Haute Photographie’s second edition is a beautiful experience

Correspondent Laura visited the second edition of Haute Photographie, part of Rotterdam Art Week, to speak to one of the curators and a famed photographer.

Published by Laura M. on 14/02/2017

Last Wednesday was no ordinary Wednesday for me. I entered the world of Haute Photographie - an exhibit-like photography fair, now at its second edition. I believe the photos speak for themselves in terms of space and photography, but they surely do not do justice to the experience that one has when walking through the exhibition. What is Haute Photographie and who are the people behind the event?

Rotterdam correspondent Laura spoke with Haute Photographie co-curator Willemijn van der Zwaan and Pieter Henket, an internationally renowned Dutch photographer living in New York.

Let’s first say hello to Willemijn, who besides being the co-curator of Haute Photographie, also works at Kahmann Gallery in Amsterdam.

Why did you launch Haute Photographie last year?

Because “there was a need for a different type of photography fair”, one in which the atmosphere would be similar to an exhibition - relaxed, inspiring, and visitor-oriented. The main difference being that visitors can also buy any photography of their liking. The concept was inspired by a visit at the Modern Times exhibition in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It was here that Roy Kahmann (founder and director of Haute Photographie) asked himself why an art fair presents visitors with a different experience and feeling than a visit to the museum does. And so the concept of Haute Photographie was born, combining the best qualities of both museum exhibitions and art fairs. In a sentence, “Haute Photographie differentiates itself from other fairs with its innovative concept, which instead of a traditional booth-model, takes a world-class quality group exhibition (a sort of “mini-museum” if you wish) as its starting point.”

A City Made By People Rotterdam Haut Photos

Why did you choose to be part of Art Rotterdam Week?

For The Netherlands Art Rotterdam Week is the leading contemporary art fair, with a lot of international curators that gather here. For a week, Rotterdam is an art hub and we wanted to be part of it. This allows us to build up enough reputation for Haute and, at the same time, strengthen Rotterdam Art Week. We also aimed for Rotterdam because we believe Haute Photographie adds to the city’s growing and inspiring entrepreneurial spirit.

Where does the name ‘Haute Photographie’ come from?

The name was developed during a brainstorm session actually. We wanted to encapsulate the air of a fair with the experience of a museum visit. Similar to Haute Couture in fashion, we developed Haute Photographie in photography.

Can you tell us a bit about the team behind Haute Photographie?

The team behind Haute Photographie is led by Roy Kahmann, the director of Kahmann Gallery and initiator of GUP Magazine, and many more photography initiatives. Together with Henk Roskamp, an entrepreneur based in Rotterdam, he is the founding partner of Haute. The team is a mix of employees of Kahmann Gallery and freelance cultural professionals.

How do you decide who will be part of the fair? 

We take pride in our close-knitted relationships with the participating galleries. We hope to keep the event relatively small when it comes to the gallery numbers, hoping to see returning participants also in the next editions of Haute. At the basis of our organisation lies collaboration, and we feel that the participating galleries are really our partners as well.

A City Made By People Rotterdam Haute

Where do you see Haute going and growing?

We hope to make Haute Photographie an established name in the photography circuit, both nationally and internationally. We want to become a mainstay in the Rotterdam Art Week because we feel we are providing something new and different here. Our faith in the concept is strong, so strong that we hope to bring it to other cities in other countries as well.

Any advice for young talented photographers?

Be active. Sign up for every photo competition and award you can think of. Initiatives like New Dutch Photography Talent, Foam Talent, and Lensculture Exposure Award are an excellent way to be noticed. Approaching galleries, magazines, or museums directly is usually a lost cause because you get lost in the many portfolios that are being sent to them.


Thank you, Willemijn for your time and insightful story.

A City Made By People Rotterdam Haute

Now, let’s say hello to Pieter Henket, a Dutch photographer based in New York. Pieter became internationally known for his work for Lady Gaga’s album cover in 2008. He currently has a solo exhibition titled Stars to the Sun at the Kahmann Gallery. I spotted the Pieter in front of his photography at Haute Photographie. He was passionately talking about his work with those around him. Like a true Dutchman, he ordered a beer and so our friendly conversation began.


Tell us a bit about your photos here at Haute Photographie

These photos are part of a portraits series of a Brazilian carnival in a remote city in the mountains of Argentina. In fact, the portraits depict the Argentinian people who were faced with around 4.000 Brazilian people having a huge celebration for two days in a row. I decided to take the Argentinian people out of the carnival and put them in a white tent. Before shooting their portrait, I asked them to close their eyes for a few minutes. This way, the portraits came out very pure. There is also a non-portrait photo that aims to illustrate the remoteness of this Argentinian city.

A City Made By People Rotterdam Haut Photos

What is your favourite type of photography?

I love shooting portraits and working with dancers. I can come up with a crazy story and they just make it even more exciting and crazy.

What would you say are the defining elements of your photography?

By far, the most important element is light. I am obsessed with lighting from the interior design in my house to my photography. It is the dramatic effects that light brings to a picture. I often aim to do very simple but complex light set-ups. A second element is the emotions of my characters. A third element is a mystery – I aim to create a question and a mystical world in my photography.

Do you remember the moment when your photography became known?

Actually, it was only when I saw my work for Lady Gaga in the Metropolitan Museum. It was my name on this little tag when I thought I could become an artist. I never thought of this before because I never went to photography school. I simply took photos because I love doing that.

What is the evolution that you see in your photography?

Across the years, I aimed to simplify my photography: less is more. I realised that you can do a lot with just one light and you do not need a lot of lights. At the beginning, I would use a lot of equipment and lights because it would be complex, but it was not complex, it was messy. If you go back to the pureness of photography then you realise that you only need very little equipment to shoot a great photo.

Any advice for young talented photographers?

Willemijn: Be active. Sign up for every photo competition and award you can think of. Initiatives like New Dutch Photography Talent, Foam Talent, and Lensculture Exposure Award are an excellent way to be noticed. Approaching galleries, magazines, or museums directly is usually a lost cause, because you get lost in the many portfolios that are being sent to them.

A City Made By People Rotterdam Haute

Any advice for young talented photographers?

You should just go out and try a lot of things and know that you have the option of deleting the picture if you don’t like it. You learn so much by doing. A lot of people are scared of going out and taking photos because they think they are not good enough yet. I was never good enough yet either and I just did it. Every time I improved a little bit. After a while, you just find how you can be better. You find your identity but you still keep on finding it and changing it across time.


Stay curious and go capture the beauty around you!

Words and photography by Laura M.


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