Sander Dekker lands on your cornea.  It flirts with your pupil for a while before grabbing a cab on the long highway towards your neural links at the back of your head. It’s the moment that your brain speechlessly screams “rock ‘n’ roll”. And “cool”, “sexy”, “hey that’s nice” along with many other short phrases that you never really heard. Yes, this is how rock ‘n’ roll would develop if the 80s and the 90s didn’t decide to interrupt so rudely.

Sander Dekker ’s work exposes everybody’s inner – and sometimes secret – need to do what’s usually overlooked in life: crawl on the floor, seduce the statue in the living room, show their teeth to the world, run, jump, scream and literally have fun! And it’s exactly that element of fun that defines the realism of his style. “Keep it cool, simple and real”, you will often hear him say and it looks like it’s working.

And then you meet Sander Dekker for an interview. You’ve done your preparation and you bring along the necessary booze: prerequisite to loosen things up and trick him with nasty questions. You enter the apartment and the guy orders a soda. “Damn it, that was not expected”, you think. It takes about 20 minutes and about three sentences to understand that you didn’t have to do anything to cool this one down. He’s just cool by default.

 

Some of your photos look like snapshots from porn movies.

I always search for things that can shock people. Crazy poses with legs spread but still fashionable. So you can basically see everything but not really the dirty details. I’m not asking it though from the girls. I basically let them do whatever they want and I follow them with the camera. They can just roll over the couch and if they have their legs spread then you can have a “pornish” kind of shot but it’s not intentionally. It’s wild with some sexual tension but that’s basically it.

It’s like innocent porn. 

Actually it is. I always hate it when people call me an erotic photographer. Cause I’m not. I just capture the people in their own environment. Of course I like it when they wear less because it’s also cooler. They show a bit more of themselves. You get to shoot the actual model. The actual girl or guy.

Why provocative shoots?

I try to move away for the magazine stiffness and attract attention at the same time. To provoke helps to stand out next to other photographers. When you look at the magazines it’s either forced or just plain fake. There is just not much of it and I think it’s something way more interesting to look at.

Is there a limit?

For me no. Probably in some paid jobs then yeah there may be a limit. Or if I’m going to publish it in a magazine yes there are also limits. But for me no. For me there are no limits. If it’s a cool picture, it’s a cool picture. 

Do you ever get sexually attracted to your models?

Actually, no. Everybody probably thinks that I do  but I don’t. I like the pictures that I’m making. It’s only while editing after a photo shoot that I catch myself looking at the pictures saying “oh god she’s so hot, unbelievable”. Maybe I’m more in love with making the picture than with what people are in real life. A camera in the middle functions like a wall. 

How does it work from inspiration to idea, then preparation and the actual photo-shoot?

Well, it’s nothing like that. I’ve often never met the model before. I just give them a call like “can I shoot at your place?” and then it actually happens. I don’t know where they live, I don’t know how they are in real life. The shoot takes usually two hours and that’s it.

Do you do something to prepare the model?

Nothing. No stylist. No make-up artist. No light specialist. I look into their closet, take everything out that I like and we choose. If I spot something cool in their living room I use it. It’s all just in the moment. I get there with my camera and my bag – without knowing anything – and that’s it. We just sit down, have a drink and then we go. As spontaneous as it can be.

 

Sander Dekker2

 

Not even mentally?

Not really. I don’t even use mood boards. It all depends on the model, the location and then it just happens. I look around and think “that’s cool, let’s do this, let’s do that, eat the plant, roll over on the floor.”

It sounds like pure fun.

It is. That’s what you can see in the picture. Nothing is forced. Nothing is thought of beforehand. This is why the fun element is always in the picture. It’s not like a flat simple sexual picture but there’s always that rock ‘n’ roll style and sense of humor. 

Is the experience different per person? Usually a person should be creating a different stimulus.

Yes. Amsterdam is full of crazy people. It only happened once or twice that the model thought “it’s too much”. I can feel it already in advance if it’s going to work or not or if I have any doubts but usually it’s not the case. It’s a small city with a lot of great models. They also know what to expect when they are shooting with me.

Can you photograph someone you don’t like?

That’s actually harder. I cannot do that. I usually see pretty easily if I have a connection with somebody. Some people don’t do nudity but they will tell me beforehand. But I don’t do nude in all of my pictures so I don’t expect it. Models are sometimes reluctant stating “I want to shoot with you but I don’t do nude”. Though when you see my pictures there’s not that much nudity in it. Most people expect “If you go with Sander Dekker you gotta show everything you got”. I don’t care.

What inspires you?

It’s not one thing. It can be many. The location where I am at that moment. The model. The fun stuff that they have in their house.

I read somewhere that you are not an artist. Or you’re not sure if you’re an artist yet.

It’s only six months ago that I quit my job and I started focusing more on photography. I guess from that point on you’re really an artist. It was not an actual choice. I have a lot of free time on my hands, do whatever/ wherever it pleases me and hardly say no to a good drink. So that’s why probably I’m an artist now. 

How did photography enter your life?

It was actually three years ago. I bought a cool camera, got to know how it works and gave it a shot. I started doing photo shoots with some nice girls. I even bought the lights and the equipment I needed in order to make cool pictures. In the beginning I tried to be prepared for everything. I did all that photography stuff like making mood boards, finding locations, arranging make-up artists and stylists. After a while I said to myself “that sucks”. It’s really hard to be moving around all this equipment and set it up. It takes the energy away from everyone. I came to the conclusion to keep it very simple. So I just put the compact flash on my camera and that was it. Then I found my way, it really worked. This was about a year ago and from that point it really exploded.

What is your personal goal?

I don’t have a specific goal. I wanted to sign with an agency, which I recently did. I’m part of the in house represented artists of a gallery for a whole year so that’s also done. Publications are also very cool and flattering but it usually happens without me focusing on it. A new goal is to start working officially in London because it’s a cool place and provides quite some potential for growth. There is not really one big goal in the far future that I need to reach. It’s more like small steps that I want to achieve each time and see how far I can get.

You have a strong personal style that is reflected in your work. 

People can recognize my pictures. And that’s what’s becoming more difficult when you look at fashion photography. All the Vogue-kind of shoots? I can never see who made the pictures. You can recognize the stylist, the models but the photographers are almost on the same spectrum. What I want to achieve is to have a photo book that breathes and it’s mine. It’s your soul on the table and every picture should really say that it’s you and not just anybody. It’s more valuable for the book and more flattering for the artist.

 

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Do you Photoshop your pictures?

I try to keep it as raw as possible. Even if there are a couple of hairs coming out, I just keep them in.

What other photographers do you like?

Terry Richardson in one of my examples. I don’t necessarily think he’s amazing or really good but the way that he’s working is great. He started making horrible porn pictures of himself with the most shabby looking girls and just all crazy stuff – he did whatever he wanted. But he continued and somehow he went big and became a brand. Now he’s shooting for Vogue. I like this attitude and I love what he did. Maybe I like his passion even more than his pictures. All the people at the beginning are going to say “you’ll never going to make it like this”. But I say stick to it. Don’t sell out. Become your own brand, your own label. 

Dido Fontana is also a photographer that I like a lot. I always get a cool feeling by the rawness of his pictures and I love the relative absence of models. I kind of look up to that because I use models a lot, which is easier for making cool pictures. But he just makes the really raw stuff and still cool and suitable for magazines or for people that want them to be printed. 

Is there someone on this planet that you would really love to photograph?

No. I don’t really care. I could say Kate Moss but it’s not going to be true. I also don’t think this way. I don’t watch a lot of TV. A big movie star? Why would I want to shoot him or her. There are a lot of cooler people here that I could shoot. Promotional wise it’s probably better but it’s not like a goal I have to achieve. But maybe I’m already doing it. I could be shooting people now that will become famous 30 years from now. In that’s way it’s cooler since you help each other out.

Do you print your photos in a limited edition?

Yes. Ten pieces. I’m not really in it for selling. Seven or eight months ago when I first brought my work to Walls gallery they asked me how much money I wanted for the prints. I didn’t know and I was the only one with the “no price” label in the gallery. I thought of picking up all my prints after the exhibition, throw them in the rash and put up on Twitter “If you want prints of my work you can find it in the trashcan around the corner”. 

Tell us about “Happy Ending”

In May I decided to do my solo show. It was called “Happy Ending”. I was given a 55 hours gallery slot, but I started to build the work within those 55 hours. Sort of a countdown. So I had a big clock and put the 55 hours on. I invited everybody but most people for the ending. The “Happy Ending”. All the people came in the last three hours and there was this big clock that nobody knew about. One hour before the end of the countdown I announced: “when the clock reaches 0 you can just take anything from the wall that you like, because everything is for free!”. People went crazy and started guarding the wall to protect the prints that they wanted to take home. 

Commercial work or your own flow?

I want to do both. I want to do what I like for a commercial assignment. The last assignment that I did was for Men at Work. They know what I do so they asked me to book the models, select their clothing and do whatever I like. I don’t want to compromise. I think you lose a lot of passion if you compromise or do it only for the money. Then it’s just a job.

What’s your favorite picture?

I don’t have a favorite picture. I’m always into the new stuff. I used to do more close-ups and now I’m experimenting more with the environment. I don’t have a personal favorite.

Favorite model?

Also not. No muse.

You say that you live in “worry free state of mind”. Are you human?

Yes I got a pulse and everything.

I don’t buy it from the pulse. So you sweat, you sleep, you eat you drink, right? How do you make it then?

 (Laugh) By not letting anything get to you. No stress. Never care much about what you’re doing. That is also reflected in the setting of meeting a model in an unknown location just a few moments before I start shooting.  I don’t prepare. If nothing comes out of it, then we just got… nothing. When you live in this mode, life becomes easier and more spontaneous. I always have a small camera with me and it doesn’t matter what happens I just jump in and make a picture of it. I’m just browsing through life. 

Describe freedom. It’s exactly what I do now. Do whatever you want. That’s the most you can get in terms of freedom. Do not compromise. I think that’s the ultimate freedom.

If money didn’t matter what would you do?

Nothing much different since it doesn’t matter. If I were in it for the money, it would be a stupid mistake.

You can see more of Sander Dekker at

www.mynameissanderdekker.com

hwalls.nl/kunstenaars/sander-dekker.html

 

Interview: Myscha Oréo & Ioannis Alvanopoulos

Words: Ioannis Alvanopoulos

Photography:  Myscha Oréo and Sander Dekker

 

 

 

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