From BJP's annual list of emerging new talent: Justine Tjallinks, a Dutch photographer who combines unusual beauty with high-production fashion glamour
It was while working as an art director that rising talent Justine Tjallinks decided she wanted to make her own images. Born in a small village in the east of the Netherlands, the 32-year-old moved to the Dutch capital to study at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute before immersing herself in the commercial world, working on several leading fashion publications.
Exposed to the codes and conventions of fashion photography on a daily basis, Tjallinks soon began to dream up a new perspective – one that she describes as a “little bit of Diane Arbus meets Mario Testino”. “On the one hand you had the ‘glamour’ photography and on the other you had the raw,” she explains. “Glamour photography featured perfect models, showcasing the dream, while the real featured people that did not fit the norm and was shot in a documentary setting.”
Intrigued by what would happen if the two were mixed, Tjallinks quit her job and started to develop her own approach to representing beauty. For Tjallinks, a perfect subject is one that doesn’t fit into the narrow confines of what we, as a society, consider “beautiful”.
The people she shoots are not professional models and often have unusual features or conditions such as albinism, chosen in a bid to celebrate a different kind of beauty that lies outside the mainstream. The intimacy of these encounters feels very present in her work, creating a reflective space that seems far removed from the fashion world – here preconceptions are disrupted through these new, powerful representations.
Though the young photographer has only been shooting for two-and-a-half years, her painterly portraits already have an unmistakable aesthetic that has caught the interest of publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Vogue Italia and L’Officiel. Leaving little to chance, Tjallinks describes her process as more similar to that of a film director than a photographer; she meticulously plans all the elements of a shoot with a storyboard in order to get the perfect final image.
The results are arresting and dramatic and exhibit an adept yet intuitive understanding of light and colour. Often described as very “Dutch”, her style has been compared to painters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer, whose work Tjallinks admired as a young girl.
“Light can do so much for a portrait; it really adds emotion and focus,” she says. “Another thing they do really well is keep your attention. Their portraits can be really simple, but you can’t help but keep looking at them. It sets the bar really high to achieve the same in photography.”