Dutch photographer Bastiaan Woudt's first UK exhibition opens at Atlas Gallery

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Dutch photographer Bastiaan Woudt's first UK exhibition opens at Atlas Gallery
Bastiaan Woudt, Disk, 2020, Archival pigment print, 90 x 120 cm. © Bastiaan Woudt, image courtesy Atlas Gallery.

LONDON.- Hidden is the first UK exhibition of the Dutch photographer Bastiaan Woudt (b.1987). Showing at Atlas Gallery these images are a bravura demonstration of his signature style, which has already gained him an international reputation.

Woudt’s black and white photographs wear their perfection lightly. Within each image, contrasting elements of shape, texture and tone coalesce into sculptural forms in a finely balanced, fluid geometry. A hat is placed on the top of a head, as if about to take off; women with great circles of hats and draped in fabric often reveal only a partial profile or a hand reaching for something unseen, simultaneously concealing and revealing; in other images, bodies that are rendered still by the camera pulse with potential movement.

Photography was not Woudt’s intended career but one he discovered during the time he was studying hotel event management. “I realised that wasn’t going to work for me after my first child was born. I had always loved photography and collected photobooks, so I decided to buy a camera to photograph my son. And, like all new fathers and mothers, I liked taking pictures of the baby but a few months later I began to wonder, what else is there to photograph?” That was the beginning of an intense period of study and experimentation for Woudt with the camera and post-production techniques.

“I spent a lot of time looking at the artists I call the Old Masters of photography – such as Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Bill Brandt, Man Ray.” He explains: “My work is about a timeless aesthetic but in a more modern way because my subjects are modern. However, I use a lot of grain and out-of-focus areas which give feeling to photography. I shoot digital but the inspiration of analogue photography is very important and I think I have found a perfect way of having all the advantages of shooting digital but with the complete aesthetics of the analogue photo. I chose to work in black and white because I think it is very important when creating art that it’s something unique and something not about reality. Taking away colour, that helps in getting there.”

Woudt has had numerous solo exhibitions at galleries in the Netherlands, China and the USA. His work is represented in private collections worldwide and has been included in museum exhibitions at the Louvre in Paris, the Hilversum Museum in Holland, and the Museum Singer in Laren. He has also been the subject of books, the first of which Mukono, features his work in Uganda in collaboration with the drinking water charity Marie-Stella-Maris. An image from this series will also feature in the exhibition at Atlas Gallery.

Woudt has refined his eye and his practice to achieve a resolved vision that is both classic and contemporary and is expressed though his compositions, many made with his muse, the model Tinotenda Mushore, in his studio outside Amsterdam.

Tino White Hat and Tino II are examples of the artist working with instinctive freedom to catch a moment. When he saw a roll of material, “the first thing I thought was ‘this is going to be a hat’. So we put it on Tino’s head and I started shooting. Movement is important sometimes, so Tino started moving with the hat and, all of a sudden, the hat fell down because we didn’t pin it. In that moment something happened that I couldn’t have foreseen. Spontaneity is key to a lot of things I do and that makes for an image which, if you thought about it, wouldn’t work. Here, the first image where she has it on her head, I thought ‘That’s how I thought it would be’. Then it fell over and I’m like, ‘This is it! ’”

Bastiaan Woudt and Tinotenda Mushore have worked together for five years and are friends, so when the demonstrations for Black Lives Matter began they felt they needed to protest together in Amsterdam.

“For me, the problem of racial injustice has always been on my mind and I’ve had many conversations with Tinotenda about this. It is very important at this time to listen to what’s going on, to educate yourself and to say something when it’s appropriate. And because I have a platform as an artist, I think it’s good to speak up and say ‘enough is enough’.”

The Covid-19 lockdown gave him the opportunity to take the next step. “I have set up a new company, 1605 Publishers, so I am going to publish not only my own books but also books by other photographers and artists. 1605 Publishers strives to be a platform for artists from all walks of life. Diversity is what makes art beautiful. This is something I can contribute to by not only showing white photographers and not only showing my work but also putting different narratives into the system.”

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