by Luciana Benaduce

After 5 years from our previous conversation (interview 2011) we are glad to meet again with Raimond Wouda Dutch contemporary photographer who lives and works in Amsterdam. During the period from 2008 to 2013, he visited various productions of Dutch and Belgium film sets. He has produced incredible material that explores the effects of imagination outside the boundaries of film. As a viewer you are able to literally navigate through the films by means of its images. I was at his studio in Amsterdam for a conversation about his work and his book 'Ext.‐Int.', which recently received an honorable mention at Arles festival. Could you tell us about the process of making a book about film sets?

Raimond Wouda (RW) When we started the book we only had pictures, but in the process of the book we wanted to have a second layer. I tried some different things but we found the solution after I had read the script from the film “In your name”. A couple of years ago I photographed material for the director Marco van Geffen, who wanted to use my pictures alongside his script in order to receive a grant for making a movie. He gave me some sort of mood board and I decided to photograph a specific area in The Netherlands. I wanted to capture what people were doing there, which proved to be a bit of a dramatic approach for people in the area. He eventually gave me the script of the entire movie and when we were working on the book, I simultaneously looked at the script and the pictures I had taken. We noticed there was a relationship between the photographs and the script. I was fascinated by this relationship, because film starts with text, which in a way has nothing to do with film. Film is visual and more spectacular; it has a lot of effects and it moves you in another way than a text does. Especially the very formal language that was used in the script doesn’t correlate to the essence of film. Of course it still plays a crucial part, but the drama is completely different. My intention was to construct a relationship between the script and the pictures I had taken, because that depicts the foundation of film. The script and my photos were the only objects that materialized the concept of the movie before they started shooting it. When effects, sound and music are added in the editing room, the movie completely changes again. This difference between film in its early stage and film in its completed stage is also a path I wanted to explore. What I wanted to do is to establish a relationship between the pictures I had taken, the script that signals the beginning of the film and the polished film that signals the end of the artistic process.

© Raimond Wouda from the series 'Ext.-Int.', Scene 133, The Storm, Tielrode

All the photographs taken on the Dutch and Belgium film sets in the book have the intention to show both the film set and the world where the film is made. To shoot as much of the area as I could, I always took two steps back. My images are a deconstruction of the film and show how the film was structured. You see what both the world and the film set look like and see the world reflected in the sets. Not only pictures, but also the script relates to film, which is why I also wanted to incorporate text in my deconstruction of the movie. The objective was to let the audience experience the process of construction through deconstruction. We used an app with which you could scan the photos and see how my picture relates to the movie. That’s what I found fascinating with new technologies; you can show different layers at the same time. In short, it is a book about sets and how film sets work in The Netherlands. If you think about film you automatically think about Hollywood. The film industry in The Netherlands is smaller and doesn’t have as big of a budget as Hollywood does, but definitely has it’s own qualities that are worth exploring.

During the period from 2008 to 2013 you visited several productions of Dutch and Belgium films. What motivated you to start a project with film sets?

RW: I had a friend who attended a film academy a long time ago. While making his final exam project he asked me to make the stills, so I visited the film sets in 1997 and took some pictures. This played a major role in my decision to photograph film sets and show how they relate to the real world. Film sets nestle the real world when they are producing their own world for the film. Yet there is always a relationship between the world and the film itself too. I wanted to incorporate that relationship into my work.

© Raimond Wouda from the series 'Ext.-Int.', Scene 50b, Majesteit, Wijnegem

If you look at the picture from the film “Majesty”, you see people standing on a square piece of white. In the film they are skating on ice and the whole lake is covered with ice but in reality you can see the actors only used a small part. So you see the difference between what is considered the real world and the film set. When you show the entire setting, including elements that were not in the film, you unsettle the viewer. You deconstruct the film by revealing the environment in which the film was shot and in that way show how the film was made. So you see the difference between what is considered the real world and the film set. When you show the entire setting, including elements that were not in the film, you unsettle the viewer.

In your previous series 'School' and 'In The Neighborhood' you mentioned that you always try to deal with a micro‐cosmos and their social and anthropological meanings, is this applicable to 'Ext.‐Int.'? Could you comment a little bit on it?

RW: The film world in itself is a society on its own. They travel from scene to scene, from place to place, so in a way they have their own community. If you look at my pictures, you see that they participate in the real world and interact with reality. It is a kind of moving circus that journeys across countries to produce the images they need. They have their own restaurant with lunch and their own catering, so in a way they are a very small micro‐cosmos as well, which is fascinating to me. It’s a world that is a bit closed and very hierarchical in the way they work. It is a universe where the director is their god and where lower gods operate on a different level. In this project I was mainly interested in the deconstruction of the film, whereas in 'The Neighborhood' and 'School' much more sociological research was involved. With 'School', it is more about how people relate to each other. My current project on the other hand is about how the film world relates to the real world. In a way it deals with relationships too, which is an important motive in all my projects.

© Raimond Wouda from the series 'School II, Poland'

© Raimond Wouda from the series 'In The Neighbourhood'

In your photo book 'Ext.‐Int.' you start with a phrase “cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out” by Martin Scorsese. Do you believe that photography plays the same role? Is it from this perspective that you invite your viewer to construct their realm of imagination?

RW: Yes of course that is what we do. We only show a small piece of the world, because we emphasize what is important to us. In film you express what you want to show your audience and what you like them to think about certain things. You cannot portray the entire world, but the more specific you are, the better they will understand. I think it is important that you make specific remarks about issues. That’s why the deconstruction of film is so essential to me. I want to show, in different layers, how film is constructed and how it deals with reality. Film interferes with reality, but reality also interferes with film, because sometimes the weather or the people around don’t always cooperate. For example, sometimes you want nice and sunny weather, but get bad weather. Or I can tell you an anecdote about the making of a film whereby they wanted to shoot at a specific setting. They wanted to film a dead body, but right next to the scene people were fishing and didn’t want to go away. They couldn’t film the scene they wanted. These are things that happen when you are filming. Reality doesn’t always give you what you want.

Still images of the book 'Ext.-Int.' published by Fw:Books in 2015

Film sets are very dynamic and are sometimes very small locations. Why did you choose a large format in your project? Do you have any special reason for it?

RW: One of the reasons is that the large format is very tactile and very sharp. There is another sense of reality when you make big prints. Another reason is that you can work very slowly. I’m able to look carefully and patiently, that’s why I like working with a tripod as well. If you use a digital camera you are always behind it, whereas with the 4x5 camera you can just wait and have eye contact with people. When you can look at people, you play a different role and you have a different relationship with the subject you are shooting. I also like working with this format, because I know what I am going to photograph and just wait until I can see it happening in front of me. First I can make sure the composition is right and then I wait for the right moment to come along.

You have collaborated with Henk Wildschut in the projects 'A’DAM DOC.k' and 'Sandrien'. Do collaborations with other artists play an important role in your work? Could you name another artist that you would like to collaborate and associate your own work with?

RW: Well, the making of the book was also a collaboration with the graphic designer. When I am making a book, I really want to work together with the graphic designer and let him/ her contribute during the editing process. I don’t want to simply dictate my view. So we had a lot of conversations and discussions about what we wanted the book to look like. With Henk it was different, because he was a photographer. We photographed the same subject, but we had different approaches. For example, in 'Adam doc’k' Henk photographed portraits and I photographed the environment. The different roles we played were brought together in the book. The Sandrien demanded a lot of time. We could not always be there. Every other week we split up the work.

Is there any contemporary artist, mentor, teacher or photographer that influenced you during your career?

RW: Actually a lot of people influenced me. When I was studying in The Hague, Martin Parr came into the picture. Also Carl de Keyzer, the Belgian photographer, had a significant influence on me. Later on I got interested in other photographers Gursky, and other photographers from the Becher Schule. I got interested in a lot of topographic photographers, like the Dutch pioneers Pieter Oosterhuis, and G.Heinen. I am influenced by a lot of people, because a lot of good work has been produced. Now there are people trying different things to create a narrative that spark an interest in me too. A lot of nice things are happing in the world of photography.

© Carl de Keyzer, from the series 'Zona', Youth Camp, Kansk, Siberia, Russia, 2001

Can you give us a look in your day‐to‐day working life? Do you spend most of your time in your studio or out photographing or doing other things? Do you have any rituals that help you to be creative and productive?

RW: No day is the same. Besides being a photographer I am also teacher. One or two days a week I teach Documentary Photography in The Hague. To deal with young people is very inspiring. Furthermore, I do commissions as well. I don’t have rituals I just work hard. I like my work and what I am doing, but also take time to focus on my private life. Sporting and cooking is what I like doing best.

In your opinion, what is the hardest part about being a photographer? And what is the best part?

RW: The hardest part is working on my own, while simultaneously that is also the best part. Sometimes it can get lonely, but on the other hand it also gives you a kind of focus. I find at times that it’s difficult to work with people, because everybody’s motivation differs and interests don’t always correlate. I like teaming up with someone, but I also really like to do my own thing, to be only in my head.

Projects that you are working on and plans for the future?

RW: I’m working on different projects. I am still working on School for which I am going to Belgium to photograph secondary schools. Furthermore I am working on a project about The Harbour of Amsterdam. Amsterdam has changed a lot in the past 20 years. Just like in London, they changed the industry alongside the channel. Where there was a lot of industry before, they gradually started replacing it with houses. They have come a long way already, but it is not finished yet. So with this project I am photographing the new Amsterdam. Those are the most important things I am working on at the moment. All the projects I do now are commissioned. One is for the city archive, one is from an organization called human people.

What do you think about photography in the era of digital technologies and social networking? How you can you make people really look at your works?

RW: I think you have to be very specific about what you are going to tell with your projects. Now, for example, I am going to show a new type of Amsterdam. I think it’s essential that you find a clear point of view you want to portray. In a way you want to be a kind of researcher that strives to show new things to society. It is difficult to find your podium or to get an exhibition, because we do live in a fast paced society. People simply don’t have a lot of time. There are a lot of things I don’t like about the new era, but technology also creates many possibilities, such as making it a lot easier to show your work and people being aware of your work in India or in Russia. Twenty years ago nobody in India would know you, but now there are no more limits. You just have to be very clever with it. Social media is a good way and work hard.


Raimond Wouda
Ext.-Int. available from Fw:Books
urbanautica The Netherlands