Interview #15: Mirka van Renswoude (2021)⁠

“Untitled’ by Mirka van Renswoude/Valthermond, Netherlands (2020)

Mirka van Renswoude is a fine art macro photographer who creates minimalist scenes with oil and water. Her attention to composition and lighting celebrates pure form and tone, reflecting not only her approach to photography, but also her personal philosophy of living.

Here’s our interview with her.

CDC/Tell us about your background in photography and what role it plays in your life. Are you formally trained, or self-taught? Is photography a creative outlet or a vocation? How does it shape your daily, monthly and annual activities?

MR/I’m a full-time mom and a part-time artist. Photography is my Pause Button. It’s a way of losing and finding myself at the same time, it’s a very pure form of play for me.

It’s a vocation and a creative ‘inlet’. Creative outlet sounds like there’s creativity inside me, that I need to release somehow. I think that’s not the case. I think we are surrounded by creative energy and if we show up and start playing, we can tune into that energy. That’s the goal. Connecting to creativity is the reward, that’s life fuel.

I’m a self-taught photographer and by showing up every day, creativity knows where to find me.

“Untitled’ by Mirka van Renswoude/Valthermond, Netherlands (2020)
“Untitled’ by Mirka van Renswoude/Valthermond, Netherlands (2020)

CDC/Who or what are the major influences in your work? Who or what do you look to for inspiration and how have those people and things shaped your identity as a photographer?

MR/My need for PAUSE is the biggest influence in my work. I create for ‘Ma’. The spatial and temporal Japanese concept ‘Ma’ is the pure and essential void between things. It’s the emptiness full of possibilities, the pause that makes the music, the break that leads to breakthroughs and the fundamental quiet time we need to make our busy lives meaningful.

‘Ma’ is not just an inspiration for me, it’s a necessity. It’s my breathing space.

I find a lot of inspiration in the Eastern philosophies. They teach me that stillness and simplicity are powerful virtues. When you look at my work, you will clearly see the way that shaped me as a photographer.

“Blue Dots 3’ by Mirka van Renswoude/Valthermond, Netherlands (2019)

CDC/What drew you to abstract photography initially, and what it is about abstract photography that keeps you engaged, creative and producing?

MR/In life we never know how things turn out, so it’s hard to know what’s right or wrong, but we still put those labels on almost everything.

In (abstract) art we can’t use those labels; there’s no right or wrong. (One of the things I love about my 5 year old daughter is when she’s trying to draw, for instance, a horse. When it doesn’t look anything like a horse, she always says: I didn’t fail to draw a horse, I just created abstract art!)

Abstract art is about what resonates. It’s kind of like a really nice song in a language you don’t speak. You don’t know the words, you can’t make sense of it, but it feels right. Abstract art awakens that non-logical and intuitive part. That’s what drew me towards it.

The possibilities for abstract photography are endless, there is always more to explore, which keeps it very engaging.

I even like to explore the somewhat contradictory term ‘abstract photography’ itself. Whereas abstract art doesn’t attempt to express a visual reality, a photograph ís in itself a representation of a visual reality.

CDC/What type of photography equipment do you use and how does it shape your work? Do you feel you are limited by your equipment, or do the restrictions it imposes contribute to your style and encourage creativity?

MR/Photographing is my form of play, and I think the best play arises when you limit your amount of toys. A limited amount of toys, or in my case equipment, is a very effective way to activate exploration and tap into that creative energy. And on top of that, I’m a big fan of less.

For shooting my oil and water photos I use a Nikon Macro Lens, a tripod and lots of different light sources (my husband always gets a little bit annoyed when I unscrew another light bulb in our home to use in the studio).

“Untitled’ by Mirka van Renswoude/Valthermond, Netherlands (2020)

CDC/Tell us more about your photographic process “in the field”. How do you like to work? Do you plan your images meticulously, or do they happen organically?

MR/I start with an idea and I begin shooting. Most of the time I realize pretty soon that it’s not working out the way I thought it would.

But…

There is ALWAYS something I get in return for showing up and trying. 99% of the time it’s just not what I planned.

When I surrender and let my initial plan go and organically follow what happens, I always end up with something unexpectedly nice.

“Black and Blue’ by Mirka van Renswoude/Valthermond, Netherlands (2019)
“Untitled’ by Mirka van Renswoude/Valthermond, Netherlands (2020)

CDC/Tell us more about your photographic process “in the studio”. What role does processing play in your work? Do you print and exhibit your work, or do you only publish electronically? How do you feel the final medium informs your studio process?

MR/Actually, I really like the processing part as well. My perfectionism thrives when I can edit the photos to my liking. And witnessing a photograph come to life during the printing process is just as rewarding as the process leading up to that.

I print, exhibit and sell my work on beautiful textured Fine-Art paper, which create a very painterly feel to it. I print only classic sizes (A4, A3, A2 & A1), with a maximum of A1, so never too big. It stays intimate that way.

Intimacy is key to the whole process. From the tiny macro oil drops, to the personal attention during the processing state, to the fragile and wonderful framed print, it breathes intimacy.

CDC/You are known best for your oil and water photography which has a very minimalist and graphical quality. Does minimalism play an important role in your life? What compels you to produce minimalist images?

MR/My life and my art share the same essence: pairing down to what’s truly essential, without removing the poetry.

Minimalism is mostly thought of in a material way. Not having too much stuff. My life is about removing all that doesn’t contribute to the poetic essence. That’s not about stuff, but more about activities, relationships and so on.

For me, it’s a matter of saying YES to the few things that really matter, in art and in life. And as it turns out, that’s not a lot. So what’s left can come across as empty, but it has all it needs. It’s a very full or filled emptiness, it’s not empty at all. And everything that’s left is truly important and contributes to the poetry.

My minimalistic photos celebrate both the power and the beauty of stillness and simplicity. Just as I do in life.

When there’s too much, nothing stands out.

“Untitled’ by Mirka van Renswoude/Valthermond, Netherlands (2020)

CDC/Your work shows great care and attention given to lighting. Can you describe some of the challenges with lighting and the lessons you have learned? Do you feel your lighting style has evolved?

MR/First of all, thank you!

I wouldn’t use the word evolved when it comes to my lighting style. From experience I now know better what kind of lighting gives what sort effect, compared to a few years ago. But, I keep exploring and trying new things. And I still find new unexpected interplays between the light, the water and the oil. That natural unexpected magic that can occur sometimes, is really nice. It makes my day whenever that happens.

I only use lighting from underneath and I just start playing to see what works. I always end up with way more shots that show what doesn’t work than the few shots showing what actually does work well.

Because no light other than the one I use underneath my water container, is allowed into my studio while I’m working, a lack of daylight might be my biggest challenge on some days.

Portrait of Mirka van Renswoude.

Mirka van Renswoude is a fine art macro photographer who creates minimalist scenes with oil and water. Her attention to composition and lighting celebrates pure form and tone, reflecting not only her approach to photography, but also her personal philosophy of living.

Interviewed by Charles David Corbin.

Additional pictures from Mirka van Renswoude curated by Charles David Corbin.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Hintology

Hintology

50 Followers

New digital magazine that seeks to portray the abstract photography scene and the human-beings behind the pictures in all their depth and diversity.