Mirroring Landscapes by Tjitske Oosterholt

Imagine Photography as craftmanship. A practice that uses film as raw material and distances itself from the need to capture an object or subject. Tjitske Oosterholt’s work is situated between the image and its materiality, demonstrating the artist’s artisan-like approach to photography. As she mentions, she sees herself as ‘the facilitator of and respondent of the creation processes’.
In Mirroring Landscapes, Oosterholt explores the relationship between us and nature and questions the materials we commonly produce, their sources (which are often non-regenerative), and the effect these production methods have on our environment. By highlighting toxic elements that compose an image, these works make us realize what is behind a picture, at the intersection of beauty and toxicity.

Chemical Landscape I by Tjitske Oosterholt, 2021. Photography Tjitske Oosterholt

Mirroring Landscapes

Tjitske Oosterholt: In all my work I’m interested in the relationship between us humans and nature, and how we can make sense of this ever-changing world that we’re part of – especially when we tend to see ourselves as separate from or even above the natural world. I’ve been working with mainly photographic techniques in the past few years, but I’m always wondering to what extent this is sustainable and whether I should be using them in the first place. The project Mirroring Landscapes is based on this disconnect between us and nature that I feel is so present in our current society, and questions our appropriation of the landscape – why we feel like it is okay to take from the land in the way we do, and use it to our advantage while leaving our surroundings behind broken. 

Chemical Landscape II by Tjitske Oosterholt, 2021. Photography Tjitske Oosterholt
Chemical Landscape I & II by Tjitske Oosterholt, 2021. Photography Liza Wolters

Humans & Nature

Tjitske Oosterholt: As an artist and human being, the relationship between ourselves as humans and nature has been consuming me every step of the way. The questions I deal with on a daily basis, both in my personal life and in my artistic practice, are based on this relationship. I feel we, in the Western world, are too focused on our intellect and don’t see ourselves as living beings that are connected in both a physical and energetic sense to everything that’s around us. We are just as much nature as a tree, and in that same sense, I think we should see the natural world as equally important as ourselves. From an artistic perspective, this means I work with the materials in such a way that I give them equal agency, and I see myself as a facilitator of and a respondent to the processes that unravel before my eyes, rather than the main creator. I also feel it is so important to interact with these materials purely from my senses, something I like to call ‘material thinking’, putting emphasis on this way of being, learning, and understanding, that we seem to have lost in the Western world.

Negative Space by Tjitske Oosterholt, 2022. Photography Liza Wolters

Negative Space

Tjitske Oosterholt: With the piece Negative Space, I wanted to reveal the hidden toxic materials within the film, and turn the materials themselves into the image, rather than using the film to reproduce an image of something else. I think a lot of people don’t realize what’s behind a picture, and I find this friction between its beauty and toxicity very appealing. At the same time it questions the materials we produce, their sources (which are often not regenerative), and the effect these production methods have on our environment. 

Main Challenges

Tjitske Oosterholt: I don’t want to say I don’t have any challenges (quite the contrary), but because I try to let myself be led by the material, there is never anything that can go ‘wrong’ – I don’t think about where work should end up, but let it unravel along the way. This more curious approach to working with the material always leads me in a new direction, and I just follow my intuition and interest in whatever is happening. It is such an exciting feeling to not know what’s going to happen, especially if something amazing comes out of it.

Working in Photography

Tjitske Oosterholt: The reason why I work with photographic techniques is mostly that I love working with ever-changing materials, and by capturing them I feel like I can interfere as little as possible, letting the material act as much upon itself as I can. At the same time, the use of light-sensitive materials has something very natural about it, it is a chemical process on its own. Conceptually I find this desire of us humans to fixate something through an image fascinating because that in itself is not natural at all – things evolve and disappear, while we want to hold on to them as long as possible. At the same time, photographic techniques have the ability to show that things do not stay the same, as what is captured is not there anymore, and it could also be an homage to this ever-changing character. This friction and dichotomy are so interesting to think about, as the same technique could be used for two opposite views to this growth and decay that is so inherently present in our natural world.

Tjitske Oosterholt: I always like to believe that I learn from the work, again to place myself not above anything, but on the same level. I am not always aware (yet) of the things that happen and what they mean, so even I keep seeing new parallels and meaning in the work that I didn’t ‘intend’ to be there. I think that’s the beauty of it as well, and the power of this way of working. It is what keeps me going, and from every project arises new questions and interests. It also makes the work still so much alive, and even though the project is finished, I don’t think its resonance is ever finished.

Tjitske Oosterholt upcoming exhibition
October 29 – November 26
Contour Gallery
Rotterdam, NL

Words by Rita Trindade and Tjitske Oosterholt | Photography Tjitske Oosterholt and Liza Wolters