Dakota is no more.
He looks into the lens calmly and confidently. His hair, like a helmet, folded very precisely around his head. A handsome face. Freckles.
It was a quick shoot on the corner of the street, his friends waiting in the car. I found him while refueling. I noticed him immediately.
He told us about his life very briefly, about his father, his mother, and himself. Meanwhile, a lady - a somewhat strict-looking mother figure who seemed to live there – was checking to see who I am and what we are doing. She seemed to approve and left again. Shortly thereafter the photo was taken and he ran back to his friends. I jumped on the bike and our lives went on again.
“Thermopolis, I once photographed Dakota here!”
Dakota is someone I have often thought of the last few years. There was something mysterious, something big about him.
“Shall we visit him?” The idea of looking for him and finding him, of finding out what he looks like now, of a four-year-older Dakota makes me restless in a good way, curious and happy.
We find a motel with rooms that smell strongly of flea shampoo - my mother used to be a dog groomer - throw our things inside and start our search as quickly as possible. Perhaps we can find him before dinner.
We find the exact place where I photographed him. We also find the house where the strict mother figure lived. I ring the doorbell. There are about 10 tricycles in the garden and I wonder if she actually has that many children. No answer.
A young man drives by on a motorcycle and I am almost certain that he knows Dakota. The town is not that big and they are about the same age.
I open the book and ask him: “Do you know this guy, Dakota?”
“Uh, yes, m’am.” He replies nicely.
“He commited suicide last year.”
His answer hurts. A little bit, not that much yet. It is going too fast. “Does his mother live here? He quickly tells us that his mother lives somewhere around here. He does not have an exact address, but he can point us into the right direction.
I want to find his mother. We go from one house to another, to a restaurant, to a neighbor, to a trailer. Somehow I am hoping for an error. Miscommunication perhaps, maybe I just misunderstood him.
Eventually we find the address of his mother. I ring the bell, hear a dog. Nobody answers. The neighbors give an address of a trailer park. Blue trailer, white van in front of the door.
Mom is found. Seeing her son’s photo, she laughs and says “that’s my boy.”
She talks fast. She says a lot. Something about a stepfather. About diagnosing Dakota. About bipolar. Several times she mentions an OD through. It stings. So he died of an OD (overdose). I am just hoping it was “soft”. Then suddenly she says “and then he shot himsellf” … In the presence of 3 cops. I am confused. In a questioning tone, I repeat what she says. And she repeats: “yes, he shot himself”. Her eyes are full of tears and I just managed to release an “ah”. Suddenly I realize that Dakota is no longer.
A confusing story about receiving his ashes only 8 weeks later and “celebrating a celebration of life” follows. She is not ready to say goodbye yet. I do not know if there were any people on his celebration of life. I do know his urn is located in a full house, close to his dog Harley.
Details about his death - and about his life - are confusing and I cannot really follow. But it does not matter. Dakota is no more.
I would have loved to show him that he was on the cover of a magazine, that his portrait was shown at museums, that his face is in a book. Instead, I write it in his book of condolences. Rest in peace Dakota.
Author, poet, columnist
Write it down quickly
before I forget
in the car with D. and N.
cutting across America’s seasons
muggy sunlight in Santa Barbara
wet snow in Denver
and in every Best Western hotel
the TV’s flickering light
on her dear sleeping face
like a young girl once again
but writing down the words
alters what I want to remember
that which had no words
was a living breathing image
so now I have two versions of the same
today I can superimpose them
but tomorrow when I’m gone
only the words are left
signs evoking something
that no eye sees any more
(MEMO by Remco Campert)
Stedelijk Museum Schiedam
The art world is still a boys’ club. Just 13% of the art in Dutch museums was created by women, according to research by Mama Cash.
No matter how famous some women were, after their death they were erased from art history. A good number fell into oblivion. The Masterful Women exhibition aims to change that. We highlight ten Dutch artists from the first half of the 20th century. These are must-see pioneers. We link this avant-garde of yesteryear to today’s female artists.
De Puy shows the video installation ‘RANDY’.
June 15 - September 8, 2019
More info here.
Foto Festival Naarden
‘Dutch Masters & Marvelous Misfits’ – Theme of FotoFestival Naarden 2019
The 16th edition of Foto Festival Naarden will take place from Saturday, May 25th to Sunday, June 30th, 2019. Dutch Masters & Marvelous Misfits has been made with the intention to praise and include the misfit. The misfits presented at the FotoFestival are greater masters than they are given credit for – they are marvelous misfits.
Group-exhibition in Grote Kerk, Naarden w/ Koos Breukel, Robin de Puy, Stephan van Fleteren and Ernst Coppejans.
Thank you, mum
This Mother’s Day, we were inspired by the influence that mothers have on their children. How children grow from that influence, and how it builds their character. To celebrate this bond, we invited families from 5 different countries — Togo, Benin, DRC, Ghana and Ivory Coast — to share the lessons they’ve learned, and express the emotional bonds that build who we are.
Director / Photographer: Robin de Puy @ Unit CMA
DOP: Maarten van Rossem
Editor: Mr Roza
Sound recordist: Jaap Sijben
Sound design: Joost Oskamp
Grading: Maarten van Rossem
Make-up: Woena make-up artistry
Hair: Kush by Taylar
Assistant photography: Daniel Attoh @ Accra Studio’s
More video’s here.
Director: Robin de Puy
Talent: Birk / #specialbeauties
DOP: Maarten van Rossem
Editor: Tim Roza
Sounddesign: Gijs Stollman
Styling: Suze Kuit
Makeup / Hair: Sandra Govers
Photography assistant.: Berend van Breda
Color grading: Maarten van Rossem
Exhibition @ The Ravestijn Gallery
Saturday 2 February 2019 - Saturday 16 March 2019
The Ravestijn Gallery presents ‘LOVE ME’ by Robin de Puy. The portraits in this exhibition have nothing in common at first glance. From a model named Birk on his way to fame to Randy, an adolescent boy who grows up in Ely, Nevada. There are portraits of young people and of elderly people, of broken shopping trolleys and of worn out hands. Beautiful and ugly. But does ugly actually exist? Not in the images of Robin de Puy. She finds beauty in what others regard as unsightly.
Unexpected, moving beauty is what links the photos in the exhibition ‘LOVE ME’. And in every image De Puy is present. As a photographer she determines who participates in her photographic world, she is the director. And in her world everyone has a very specific, undeniable beauty.
Robin de Puy is consistently confronting our preconceived ideas of who belongs and who does not, who meets the social norm and the prevailing ideal image. And last but not least, she is confronting herself. She recognizes herself in the people she portrays. The vulnerability that you feel as an adolescent, when you are insecure and anxious and you wonder whether others will accept you. The fear that life sometimes evokes, the desire to be seen and to be loved.
Should you like to receive more information and/or images do not hesitate to contact the gallery.
A letter to Lynch
Last night, my boyfriend’s eight-year old daughter puked in her bed. She did yell for me, but stopped at, “Robin, I am siccc…” There was no need to run for the bucket. A thick sludge, containing potatoes, meatloaf, broccoli and yoghurt appeared from her mouth and ended up in a pretty solid shape on her pillow. In the morning she snuggled up against me and said, “My vomit had the shape of Holland”. Pretty creative, I figured. “Rorschach!” my friend yelled. “Lynch!” I shouted.
Earlier that week, I had seen an interview with you, done by a student - I’d say - in Pennsylvania: “If you don’t know what it is, a sore can be very beautiful. But as soon as you name it, its stops being beautiful for most people.”
Interviewer hesitates and asks, “A sore?”
“A sore in the skin, an infection, a deep cut with puss, and… with discoloration. But if you took a picture of it, a close-up, and you did not know actually what it was, it could be a great beauty of organic phenomenon.” Interviewer: “That’s… actually very true… Next question.”
I fully recognize the wish – or tendency – to see wounds as symptoms consisting of matter and colors, without labelling it immediately. But for seeing things this way – or in a different way most people see it – I need my photography, I need a goal. Without it, I don’t dare to pursue it.
Another example. Walking on a crowded market in Paris. Suddenly I saw a small, fragile looking man walking in front of me in a suit that is about two sizes too big. Cap on his head, bag in his left hand. When approaching the litter bin on the left side, he took the bag cautiously to his other hand and shambled on slowly, but with a clear goal. The oversized suit, the fragile body… he was very affectionate. I wanted to rush in from behind and fumble him up. Not fumbling in a nasty way, more fumbling as in squeezing, hugging him very hard. Just squeeze him so hard that he would get even smaller. So small, that I could take him with me in a little box. I did not do it. I would like to be someone who does those things.
I am curious if you – besides making your art – have the urgeto squeeze someone spontaneously in his or her chubby cheeks (like agent Dale Cooper does with the mechanic in the beige overall). If yes, would you actually do so? Or is this only present in your work? Could you – apart from your work – look at a wound with pus or vomit in the shape of Holland, with the same interest and fascination?
Are you what you create? Or would you like to be what you have created?
Awaiting your answer,
(published in Focus Magazine Nov 2018)