I get hit with a sort of soothing feeling every time I look at Berber Theunissen’s pictures. They look effortless, these subtle images, like every photograph is a perfect snapshot. “I prefer shooting someone in their own surroundings. They tend to be more comfortable, and I feel like it really savors that pure feeling of the situation. It is what is. Do I dislike shooting outside? No, that’s not it. I guess I just want people creating their own stories when looking at my photographs, without having distinct Amsterdam trams in the background influencing their thoughts.”
Berber graduated cum laude from the Foto Academie in 2013 with a series called ‘Vagabond’. She was travelling back and forth between three places during this busy time; Amsterdam, Antwerp and Otterloo but never truly felt at home anywhere. “I was never in the same place for more than three days and I started reflecting on how this affected me and the people around me. I began seeing how differently people responded in different situations. It was an interesting experience and most definitely also good for my self-reflection, because it was an important chapter in my life.” And it seems like self-reflection is somewhat of a connecting thread throughout her photos. “Is self-reflection the reason I also make a lot of self portraits? Yeah, I guess that’s one of them. Whenever I take a picture of myself when I’m down and then look at it later, it somehow helps me look objectively at myself and at my life. It’s kind of like therapy. It helps me downplay or relativize things and just simply puts me at ease.”
After finishing school, Berber wanted to stay productive to avoid falling into that “after-school hole”. She went on to shoot a very special project called ‘Dozen of Bulls’. It’s a magical series, shot in Iceland, showing not only the beautiful nature, but also the underlying emotions and stories of the trip. “I graduated in June, worked hard to save up a ridiculous amount of money and went there for three weeks in October. My grandpa, who you can see in the photos, actually came to visit me for a week. I had thought of Iceland as a destination and was sitting on my grandparents’ couch when he said that he would like to see Iceland as well some day. So we kind of were like: “Fuck it, let’s go together!” We ended up having a really good trip. It’s funny. because we have a fifty-one year age difference and we just sat there talking for hours, listening to each other’s stories. And of course he showered me with grandpa wisdom and life lessons. Yeah, it was a really good trip.”
No longer a vagabond, she currently lives with her boyfriend who sometimes makes cameos in her photographs. They also work together, with Berber photographing his journey into entrepreneurship with his business: Pancake Customs. He rebuilds old motorbikes and yes, he is exactly what you envision him to be. A very cool, long-haired, leather jacket wearing hunk of a man.
I strongly advice you to go get enchanted by her work as much as I have been!
Check out her work at www.berbertheunissen.com
Go to the Dapiran Art Project Space to take a look at her solo exhibiton ‘Frisson; a shiver of pleasure’. More info: http://www.dapiran.nl/5-september-18-october-berber-theunissen/