Peripheral Visions by Erik Kessels
I’ll never forget my first encounter with André Thijssen. The phone rang, and there was a rather courteous male voice on the other end: André. He’d heard of me and thought I should pay him a visit to look at his photographs.
Strange. Normally speaking, these kinds of visits always take place the other way round. A photographer looking for work will take his portfolio and call on an art director. In the case of a gallery, he will try to visit as many galleries as possible in a short time. But this photographer was approaching things in a completely different way. His request aroused my curiosity though, and so less than a week later I found myself standing in front of his door.
Once inside, I noticed that his work space wasn’t that of an average photographer. It resembled a cabinet of curiosities more than anything else. After a quick cup of coffee, we got down to business and took a look at his photos. About a hundred 35 mm slides were almost casually displayed on a huge light box. A hundred! And after the first hundred images came the next hundred, and that went on for a while. I soon realized that I was dealing with a very passionate photographer and human being.
It is evident from André Thijssen’s work that he takes pictures anytime and anywhere. And yet, despite his incredibly prolific output, all of his photographs have something in common.
Remarkably often this concerns situations where Thijssen almost literally looked beyond the obvious subject. He sees beauty in things that most photographers are absolutely not interested in. Images that normally speaking are left behind.
Thijssen is a photographer who concentrates on the periphery of the frame. A puddle of water on a street, a cut-out in a curtain to provide the plant on the window-sill with light, a toppled-over table of cabbage and two fallen bicycles that have become entangled; none of them particularly interesting subjects at first sight. Except to André Thijssen.
His passion for collecting has been going on for years. He categorizes huge amounts of visual material from time to time – in his head. Recurring themes include the patterns made by objects he encounters on the street, the traces of previous human presence and signs of wear.
For instance, we see eight sandwiches lying on the street, whose centres have been partially eaten and the crusts carelessly tossed away. Only through Thijssen’s eyes does this scene gain an unintentional aesthetic quality. A similar image is that of twelve construction workers who have removed their rubber boots right in the middle of a square. Coincidence? Is it a square in front of a mosque? Or did a shipment of boots fall off a lorry? Who knows…