Koos Breukel: Cosmetic View
Koos Breukel (The Hague, 1962) mostly creates series, in basic black-and-white. For this special publication, he chose colour due to the delicacy of the subject. All models in Cosmetic View have an eye-prothesis. Most have one healthy eye and one prothesis, others are entirely blind and have two. A prothesis is intended as a form of camouflage, so people can live with a handicap without showing it too much. By allowing Breukel to portray them on this theme, the models bravely sought the confrontation: with themselves, the photographer and us.
In most cases, the subject of a portrait looks at the viewer. But why is this so uncomfortably intimate in Cosmetic View? Breukel has access to places where we cannot go. He crawls inside the model through the healthy pupil and takes us with him to a different, unknown universe. And what happens if the eye is a prothesis? Then a miracle happens, because the glass eye gives access to this same universe. That is Breukel’s talent.
Looking for introversion
A portrait photographer has to be curious. He must also be in love with photography. And he needs a certain quietness, so that the person portrayed forgets the presence of the camera and photographer. These are the ingredients to make Breukel one of the view Dutch photographers that stand a chance of becoming part of the international photography canon. Breukel works with a Deardorff camera, a slow, somewhat archaic machine, which requires exchanging the 8 x 10 inch cassette after each exposure. While the photographer focuses on his technique, the model is left to his or her own devices. When Breukel’s models are completely in themselves, he goes along with them. It’s the introvert moments Breukel is hoping for. Meanwhile, he is also examining his own feelings, the various aspects of himself. The art of portraying revolves around identification and recognition. Every portrait is in part a self-portrait (the photographer captures what he recognises), and in this way the body of work of a portrait photographer reflects his personal development.
The Power of Existence
Through his portraits, Koos Breukel photographs the brittleness of existence. He manages to renew himself within an intimate and personal body of work, long before the work becomes voyeuristic or pathetic. His photos not only deal with underlying pain and sadness, but are also about resilience, the joy of living and the beauty of existence. As a viewer, you may at times register that life can be chafing, although this does not lead to a feeling of uneasiness. It’s a good start of the day, to have a picture of a complete stranger hanging on the wall of your home. To welcome the morning and conclude the evening. To put all things in life in perspective.
Galerie Van Zoetendaal, Keizersgracht 488, 1017 EH Amsterdam, The Netherlands. T: +31 (0)20 624 98 02.
©Pim Milo, 2006