Speaking: Ton Huijbers
Ton Huijbers visited Galerie Pennings right from the start. “The gallery was then little more than a corner in the furniture store, with two walls reserved for photos. There was an exhibition of Ralph Gibson at the time. Wow! He (Harry Pennings) knows what good photography is! I thought it very unusual and special that a furniture store showed the work of an American top photographer. It was only after a few times that I met Harry Pennings; he was not always present. I showed him my photo sequences and he was immediately enthusiastic."
Ton Huijbers (1949) is a self-taught photographer. He made his first pictures at the age of ten or eleven. Around 1967/'68 he came into contact with Pierre Segers and the photo club Spectrum in Roermond, which encouraged him to continue with photography.
“When I saw the photo sequences of the American photographer Duane Michals, I was impressed by the possibilities that this technique offered. Shaping dreams, fantasies, emotions in this way created many opportunities for me. I initially hesitated because I was uncertain about the step I was going to take. For me, Michals was a great artist , and I didn't want to be an epigone of him. I wanted to make sequences in my own style."
(Just like Michals, Huijbers himself acted in his photos. And with that, the photo sequences are in fact also recordings of performances. IvB)
The first series he made was ‘The Wall’ in 1982, where he jokes with gravity. It is one of the series in the booklet ‘Sequences. Ton Huijbers’ that he published in 1989 and that is part of the library of Galerie Pennings. Other series included in this booklet are ‘The Birds’ (1983), ‘The Cloud’ (1984), ‘The Moon’ (1987), these are all visual jokes. (Note that at that time photography was still analogue. IvB)
In the last series in the booklet, ‘The knife’ (1985), we see the artist sitting in a chair facing the viewer. With firm gestures he scratches with a knife in, well in what actually? In the photo itself. The scratches appear to be applied in the negative and only become visible in the print.
Although the artist worked very seriously in all series, there was a lot of humor in his work, although he realized this later. The photographer himself says about that: “There was little to laugh about when making these sequences. Everything had to be photographed perfectly and precisely according to the concept. Because I was often a model myself, I was forced to leave the direction to the other person. That was a true test, because of course I wanted to keep everything under control. The ‘other’ was often my wife Ria, or fellow photographers Pierre Segers and Jo Brunenberg, whom I must have often driven to despair. I can’t remember how often series had to be re-photographed because it wasn't quite right."
In the Netherlands, at that time, Paul de Nooijer and Michel Szulc Krzyzanowski were also working with the sequence.
(Recently, at the opening of his exhibition at Stedelijk Museum Breda, Teun Hocks said that he deliberately went in search of humor in his staged photography, because the performances in the 1970s were so serious. IvB)
Ton Huijbers had already exhibited at the Musée d’Art et Histoire in Friborg in Switzerland and in galleries in the Netherlands (in Heerlen), Belgium, Germany and Spain before Harry Pennings took his sequences to Paris Photo in 1999 and 2000. Ton Huijbers' sequences sold very well. (See blog # 3).
In 2003, Ton Huijbers was asked to participate in the photo festival in Lannion. (A photo festival has been organized in Lannion since 1984. IvB). Presumably the festival's organization had seen the work of Huijbers at Paris Photo and then approached Harry Pennings.
At the end of June 2003 Harry and Françoise Pennings, Ton Huijbers and also Pierre Segers, together with the photo sequences for the exhibition, drove in the Peugeot to Lannion in Brittany. On the way there was a picnic with fois gras – not allowed nowadays - and on the advice of Harry we drunk Jurançon, a sweet white wine. We all had a good time and it was on this memorable trip, that I got to know and appreciate Harry and Françoise well.”
The festival took place from June 28 to September 27 and the theme was ‘Humour et Dérision’ (humor and spot). “At the opening the artists were put in the spotlight. It was intended that every artist would tell a story. So, the photographer started in English, in a good mood, after which Françoise took over, to enlighten and complete the story in her characteristic, inimitable way, in French of course.”
Ton Huijbers had a solo exhibition at Galerie Pennings in 2001. Then portfolio number 50 was released in the series of the gallery. (See blog # 3) By the way, Harry called this series the ‘Phototheek’.