Zan van Alderwegen

Artistic and conceptual principles

In my photographic work I focus on small, seemingly insignificant objects that most people will hardly notice in daily life, in an attempt to raise what is futile to a state of monumentality. What normally remains in the shadows is exactly what I wish to draw into the full light. In this way I try to draw attention to ‘the secret life of things’ and to advocate a different, more concentrated way of looking. Intense, tranquil and original. In doing so I implicitly comment upon the way we look at our surroundings and the moral judgments that are involved, either consciously or unconsciously.

Although printing technique and size of the final prints are very important, I am concerned with more than just a formal play with scale, colour and form. To me, many objects possess a specific character and emanate a certain feeling, making them more than just lifeless matter. Rather, I see and experience these objects as living creatures. By portraying such objects photographically I try to highlight these qualities. Sometimes the result is a narrative image, while at other times the images may be more iconic in nature, carrying a strong sense of alienation.

Stories, myths and psychological processes play a major part in my personal life, and thus also in how I value and portray certain objects. Therefore a photograph of a headlight or a small cap is always more than just a representation of the object itself, a flower is more than just ‘a flower’. The image refers to something that is outside of the represented object and that is often immaterial in nature, transcending the concrete. This to me constitutes the value of much art: to transform what is banal and futile into something universal and timeless.


Two poppy leaves. Within the two poppy leaves life’s drama.
The lower leaf is much further along in its dying process. How beautiful its creases and wrinkles are! In despair it reaches for the other leaf that clearly still possesses more tension. There is a special in-between area created in the middle by the yellow-greenish light.

Zan van Alderwegen