It’s finally time to make a short mashup of this project. When Corina first approached me to see if I would be interested in doing this project I immediately said yes. It seemed as, and turned out to be, a beautiful project. Before, I was not too keen on making portraits for the mere sake of making a portrait. But this combined a story worth telling with interesting people in front of the camera. So, perfect! And it was even better than I imagined it would be.
A ‘brief’ intro:
The project Crapuul in the Basement has been thought up by artist and curator Corina Karstenberg for Transport Artspace, an exhibition venue currently located in the Landbouwbelang, Maastricht. The book ‘Crapuul. Kroniek van een krottenwijk.’, written by Frank Bokern has been the inspirational source for this project.
The book is about the former inhabitants of the Stokstraatkwartier, a small neighborhood in the center of Maastricht and, without a doubt, the most peculiar victim of the industrial revolution. At first, around 1840, the neighborhood belonged to the upper class, but soon became a melting pot for the workers, beggars and prostitutes, Crapuul as they say in Maastricht. The palaces turned into ruins that continued to be inhabited by the less fortunate. It took Maastricht over a 100 years to finally intervene, its approach however being draconian.
The inhabitants were being forced to move to ‘residential schools’, meant to turn them into ‘decent’ citizens. Today this still causes a stigma around the former residents and this book has greatly helped rehabilitating them by telling their story through extensive interviews with them.
The goal with this project is to give the people that grew up as a child in the area and are now in their late 70’s/80s, a face. Literally by making portraits of them. The story has already been told through the book but not everybody reads. Photographs are much more accessible and allow for the story to be told in a different way, to a broader audience.
The portraits have been made using the wet plate collodion process as it dates from the same period the book ‘Crapuul’ begins. They have been shown for the first time during the Museumnacht Maastricht 2023 with, on the background, sound clips from interviews in Maastrichter dialect with the former inhabitants used for the creation of the book, which Frank so kindly gave us access to. Frank has also been so kind as to introduce us and our intentions to these former residents, which made all of this possible.
The best part about choosing this process for making the portraits is that it takes time. And that meant all of the portrayed people have been in my studio for several hours, with coffee and ‘vlaai’, a Dutch delicacy, and they talked. A lot. And that was so interesting and fun. And heartwarming also. We all laughed a lot, and even the person that wasn’t sure she should have come in the first place, was so happy afterwards that she did. We touched each other and that is the point of, I guess, everything in life really.
On to the images, all 5×7″ wet plate collodion bga’s:
The photos had to be finished in quite a short amount of time. The first portrait was taken on the 27th of February, the last on the 28th of March. They had to be up on the wall by April 10th for the opening on April the 14th, during the Night of the Museum in Maastricht. I scanned the plates and printed them on 100x150cm on Ilford Studio Matt. No frames, nothing, it would not have suited the place and the project (and my budget, eventhough we received a stipend from GAVE.fund to help cover the cost). The result: fantastic!
It looked impressive, huge prints in an even bigger raw place. Most of the people portrayed also made it to the opening that night. They were so proud! You should have seen their faces, (you’ll get to in a moment), priceless! They had so much fun and enjoyed the attention immensely. They were once again in the spotlights. I think that was the best part about this project. This actually means something. Thank you Corina and René Reynders for making and sharing these images!
Crapuul, the Sequel
It ain’t over yet! During these photo sessions some interesting conversations took place which triggered new ideas. In the week from June 10th until June 18th 2023 the photos will be exhibited once more, both at Transport Artspace at Landbouwbelang, and at the Bookshop Dominicanen. On top of that there will be extra activities, meant to take this history even further.
These activities will be freely accessible so that everybody will have a chance, not only to enjoy these beautiful portraits, but also to hear the stories that took place during that period in the Stokstraat area.
The exact program will follow later on.
There are so many people to thank, I’ll try and mention you all:
Stefan @ Transport Artspace
All the volunteers of Transport Artspace for keeping the venue open with your enthusiasm
Peter van Eijsden
If I have forgotten someone I apologize in advance. Please don’t shoot me, just a message saying I forgot you and I will add you to the list.
Also, a big thanks to everyone that visited the exhibition! During the Night of the Museum we received almost a 1000 visitors, which is a lot. That weekend and the two weekends that followed, more people came to visit the exhibition. On top of that special thanks to the people who left a comment in the book; such heartwarming comments ♥︎
And last but not least; I thank myself for having done this 🙂