Ons Erfgoed - Gezellig Series
Images can tell a story: they can become part of a narrative, saying things that can’t be put into words. The photographs in Ons Erfgoed investigate an alternative method to portraiture – they provide a portrait of Dutch New Zealanders not by photographing the people themselves, but by focusing on their homes and the objects they collect and display. The setting in which the photographs have been taken and the objects that make up the room are significant: objects are often placed around the home as symbolic reminders of people, places, and significant events — a kind of showcasing of the things that are important to the owner. Jean Baudrillard, in his book The System of Objects (1968), explains, “what gives the houses of our childhood such depth and resonance in memory is clearly this complex structure of interiority, and the objects within it serve for us as boundary markers of the symbolic configuration known as home.”
As people age, the objects that they hold onto age alongside them, and so, through various events, interactions and changes, both the person and their possessions continuously transform. Objects are often used to construct and preserve the meanings of people’s lives. Cultural values and ideas become materialised within objects and, usually unintentionally, people provide vital clues as to who they are and what they believe throughout their home. The photographs in Ons Erfgoed aim to echo something of the subjects’ Dutch heritage by using light in a similar way to 17th Century Dutch painters like Rembrandt or Vermeer. The scenes are of everyday life – bedrooms, kitchens, and dining rooms – and because of the types of objects that fill these rooms, it can be said that culture has been translated into an interior. The photographs often expose a kind of longing, or an aching pathos for another place: the Netherlands.
The photographs are taken with an analog medium format camera – a Bronica ETRSi. Compared to digital, film has more of an honest and hands-on way of working, which is important for the subjects that are explored within the project. It encourages a slower way of looking at and seeing the world, and things that are often overlooked in everyday life can be noticed and recognised for their importance.
Ons Erfgoed - Portrait Series
The first significant Dutch Immigration to New Zealand followed soon after World War II. The Dutch suffered greatly during the war, both economically and psychologically. Even after the war, everyday items were strictly rationed and the housing shortage was a significant problem, with many people waiting up to ten years for appropriate accommodation. New Zealand’s Assisted Passage scheme was extended to the Dutch in the 1950s. It helped migrants with special skills to immigrate to New Zealand and become a part of the community they were assigned to. Despite this, there has been little research on Dutch Immigration to New Zealand.
This series within Ons Erfgoed aims to create a kind of “artistic ethnography” of Dutch New Zealanders (from Dutch societies in Auckland and Christchurch) by recording their experiences of immigration and their life in pre-war Holland. An important part of the project is taking photographs of these people and their homes, because images can tell a story too: they can become part of a narrative, saying things that can’t be put into words.
Ons Erfgoed - Family Series
Ons Erfgoed shows the homes and lives of three different generations of a migrant Dutch family – the initial immigrants themselves, the first generation New Zealanders, and the second generation New Zealanders.
It is an investigation of the Dutch cultural assimilation within New Zealand, but also highlights the desire within different generations to reconnect with their “Dutchness”. Each household is photographed under an anthropological gaze, focusing on the common patterns and rituals that emerge in the way people go about their everyday life. The photographs have been taken in the subjects’ own homes. This approach comes from the belief that the environment a person lives in shapes their character and values, and the type of things they fill their homes with can reveal important things about them.