BEHIND THE LENS - Alice van Kempen


Self-taught Dutch photographer Alice van Kempen (1967) was introduced to photography at a very young age. Ever since she can remember she has had a camera in her hand. Best known as a canine photographer, Alice has worked in the business for over 30 years. She was privileged to have photographed some of dogdom’s finest. Her work has been published in canine magazines and books all over the world. The list of awards and nominations won with her photographs is long. Dog Photographer of the Year 2005 - Winner Dog Portrait, Second Prize International Photography Awards (IPA) 2015 Category Pets, First Prize IPA 2017 Category Pets, Smithsonian Photo Contest 2015 - Reader Choice Award, 9th JULIA MARGARET CAMERON AWARD - Runner-up in the category 'Portraits Series', Outdoor Photographer of the Year 2016 - Winner Wildlife Insight category, Vincent van Gogh Awards 2017 - Winner of the Public's Prize to name a few.

Alice feels thoroughly connected with nature weather it’s in her own garden surrounded by her dogs, in abandoned buildings where nature takes back what belonged to her in the first place or in the African bush surrounded by wildlife. She explores, discovers, questions, analyzes, connects and experiments. Nature is her passion, her love and understanding of nature inspires her throughout her creative process. She’s a photographer, writer, publisher and artist, not necessarily in that order. For years she told people that she was a photographer, now she says “I’m an artist, photography is my medium and nature is my studio”.

Five years ago she made the decision to change career, to try new things and challenge herself more than ever before. She started exploring abandoned places and buildings better known as ‘Urbex’ or ‘Urban Exploring’. Urbex is about exploring abandoned farms, houses & palaces, discovering overgrown industrial complexes, forgotten hospitals, disused churches and prisons. It causes an adrenaline rush, every step deeper into these hidden places gives you a feeling of excitement. You are entering the world of the unknown, a world of darkness and shadows, peeled off paint and rotting wood. Needless to say that light conditions are far from ideal, nonetheless she only makes use of existing light. She finds using existing light Is the best way to show the silent beauty and the macabre decay of these places. To capture the exciting play between light and shadow in the mysterious dark world of derelict buildings and places. It’s like going back in time a couple of decades, when photography was still considered a craftsmanship by the majority of people. To constantly work towards perfecting your craft, and in this case, with some extra challenges added. Next to concentrating on your work, your senses are on high alert all the time. There’s always the possibility being caught for trespassing or bumping into dodgy figures. As new ideas are constantly streaming through her brain she came up with the idea to let Claire, her Bull Terrier, pose as a model in abandoned buildings. This unique idea resulted in a series called ‘Furbex’, urbex photography with a furry twist. A snow-white Bull Terrier photographed in environments where ferns, moss and fungi cover floors, walls and ceilings. In environments where thick layers of dust cover the abandoned belongings of the last residents. The photographs look surreal, yet Claire poses in such a way she gives the impression she assumes the role of the former inhabitants. Part of the process is trying to capture a piece of the soul of these places, Claire and Alice can spend quite some time just walking the rooms and sitting at specific spots to ‘catch’ the atmosphere before they start to photograph. The walls, silent witnesses of love and friendship, of sorrow, hatred and sometimes even murder. The way nature takes over these buildings, how ivy penetrates the interiors, where moss has replaced the carpets, where small trees start to grow on roofs, shows that everything is perishable. You will not find such an atmosphere anywhere else, decay is fascinating.

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