The works in this exhibiton by renowned Dutch photographer Jan Gulfoss come from a body of work inspired by a period called After the Fire. Gulfoss photographed this collection of animals either in zoos or, preferably, in the wild – the Camargue in the South of France being one of his favourite destinations. Gulfoss then digitally combines these photographs with a background that he has either painted or digtially generated from his own photographs. By framing this wildlife as if it was in a museum environment, Gulfoss makes a powerful comment about the fragility of nature and man’s impact upon it. This exhibition explores the best of these works and explores Gulfoss's talents as a photographer and painter.
What inspired you to place the animals in front of theatre sets when composing the photographs, as opposed to using their natural habitat as the backdrop?
I started to do so in 1981. I was a painter at the time and painted simple scenes where I placed the animals in front of white sheets. I was inspired by the magic of the stage, the mystery of a showcase, the fascination with an aquarium, an empty cage at the Zoo, a tropical greenhouse, a window... The separation between two worlds, between reality and a dream, freedom and imprisonment, or could it be the opposite? An island, a theater, an inaccessible world, a parallel universe, a passage to another space and time....
Have you always had a passion for photographing animals?
I spent my youth drawing birds and recording their song. The mystery of a golden oriole hiding in a high poplar tree, the appearance of a kingfisher above the water, the entropy of a fish left on the surface of the water – those are things that inspired me. I wanted to paint it all, so I started taking photos to use for my paintings and drawings, as a study and part of a sketch at first.
However, when my studio burned down in 2007 I stopped painting and started working as a photographer with a crew. I now paint or digitally create the backdrops in each photograph, re-creating stage like sets for the animals to be photographed in.
I do not really consider my work as that of a wildlife photographer, but more like a ‘’metteur en scène’’, a film-director creating a mysterious and peaceful world.
Are the animals trained to stay still, or does it take a long time to capture the perfect shot? And if so how long?
It can take weeks to capture the right attitude of the animal with the perfect lighting, but I have learnt that patience fits well with the quiet atmosphere I want to create. Last year I was working in a Zoo with a tiger. The tiger kept tearing down the backdrop and I had to make four to finish the job.
What is your favourite animal to photograph?
A cow. It has this quiet and peaceful presence and the ‘’paintings’’ on its skin are very graphic.