Photographs in the newspaper do not lie. They focus on the victims of war, the fumbling minister resigning, the decisive goal, the derailed tram.
Disasters, accidents, golden moments, crazy events. This, that, there and that’s why. That's how it happened; no other way. It looks as if a moment of actuality that goes unphotographed makes us doubt the veracity of the news report. In the case of court drawings or cartoons, we reckon on the maker being less than frank with the truth.
The apparently incontestable reality of the photo also has a darker side. We won't accept a photograph that looks abstract, like a painting. Photo realistic painters are often admired because their work looks "just like a photo". But what if a photo is anything but realistic, looking abstract and therefore not quite like a photo?
André Thijssen takes photos like that. Every Tuesday between April 2014 and 2015, he published them on page 2 of the PS supplement published with the Dutch daily Het Parool. He turns out to see something slightly different in scenes that most of us who look at exactly the same thing - but don’t see it. Yet these are 100% real-life urban scenes albeit never docile subjects of hard news. They are meticulously printed slices of reality from Amsterdam. A sheltered inner world is revealed in the side that usually goes unnoticed. Occasionally the city is clearly identified as Amsterdam with its lace curtains, long-lost urinoir or lamppost.
In order to persuade the doubters, Thijssen meticulously notes down the postcode of the Amsterdam location where he stumbled on the scene. In this way, he suggests that we can check with our own eyes that the situation is plucked from reality.
There is nothing so crushingly concrete as a postcode. At the same time, the combination of four digits and two letters primarily intended for the postal service also helps a group of kids identify as 1095 (hence anti 1091) and those who gamble on the postcode lottery. Only 1012 - the red light district - leads a life of its own thanks to municipal efforts to drive out prostitution there. But for Thijssen, that apparently makes no difference. His 1012 photo differs little from the one he took in, for instance, 1095. His eye continues to be caught by the spurious juxtaposition of objects, forms or stains… apparitions that enter into an alliance for his cutout.
One might be led to think that Thijssen deliberately uses his photos to pose questions he is obliged to answer. But he's not interested in explanations. Nor does the world allow itself to be interrogated. You don't ask the rain or a low shaft of sunlight how, what, when or why.
All that is imparted is a postcode. The mystery of Thijssen’s surprised and fresh eye for everyday surrealist street life has to remain intact. How else can you explain the "chance encounter between an umbrella and a sewing machine on a cutting table", as Marcel Duchamp imagined? Every explanation of an image will turn out to be just as absurd as the image itself. That's why you keep looking at it. (And again and again.)
'One of the best photobooks of 2015'
'Most poetic photobook on Amsterdam'
25 x 32 cm / 10 x 12,5"
220 pages / paperback
Price, registered shipment:
€ 70,-- in The Netherlands
€ 90,-- worldwide
There are only a few SIGNED copies of this publication left for sale in the artist's studio.
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