We are starting a new series of interviews and profiles here at ILG called “The documentarists”. The role of the documentarist have through the history of graffiti been a very important one and everyone is familiar with their work. Its time to shine some light on some of them, give them a chance to speak their mind and see some of their best documentation. Without their work, a lot of our movement would be buffed and forgotten.
We start the series with SANDER DUTCHAEROSOL from Holland.
ILG: Please introduce yourself
Sander: Hello, my name is Sander and I’m a 36-year-old graffiti nut from Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
I make my living in a psychiatric hospital in the city, where I work with patients who suffer from severe mental illnesses and often other related problems as well, like drug or alcohol addictions.
As you can probably guess it’s pretty demanding work. To let off steam and escape the absurdities I encounter on a daily basis, I enjoy hitting the road armed with my camera to shoot some fresh new paint layers on the local walls, trains and subways.
ILG: How did you start with photography and graffiti?
Sander: The passion for photography started way before my fascination for graffiti.
When I was a little rugrat in the early 80’s, my mom had a pretty sweet SLR camera and developed all her own work herself in the dark room.
She gave me my first camera, her old one, which didn’t leave my side for the longest time. She taught me about composition, lighting, timing, the works.
Turned out I had a bit of a knack for it but, as it goes with children most of the time, after a while I became interested in all sorts of other things and my camera started to collect more and more dust.
Somewhere in the beginning of this century I bought my first DSLR and rekindled my passion for photography.
It was during a hard time in my life and photography was my way to escape all the shit I was dealing with at that moment. As soon as I had my camera in my hands I was only focused on the object or person in front of my lens and the technical aspect of the shot I was about to make. It brought me much needed peace of mind and became almost a form of meditation.
I knew right away that I wanted to start shooting graffiti.
For as long as I can remember I’ve felt strangely drawn to urban decay in all its forms. Anything from abandoned factories, taken over by mother nature to completely tagged up walls or paint-covered trains and subways.
There is such beauty in decay and I wanted to capture it all.
I was lucky enough to have a best friend, Alan, with the same love for graffiti and for years we teamed up every weekend to go out and shoot all the local hall of fames and to visit every major graffiti event or exposition in the area.
ILG: How do you cover graffiti today?
Sander: At the moment I’m not as active as I used to be. I work full time and have little spare time left to shoot pictures. I still go out whenever I can, especially when I get a heads up from someone about “something special” I just have to see. Most of it is strictly for my own personal archive these days. I don’t really feel the urge anymore to share every shot I make on social media, liked I used to do for years.
The most recent thing that really caught my interest was the recent increase in activity on the subway lines in Amsterdam. For months now I see carriage after carriage pass by with huge panels on them by local and international artists.
There were even a couple that were painted top to bottom. Really dope.
ILG: Whats your favorite spots to shoot, or how do you get your best shots?
Sander: My favourite spot here in Amsterdam has to be the local freightyard at the ‘Westerlijk Havengebied’ (Western Harbor), near Sloterdijk train station.
Especially at night, with all the freight trains stationed under tall spotlights, the area has an eerie beauty to it. It’s also a great place to spot work by the legendary Delta.
I get my best shots in all sorts of ways. Sometimes it takes an hour to set up the tripod and whatnot to get a clean long exposure shot and sometimes you have to be lightning-quick to capture a piece on a passing train.
ILG: Through you, we have seen some nice events and exhibitions, whats it like to cover them?
Sander: The best thing about covering graffiti events is that I get to document something that captures my own interest. It never feels like an obligation since the main reason I’m attending the event is my own addiction to shooting fresh paint. The fact that people get to see (and hopefully enjoy) the event through my photos is a nice bonus and I’m happy with whatever extra attention I can generate for the (lesser known) artists.
ILG: Social media, what do you like and dislike, and how do you use it?
Sander: You can find my work on both facebook and instagram, though I don’t post much anymore as I used to, as I told earlier.
In the beginning I really enjoyed instagram as it was such an easy accessible format. I saw only the advantages, being able to reach people all around the globe in an instant. It made some of the artists very approachable as well, which came in handy from time to time. Through instagram I managed to get myself some paid gigs and arranged several meet ups with artists, to document them while they hit the road to do their thing.
Lately though, I feel I’ve grown a bit tired of what I think is the downside of instagram. Namely that it mainly caters to the “zap culture” of today. Most people (myself included sometimes, I have to admit) only scroll through the pics hastily when they have a minute to spare, liking my photos or the artist work but I question how much they’re really paying attention to what they see. It has something extremely superficial to it that I don’t like.
ILG: Travelling, what memorable places have you been, and where do you plan to go?
Sander: Hmm… tough one. I’ve visited so many awesome graffiti-related places through the years.
I think my favourite place so far has to be Sabadell, a small town near Barcelona.
A local graffiti legend, Werens, somehow made it possible that this otherwise sleepy town has become almost a mecca for graffiti artists and fans. He invites people from all over the world and now the local streets are filled with huge murals and super dope pieces, everywhere you look. I went bonkers and came home with 2000+ photos.
Another great adventure that will always stay with me was a visit to an old abandoned nurses school in Ronse, Belgium.
This building has been a huge playground for many years for local artists Mata One (Disorderline crew) & Pete One. 40 to 50 class rooms were filled with beautiful pieces and sick murals. My homie Alan and I spent the whole day strolling around and we felt like kids in a candy shop. Mata happened to be painting there that day and he was kind enough to guide us around the area to see more of his work. Real friendly guy.
Unfortunately the complex in Ronse was demolished last year… destroying decades of work.
Another fun trip was to Vitry-sur-Seine in Paris, home of the well-known street artist C215. I strolled around all the alleys, trying to capture all of his work. I met up with the artist as well. Vitry has much more art to offer than just C215’s though. Through this trip I got to know the work of French artists like Astro (ODV) or Brok (3HC) for instance, who I still follow on social media to watch their work evolve and see how they perfect their skills.
Speaking of Paris; it’s always fun to just stroll around, hunting Invaders.
ILG: Inspiration, how do you get ideas and inspiration for your work?
Sander: I get most of my inspiration from the photographers whose work I respect and admire. People like Ian “Wallkandy” Cox for his beautiful compositions, Florian Krause for his majestic light painting skills, “Jieskie” for bringing the audience as close as they can get to the unpolished, rough side of graffiti, Soren Solkaer for his amazing portraits, Martha Cooper for being a true pioneer in the game. There are many more to name but these are the first ones who come to mind.
I’m always on the lookout for photographers who do something different. The ones who don’t just stand in front of a piece and shoot a straight-forward picture but who think about how the piece is situated, what lighting would work best to get the most out of the piece you’re about to shoot, etc.
ILG: How did computers, smartphones and the internet change photography and graffiti?
Sander: Well, it defintely changed it allright.
Everybody walks around with a camera in their pocket these days and I gotta say the quality of the photos from the later model smartphones has become pretty impressive.
We live in a time where everybody shares what they shoot and the good thing is that temporary artwork that’s worth seeing gets its rightful platform with a larger audience.
Because of their presence on social media, I’ve seen a lot of “underground” artists gain attention and appreciation and evolve into celebrated artists who make a decent living from selling artwork and doing commissioned work.
ILG: Have you got any philosophies about photography and graffiti?
Sander: I do have a set of rules I go by, like always making my presence known when I encounter someone doing illegal work, making sure to ask if they object to having a few pictures taken and to do what I can to keep identities a secret. Unless they let me know they don’t care about that of course.
Going by this ‘code’ has resulted in that I seem to have earned at least some trust in the local scene and have been asked to tag along on a few illegal paint excursions in the past. Those are the most fun. I love having to perform under a bit of pressure, with adrenaline pumping through the veins.
ILG: What are your future goals? What’s on the ‘photography bucketlist’, so to say?
Sander: My long-term dream is to one day have my own exposition somewhere and that someone will enjoy my work enough to want to hang it in their home. I don’t care if it’s just for a few bucks, just the fact that someone appreciates it enough to take it home is enough.
I have sold some work in the past so the dream has partially become a reality but thusfar I’ve never had my very own exposition… yet. Sure I could rent some place for a month or two and organize it all myself but I want to become good enough to get asked to display my work.
Short-term goals I have a-plenty.
There are so many aspects of photography I want to become better at for instance. I still have so much more to learn.
Also, there are tons of artists I still want to see at work. Muralists like Felipe Pantone, Etam cru, ROA, Nychos, Peeta, Hopare, DALeast… and also writers whose work I admire, like Bates, ZEDZ, Delta, Jake, Banos, OASE, Utah & Ether, Basix, Revok, KKade, Kak, Bonzai. The list goes on and on, these are just a few who came to mind right now.