Wout Berger: When I Open My Eyes


In the morning, when I open my eyes, the first thing I look at is the IJsselmeer and the light: always the same, always different.

For over thirty-five years, I've been a photographer.
For over thirty-five years, I've been living on the IJsselmeer.
When I open my eyes in the morning, the first thing I see is the IJsselmeer.
Sometimes I take a picture of it, but really seeing it is something else.
Not until a friend said to me, “You live in your subject matter,” did the penny drop.
I placed a tripod at a fixed spot in front of the bedroom window and began to look.

At first you're grateful for every sailboat that comes along. Every intense sky: a photograph.
But before long you start keeping every distraction out of the picture. It's what anyone open to the subject matter ends up doing.
I no longer photograph sailboats. Nor do I photograph birds, or people.
I do take pictures of little waves, patches of fog, rain and clouds. These, too, can be distracting; but their forms are almost always amorphous, transparent, wet. They scarcely have any color of their own, but they take on the color of light cast on them and then reflect that.
Sixty photographs in all: together they make up my IJsselmeer. No one photograph is any nicer than another. If you start looking at photographs that way, you get lost in aesthetics. I'm not after aesthetics. I want to photograph wind, light—elements that we know only by their manifestations. You don't see the wind; you see a wave. You don't see light; you see the cloud that catches light. And yet I still want to capture wind and light—by looking, time and again, at the same subject situated, time and again, at the same coordinates.

Differences among the images can be small. Between two photographs that seem nearly identical, there might be a month-long lapse of time. Meanwhile, the subject remains the same. At least that's what you think. Imperceptibly, the subject begins to change. While it was initially all about the body of water, the horizon, the sun, the clouds, the wave, unnoticeably the subject becomes the differences among the photographs. The transitions. That's where I hope to touch on the untouchable. Hopeless of course. But it's worth a try.

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When I Open My Eyes


Wout Berger






24 x 30.5 cm






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