Interview: Marc Olthoff
Luca Curci talks with Marc Olthoff during CONTEMPORARY VENICE 2021 – THE SECRET GARDEN, at Misericordia Archives, during ALCHEMIC BODY 2021, at ArtFix, and during CONTEMPORARY VENICE 2021 – 9TH EDITION, at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
Marc’s single-frame narratives are tantalizing fine-art images that capture the viewer’s attention for much more than a quick glance. The primary objective of his images is not to be aesthetically pleasing, but to touch the viewer and to trigger his/her imagination. The viewer is often placed in the position of a voyeur, witnessing a strange situation that was likely not meant to be seen. The images frequently show an incomplete story or an unexpected twist. When looking deeper, often there are references to persons or items outside of the frame and/or unexpected elements that trigger questions. The viewer is invited to think and wonder about what she/he is actually seeing; what it means and in the end complete the story with one’s own thoughts. The viewer’s creative process to ‘complete’ or ‘explain’ the story is an essential part of his work, and the images are set up in such a way that different viewers are likely to arrive at different explanations. For Marc, the biggest compliment is that someone in the comfort of his home (on the couch with a glass of wine) has a flash-back and reflects on one of his images. Marc has no overall ‘visual style’ as he sees each image as a new project, and adhering to a certain style would limit his creativity.
Luca Curci – How did you get into photography? Do you remember why you took your first professional photo?
Marc Olthoff – I have been interested in photography since I was a child. The fascination came from two angles: first, the camera itself. Being technically oriented to me it was a marvelous complex ‘machine’ which I could use to turn fleeting moments into tangible memories. Secondly the images I saw in the National Geographic Magazine. I was often stunned by the beauty of these images and hoped that one day I could make similar pictures. The first expensive item I ever bought for myself was a camera. A Pentax Super-A which cost me all my savings, and which has served me for 25 years. My first professional image was “50 shades”. This was my first complex creation involving a model, a location, and a complex light arrangement.
LC – When you take photos, are you usually inspired by the situation or do you find inspiration in yourself?
MO – There is no easy answer to that question. For me, each image is a separate project. I always start from scratch and the source of the inspiration can come from anywhere. “50 shades” was inspired by the book “50 shades of grey”; “Drifter” was inspired by an image I saw of a drowned woman in a red dress. “Vitruvian woman” obviously by Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man; “Time” was inspired by the location as was “Cuckoo’s nest”. And “Loca Luca” was inspired by the arm of the model, full of scars as she used to cut herself in the past.
LC – How important is your editing process?
MO – This depends very much on the image. Many of my images are modestly photoshopped. Slight local changes in exposure and removal of dust and small objects etc. Some images require the composition of multiple images to achieve the desired result. This is then planned as part of the creation process, and the images to be composed are taken from exactly the same position with identical camera settings to allow smooth composition.
LC – What is it like to be an artist these days?
MO – Not much different than in the past, I guess. For the large majority of the artists, it is very hard to earn enough to live from. They create art because they are internally driven, even if it is not commercially attractive.
LC – What art themes do you pursue? What is your preferred subject, if there is any?
MO – The one constant in my images is the ‘little story’ and some alienation/surprise. The primary objective of my images is not to be aesthetically pleasing, but to touch the viewer and to trigger his/her imagination. My images frequently show an incomplete story or an unexpected twist. When one looks deeper, there often are references to persons or items outside of the frame and/or unexpected elements that raise questions. The viewer is invited to think and wonder about what she/he is actually seeing; what it means and, in the end, complete the story with one’s own thoughts. The viewer’s creative process to ‘complete’ or ‘explain’ the story is an essential part of his work, and the images are set up in such a way that different viewers are likely to arrive at different explanations.
LC – Can you explain something about the artwork you have in our exhibition?
MO – “Spotlight” is currently in the exhibition. This was a difficult image to make with two technical challenges. The first challenge was to bend a tulip in the shape of a lamppost. It took me a few weeks to figure out how this can be achieved. The second was to mount a little lightbulb (an ordinary old-fashioned 5W bulb from the taillight of a bicycle) into the head of the tulip. This is what makes the image. The flower is emitting light and becomes beautiful with a gorgeous glow. Without the light, this would just be an ordinary yellow tulip. The yellow color of the leaf above the flower is caused by the light emitted by the flower. The colors and brightness of the flower itself are determined by the thickness and number of the petals in front of the light.
LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID GROUP?
MO – It is a great community and platform, transcending art forms, cultures and geography.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
MO – Very much so. I enjoy the direct personal contact and the professionalism of the group.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
MO – Definitely! I am very honored to be awarded as the winner in your 9th International Contest and ITSLIQUID has helped me to reach a much larger audience than I had. Both through its platform as well as through the physical exhibitions in London and Venice.