Sander Meisner is a dutch photographer based in Amsterdam. I discovered his work two years ago at the same time as Flickr itself. I noticed his desolate urban landscapes he captured since the beginning. Llight turns empty spaces into unexpected and special places. Sander is an important reference for me, we have interests and tastes in common. He really is a photographer with a solid work and a distinctive style. I’m sure you get inspired by him!
Seeking Magazine: Do you remember how you started with photography?
Sander Meisner: A friend of mine bought a Rollei 6008 and showed it to me, I had no clue about medium format or large format, or camera’s and photography in general but I was intrigued, then he gave me an old 35mm SLR I could borrow, I started taking pictures the next day, and have been doing basically the same thing ever since (that’s about three years ago), I guess I am a bit more skilled now, but the subjects I am interested in and the time of day I choose to photograph have always been the same.
Seeking: What does photography means to you?
SM: For me it is a way of altering, molding, transforming reality. Registration of the subject isn’t enough, I want to do more than just capture reality. I try to control the frame in such a way it generates a different angle, a different way of looking at the subject. I want to give people the experience of seeing things like they have never seen them before. I think this is especially evident in my tunnels series, but I try to achieve the same effect with all my work. I am trying to transform the city’s ugly places into colorful places of beauty, the long exposures and dramatic light of the night help me achieve this.
Seeking: Your work has a strong connection with the night. How do you prepare your night series? How long is a session?
SM: Sometimes I try to find information about an area I plan to explore and photograph, but usually I just go and wander around, looking for interesting light and subjects, I tend to have sessions that go around 4 hours on a regular basis, but it can last anywhere from an hour to six hours. I tend to get on my bike (in Amsterdam this is the most common way of going around) put my tripod on my steer and my backpack with camera’s and film on my back and drive around all night, taking pictures of anything that catches my eye.
I do visit the same areas over and over again, I think that the more you visit a certain location the deeper you get. The first time I think the shoots are much more obvious than the shoots I take on the third or fourth visit.
Seeking: You prefer locations where no human is seen but human activity is sensed. What kind of feelings you want to communicate?
SM: I think the feeling I want all my pictures to have should be solitude, but I am going for different emotions in different series. Tunnels for instance is more about changing the way people see, I try to look for them, and show them these concrete things without their context, which creates the experience of seeing something for the first time again. People never think of these typically Dutch tunnels as beautiful, but in my pictures they are.
With most of my nightwork (especially with nacht) I’m capturing the lonely, calm stillness of the night and the way the light at night alters space. I really like how places in daylight can look so different, almost as if they are a different place when compared to the night, I sometimes take pictures of the same place at night, and during the day, but always end up using the night versions because they have a much stronger atmosphere.
Seeking: You use a film camera in your work. Why did you choose film and not digital?
SM: When I first started taking pictures a friend of mine lend me a film camera (a Canon T90) with some lenses, I went out at night to take pictures with it, the results didn’t look great, but I did like going out and taking pictures, so when I decided to get myself a camera of my own I bought a film camera (a Nikon F50), simply because I was using one already. Since then I have bought a lot of different cameras (a lot of 35mm gear at first) later medium format stuff.
Recently I have sold almost everything I owned and have now just got a couple of Mamiya TLR body’s and most of the lenses for this system, an old Canon, a Olympus Trip 35 and a medium format Zeiss folder which takes remarkably good pictures.
do realize now however that using negative film is part of the look I am trying to create. A lot of my night work wouldn’t have been able to look like it does without the wider exposure latitude of negative film, I really like the look of negative film, especially that of Fuji Superia Reala and pro 160s.
Seeking: Tell us about your series ‘Dirt’. What do these places mean?
SM: They are all borderlands, city’s edge, where development has just started or is about to start. These are places devoid of human live, it seems like the end of the world (someone compared it to the movie “the road”). They are the places where the city and its ongoing expansion collides with the countryside, with the farms and with nature and the problems this creates.
Seeking: A place you don’t know and would like to photograph?
SM: India, I am planning a trip there next year and this seems like a very exiting place to photograph with it’s beautiful colors and light.
Seeking: What are your references and photographers who inspire you?
SM: I really like the night work of Mathieu Gafsou, Carl Wooley and Kevin Cooley. Also I like the work of Josef Schulz a lot. I really like how he takes things out of context and generates a different way of looking at things with the way he uses photoshop.
Alexander Gronsky, Bialobrzeski and Burtynsky, I saw Oil last year here in Amsterdam and was very impressed, also I saw Gronsky’s work last month as well, a very nice person too.
Next to that I like to watch a lot of movies which can be very inspirational and browse the internet looking for photographers. There is a lot of great work on flickr, I like to play flickr slideshows on a laptop while sitting on my couch.
Seeking: When you’re not taking pictures what do you like?
SM: I like listen to music, read books, but most of my live revolves around photography right now, I am not doing much else outside of work.
Seeking: Your projects, wishes for tomorrow.
SM: I want to do a project about Santorini, I’ve been there on holidaylast year and want to go back in the winter. More than half the islands population leaves in the winter season, and there is practically no tourism. I want to go there for a couple of weeks and photograph the desolation I imagine it exist on this island during the winter.
Also I’d like to do a series about the West-Midlands in the UK, this is a very industrial area which I’d like to photograph in the winter as well.
Next to that I want to keep on working on my ‘Nacht’ series which practically will never end.
I hope to exhibit all my new and old work (I joined an Amsterdam based gallery two months ago) where I hope have some exhibitions in the future, also I would like to be able to stop working at some point and
completely focus on my photography.
Copyright © Sander Meisner, All rights reserved. This photographs are not to be used as free stock.