Hans Aarsman: “if you want to make an interesting picture, you ought not to want to make it”

TEDxAmsterdam: Hans Aarsman from TEDxAmsterdam on Vimeo.

“Hans Aarsman, a photographer, resumed by talking about his work, exploring different concepts of beauty in photography. He arrived at the paradoxical conclusion that “if you want to make an interesting picture, you ought not to want to make it” and contrasted the notion of aesthetic photographic beauty with an investigative type, where beauty lies in discovering something through or in the picture. He summarised the benefits of this approach: “I got paid more money and I moved into a bigger apartment”.

I hadn’t come across this before, but thanks to HCSP, it drifted my way today.  It’s great, and made me think about an idea we’ve discussed around here a few times, and that’s artistic ambition.  Aarsman gave up photography, gave up concepts, themes, series and projects.  And he felt liberated.

He eventually picked up a camera again, simply to document things he was throwing away.  In an ironic twist, the work was eventually published in FOAM.

It made me think about how there are times when I come upon a project or series of work and feel the photographs are completely detached from the concept or statement.  This happens often actually.  It’s a tricky thing, and I’m not sure where I stand on it, but I know “if you want to make an interesting picture, you ought not to want to make it,” is one of those philosophical phrases that tends to gnaw at you for awhile.

  • Jonathan Allen

    Nice. Really enjoyable. A likeable, witty guy. A bit disingenuous really though. The pictures of things he threw away is a ‘project’ or a ‘theme’ that you could easily imagine an exhibition being based round. It fits right in with contemporary art, at least my conception of it. . . He found an ‘angle’ or a ‘story’, like a good (or bad ) journalist does, and it worked for him. Yes, he stopped trying to make interesting pictures. The pictures he made became interesting because of the story that came with them. He discovered photojournalism perhaps? ;-)
    He’s smarter than he is trying to make out I think.
    Oh yes, and the word ‘authentic’ takes us into dodgy territory, it’s very loaded concept. Hard to define successfully as it is so subjective.