[RESEARCH]The Guardian – Hans Eijkelboom
10 June 2017
Same but different: Hans Eijkelboom’s tribal street photography
Review of his book people of the 21st centuary
You could never accuse Hans Eijkelboom of a lack of dedication. For his new book, People of the Twenty-First Century, the photographer and conceptual artist spent 20 years lurking around shopping centres – initially in his native Netherlands, later in America and China. Working almost daily, he would note similarities in the appearance of passers-by and surreptitiously photograph them, or take “photo notes” as he calls them.
“The process,” he says, “is simply that I walk to the centre of the city where many people are. Then I walk around for 10 to15 minutes. When something in the crowd intrigues me or touches me, I decide that will be the theme of the day. Then I start photographing for two hours. Many times, it goes wrong: I don’t see anything, so I don’t photograph that day; or I go to the city, see my subject, start photographing and, surprisingly, in the next two hours, never see my subject again. And then, for that day, there is no photo note.”
“The camera is hanging on my body, with a wire that goes into my pocket,” he says. “That’s the way I make the photos. When you walk in the city and look through the viewfinder, people say, ‘What are you doing? Why this photograph?’ And so on. I don’t have time to talk about what I’m doing, I want to get it done in two hours. And when you make a photo in a normal way, you intervene in the situation: people will react to the camera, and will not be normal.”
Whatever happens, Eijkelboom intends to document it. He no longer goes out five days a week, but his days of lurking around shopping centres are far from over. “It is very important that I do it for as long as possible – because the very first photo notes I made are now the most interesting. Time is an important part of the project. I’m now 65. I hope I can do it for another 15 years.”