Sarah van Rij | Interview
This is the snippet from the interview with Sarah van Rij by Rolien Zonneveld.
Once you understand that your surroundings are not simply a space you inhabit but actually a backdrop that could turn into a cinematic scene at any moment, it is almost impossible to shake that notion. Fleeting moments suddenly assume an almost magical quality: a flight attendant rushing to her gate in pumps and a uniform transports you to the sixties; an elderly lady in red surveying the road from her balcony, hands shielding her face from the sun, becomes the protagonist of a Fellini film; men in flat caps time travel from downtown, 1920s New York.
This idea of transportative images rings all too true for rising Dutch photographer Sarah van Rij. One of those people gifted with an always ‘on’, extraordinary point of view, she captures seemingly mundane moments and turns them into immersive, filmic experiences. Armed with little more than an iPhone or camera, van Rij documents street life in cities like Paris, New York, Havana and San Francisco with an almost painterly touch. In her images, anonymous passersby travel across an urban landscape that could be from last century or last week.
Sometimes only a leg is revealed; occasionally, only a silhouette or a shadow can be seen. At times well-defined and at times out-offocus, her narrative shines through the rails of steps, in the reflection of a broken window, via a puddle of rain. Peeking through Van Rij’s shutter, we become voyeurs, and an exquisite beauty unfolds.
The 32-year-old was not always a professional photographer. What began as a hobby has become a fully-fledged practice as time went by. She never studied photography formally, instead following her intuition, capturing the passing illusions of everyday life with an almost scientific precision. Whilst virtually everybody has access to a camera these days and seems compelled to incessantly document their lives, true mastery of the medium is something entirely different. To do so, you must possess many things: an eye for detail, light and composition, impeccable timing and a tireless pursuit of the perfect moment. It is rare enough to find these qualities in trained photographers. It is nearly inconceivable to find it in someone who’s never had a single lesson. Van Rij’s intuitive understanding of the world became apparent at a very early age. “I was always yearning for the world beyond,” she explains. “When we drove to my primary school in The Hague, I would insist that we keep on driving southwards until we hit Italy. I wanted my parents to sell our car and live off its profit. There was this overriding sense of adventure, and longing for something that I couldn’t find in my immediate surroundings. I was already incredibly nostalgic from a very young age.”