Crossings is a solo-exhibition featuring new work by Ellen Kooi. The Dutch photographer enjoys international recognition for her panoramic photographs exploring the relation between man and landscape. The protagonists in her pieces are often young people expressing signs of intense inner turmoil. In her work Ellen Kooi searches for the exact moment in which this inner struggle becomes external. A swarm of birds or the reflection of clouds in a body of water become symbolic for personal development and submerged emotions. In other pieces the landscape itself is the main actor of the composition and Ellen lets her models emphasize the natural dynamic of the location.
Ellen Kooi mainly photographs the Dutch landscape. The flat, undisturbed horizon and impressive skies above are perfectly suited for her psycho-analytical approach to photography. She prefers to use models that grew up in the landscape she photographs, believing that their connection to the place will make them more open and vulnerable in front of the camera. The models then take on poses that reflect our primal, animal instincts. Some of them look for shelter while others scream out for contact or dance without inhibitions. All of these elements combined let Ellen tell a layered story in a single picture, referring to art history, dance and the shaping of identity along the way. Her experience as a dedicated photographer of theater helps her in finding the right visual language for the right emotion. She lets the posture of her models accentuate the slope of the landscape and emphasizes motion by using theatrical lighting. Her pictures have a very wide frame of reference, she looks beyond art to film and literature for her compositions. This allows her to create seemingly magic moments deeply rooted in the Dutch soil.
Natural beauty in the Netherlands is always flanked by signs of human presence. Every national park has a big parking lot and utility poles dot fields and farmlands. It would be easy to digitally remove these disturbances of the dream in post-production. Ellen consciously chooses not to. She is actively searching for the contrasts and overlaps between man and nature. These little eyesores create a continuous tension under the surface of the image. The photographs seem to deliver an accurate representation of the expectancy and reality of experiencing nature. The wish for a magical, existential experience is constantly limited by signs of a more sober reality. Romantic lyricism shares a surfaces with the factual components that make up the landscapes Ellen photographs. The figures featuring in these landscapes are either victim to their primal urges or lost in introspection.
Work by Ellen Kooi is part of the collection of the Frans Hals Museum, the Borusan Collection and Collection Hermès amongst many others. Ellen Kooi graduated from Minerva art academy in Groningen in 1987 and finished her postgraduate education at the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam in 1995. She lives and works in Haarlem, The Netherlands.