“What is ugliness? What is perfection? What is the ideal beauty?” These are some of the questions that Marijke Groeneveld addresses in her refreshingly frank portraits.
The Dutch graduate first came to photography while studying lifestyle and design at the Willem de Kooning Art Academy in Rotterdam, fascinated by the way people behave in front of the camera and their readiness to share their personal world.
Since switching to photography in her second year, she has been building her practice around an unapologetically offbeat style of portraiture that challenges conventions of beauty.
Keenly aware of the way people present themselves and communicate their identity, Groeneveld adopts the signs and symbols of contemporary society, taking inspiration from sources that range from news coverage to advertising.
Her images are experimental, often incorporating kitsch elements of collage and graphic design that together create a tension between her subjects and the visual language she uses.
“My photography has no rules,” she says. “It’s a bit of a hodgepodge that is difficult to understand. But is that wrong? Do you need to understand everything?”
Groeneveld’s describes her subjects as the “outsiders” of society and says she often chooses to photograph strangers that she recognises herself in.
Shooting a mixture of personal projects and commissions, she maintains that the model is always the most important part of the image.
“Whether it is art or commerce is only appearance: that’s just the shell,” she says.
The game of control between photographer and subject is the real driving force for Groeneveld, who sometimes logs small observations of her experiences on each shoot.
In these confessional insights the images take on a new dimension, given greater depth by her refusal to shy away from the frequently awkward nature of the photographic encounter.
For Wanted Groeneveld approached people who had signed up to free online modelling agencies. She was curious about the motivations behind their choices and visited them in their environments to take a series of intimate black-and-white portraits.
Awkward and tender at the same time, they explore the deep desires of the photographer’s eager sitters.
The project was published by Newdawn Paper, a Dutch photography platform edited by nominator Erik Vroons. He says he recognises a “rare natural talent” in Groeneveld’s work.
Her latest series Neverland is taking the photographer down a new path that is focused on a more personal subject: her grandmother, challenging herself to move into an unknown realm marked by the absence of models.
The project is made up of photographs taken in her grandmother’s house and includes staged memories using black models, including the artist herself.