“Less is more”, the architect Mies van der Rohe once said – a motto also adopted by photographer Sebastian Rijkers for his photographic compositions. The right lighting reveals hidden beauty.
What fascinates you about geometric shapes?
I see geometric shapes as the basic building blocks of our visual impressions. Our entire surroundings can be broken down into these building blocks. This reduction takes away any meaning and weight, and focuses our attention on the pure aesthetics of the objects.
What aim do you pursue with your images?
I gave my first solo exhibition the title Giving Space. The pictures selected showed interiors which, with minimalist and neutral motifs, gave much room for the viewer’s own thoughts and associations. Consequently, each composition is like an invitation to mentally enter a room – to “look around” and, at the same time, to discover a place of retreat and a moment of silence. My modest aim is that, in addition to looking at the pictures, the viewer becomes individually engaged with them.
Your pieces are devoid of people, and yet they still say something about them…
From the feedback I get from visitors to my exhibitions, I know that they spend a lot of time engaged with the few lines and shapes; and that my compositions evoke diverse thoughts, memories and even emotions in them. Doesn’t that say a lot about people? Maybe it’s a longing for places of quiet; maybe the recognition of a world that was hidden, up to that point. I was also amused by another observation: there seemed to be an uncanny urge to see the real in the motifs. I always play a bit with the degree of abstraction; but even when a photo is abstract, it’s a reflection of reality.
How do you find your motifs, and what criteria do you use to choose them?
Architecturally-interesting buildings – ones which I specifically choose during online research, and then visit – are particularly fruitful. I always have my camera with me when I visit a museum, where I allow myself to be inspired by the quiet, the atmosphere and the art on display. I also come across motifs I like to capture in daily life.
How do you proceed in your photographic work, particularly as far as composition is concerned?
If I want to photograph architecture, for example, I look at the object, including the light incidence at the time. Calmly – without the camera at first – I try out different perspectives. Only then do I look through the viewfinder to begin the composition. I choose the focal length and my image detail. To make the motif look harmonious, I use the classic rules of image composition. If I want to create more tension, I deliberately break those rules.
Light has enormous significance in your pictures.
I work exclusively with available light, because I love the search for motifs, and like less the staging. Contrary to the general norm, I like to photograph outside in the midday sun. That way, I find particularly strong shadow contrasts. Motifs in interior spaces thrive on shading; for example, showing areas of a uniformly white room in different shades of grey.
Why have you opted for black and white?
The depiction of shapes and shadows requires contrasts. Edges are more defined in monochrome and enhance the graphic effect. Shading is clearer in grey scale than in colour. In addition, colour means more details that are distracting. When I use colour, I use it discreetly and only when it is relevant for the image.
You worked with a Leica SL2. What makes it appropriate for architecture photography?
In addition to the outstanding picture quality, I’m delighted with how easy it is to use the camera. I establish the settings while I’m looking at my subject through the viewfinder. Furthermore, my camera lenses offer maximum flexibility, with focal lengths ranging from super wide-angle for interior architecture and exciting perspectives, to light telephoto for details.
How important are the details, and what can they tell us about life?
It may sound a bit trite when I say that you should go through the world with your eyes wide open; but that’s exactly what you should do. Be open to everything you discover. Look for beauty, even in insignificant things. Maybe your readers already take pleasure in a shadow or in simple shapes, as much as I do – or they may in the future.
The beauty of shapes and light – is this your aesthetic aspiration for photography?
Of course, I can’t hide my preference for light and shapes. I even consider them essential for the composition of a picture, regardless of the genre. Minimalism has an even higher status in my aesthetic aspirations. Picture composition is comparable to music composition. In music, it is also the pauses that give the notes their radiance, and make us listen more attentively. To quote the words of the architect Mies van der Rohe: “less is more”.
Born in Viersen on the Lower Rhine, Germany, in 1981, Sebastian Rijkers studied electrical engineering until 2007, and worked in various sectors until 2016. For nearly six years now, he has been combining his work with his passion – photography. He works in the Development Department of Leica Camera AG. Following a number of group exhibitions, he had his first solo exhibition last year. Find out more about his photography on his Instagram page.
It’s your choice.