VOGUE INTERVIEW 2017
“Photography involves a lot of introspection”, Elizabeth Koning says in this candid conversation with Joanne Carter. “The deeper I get, the more I realize that it is all about what I am interested in, how I feel about it and what I want to say to the people who view my work. As I shoot, I learn more about myself, what I value, and how I see the world”. Each of Koning’s photographs are instantly recognisable, her style is celestial, abstract and suitably figurative. She is a photographer who wants to tell a story and she whisks the viewer on an excursion through art history. Occasionally chronologically and at others, seemingly swiftly bounding through time.
“My photographs testify of intensive, old-fashioned labour. You’ll see portraits of both adults and children, grown still, soberly, in almost painted surroundings”, says Koning. Highly skilled and utlising the ’Sfumato’ technique in much of her portraiture, Koning ensures all colours and tones are blended in such a subtle manner that they melt into one another but unlike a true painting with this effect, her photographs are prodigiously brilliant and perceptible lines and wrinkles are apparent. With a unique depth and intensity of colour, Koning’s images could also, in some respects be compared to the Tempera art of painting. Layer upon gorgeous layer create a fluidity between transitions.
There is an acute stillness within Koning’s portraiture. Her control of light and subtle digital manipulations are almost as complex as the master painters’ work that heavily influences her.
It is apparent that Koning’s images tone down the bright areas and lighten the dark ones, producing a soft and imperceptible shift between the differing tones. The models themselves appear as ethereal, it is not possible to contextualise them, they appear to be eternal and immortal. By grace of ambiguity, Koning’s photography fascinates on an entirely alternative level to that of beauty. Renaissance portraiture of Rafaela and Holbein spring to mind when viewing Koning’s photographs along with heavy undertones of Pyke Koch’s magic and realist manner.
Much of Koning’s portraiture includes objects within each image, a model with a boat, or with a cat, for example, suggestive of a special meaning. The viewer enjoys a heightened breadth and physicality within each photograph as they search for the true veracity and interpretation.
Koning’s photographic vision is strongly influenced by associations with 15th Century Master Painters, namely the early Renaissance and the Flemish Primitives. Taken in isolation, juxtaposed between the layers of the foreground, the backgrounds in Koning’s images are bursting with information. Landscapes immersed in an estranged transparent atmosphere. Koning’s model’s appear, surrounded by cloudy skies. Clearly influenced by the 17th Century Dutch Landscape Master Painters too, her work fuses together the abstract as well as the figurative. Photographic Perspective is a masterstroke and key to Koning’s photography.
Born in the Netherlands in 1966, Koning has developed as an artist, first she became a model, working in front of the camera, later she managed a modelling agency and moved on to become an assistant of a fashion magazine. Her future was shaped and influenced by experiences of living between Milan, Italy and London, UK. All the while, during these years of artistic development, her imagination was running ahead of her work, formulating ideas for future photography before embarking on a full time photographic career.
In an art historical way, the borderline between art and photography is one that Konings is challenging and one that she infuses with a sense of abiding gentility.
“A photo can capture the essence of a person, sometimes in just one frame. This is an enormous challenge. But when it is achieved, it’s an incredible thing. Sometimes it takes a series of photos to express the nuances of that person, but either way photography has a way of showing those subtleties that can be hard to describe in words”.
Interview by Joanne Carter, Founder and Editorial Director of The AppWhisperer.com