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#7 Photography as a medium

Speaking: Paul Bogaers

Photo Paul Bogaers from Portfolio 54, published by Galerie Pennings in 2002

In 1996, Paul Bogaers (1961) received a phone call from Harry Pennings. That phone conversation was the start of a long collaboration with the gallery. Paul Bogaers has been allowed to organize a solo exhibition three times. In addition, his work was regularly shown in group presentations and his work went to numerous art fairs.

Association and suggestion play a central role in the work of Paul Bogaers. "In the 1980s I worked a lot with socalled ‘found’ photos, existing images, mostly anonymous photos and amateur snapshots." He created an archive of existing images to be able to use up.

“I connect photos (self-made or found) to an often unexpected equivalent and thereby create new associations for the viewer. A new way of looking." With his ‘Photo Combinations’, Bogaers makes combinations of images, in or next to each other. “Through the rearrangement of the everyday, my performances are completely handed over to the eye of the spectators. Spectators whose gaze depents on the state of mind they are in."

The use of Objets trouvés (utensils) in the visual arts was a discovery by Marcel Duchamp in the early 20th century and was soon applied by other Surrealists and Dadaists, such as Man Ray. In the 1950s it was also applied again by artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. On the other hand, it was not customary within photography to work with existing images. Boltanski already made installations with existing portrait photos in the 1980s, but he was an exception."

Paul Bogaers was one of the first in the Dutch art world to implement photography as a medium, as part of a larger whole. “The majority of my oeuvre consists of visual art where one or more photos play a central role. Slowly I switched from two-dimensional to three-dimensional. I do not consider myself a photographer, although everyone else seems to be doing this.”(Paul Bogaers studied at the Academy of Visual Arts in Tilburg.)

Photo Paul Bogaers from the book Upset Down (2010)

“An artist makes what he wants to make. The artwork is connected to the artist. Whether or not that what the artist makes will fit in within the time and place and will become part of the mainstream, is simply the question."

An outsider in the field of photography. Perhaps that is exactly what appealed to Harry Pennings when he decided to call Paul Bogaers. “It was quite remarkable that Harry just called me. That did not happen often with artists. He had seen my work (I don't remember where) and said: "I think it's interesting. Can we meet?" A civilized voice.

I regularly exhibited at the Fotomania gallery in Rotterdam and so I ended up in the world of photography by chance. It could have been different."

Invitation exhibition 'In de Piepzak' at Galerie Pennings, 1997


In 1997 Paul held his first exhibition in the gallery with the title ‘In de Piepzak’. A solo exhibition was intended, but at his own request, Paul involved his good friend and visual artist Fred van Eldijk in the project, who made three-dimensional work. "It became a crazy exhibition with objects and ‘pure’ photos by me. We both searched for a deeper truth hidden behind the banal everyday. Harry gave us complete freedom in the design of the exhibition. Not all gallery owners do that. But that was also necessary. My work is so specific that the setting and also the layout of the space become part of the artwork itself. I always have a strong idea about how it should work."

Paul Bogaers Portfolio number 20 appeared in the gallery's series at the 1997 exhibition. In addition to two photo combinations and a CV, it contains a long text that serves as an artist statement. What is special about this text is that it is a compilation of existing lines of text from all kinds of books, but knitted together as a logical story. In fact, this is also a form of objets trouvés. You have to be an artist to come up with something like that. In 2007, Bogaers published a literary work of more than 400 pages, ‘Onderlangs’ (IJzer publishing house in Utrecht), which consists entirely of ‘found’ lines of text. At the back of this book are photographs of Paul, cutting and pasting, in the midst of countless copies of texts."

Paul Bogaers and Harry Pennings building up the exhibition in Bienne (2001)


In 2001, Paul traveled with Harry and Françoise Pennings to the Bienne photo festival in Switzerland. Paul was allowed to make a presentation with his work. “I was the only artist who represented Galerie Pennings. There was no sale from the exhibition. That is something that I was not very concerned about. And neither did Harry, which was strange for a gallery owner. Harry also took my work to fairs such as Paris Photo (in 2000). ”(See blog #2)


In 2002 Paul held his second exhibition in the gallery called ‘Paintings and other photos’. He showed photographs of paintings, framed photographs of paintings and doors in primer paint, as if it were abstract painting. "It was fascinating me, especially in the medium that is so attached to the visible of reality, to look for ways to show the invisible."

At this exhibition, another portfolio appeared in the gallery's series, number 54. This includes the following statement by him:

“As an artist who uses the photography medium (I don't feel like a photographer), I am much more focused on the imagination of an inner world than on the journalistic or documentary possibilities of photography. It is fascinating to me, precisely in that medium that is so attached to the visible of reality, to look for ways to show the invisible (..) ”

Photo Paul Bogaers from the book Upset Down (2010)

Upset down

After Petra Cardinaal took over the gallery, Paul remained in good contact with the gallery. In 2011 he set up an exhibition called ‘Upset down’. This exhibition was previously on show at Museum De Pont in Tilburg. A book with the same title appeared at the exhibition.

"In ‘Upset Down’ Bogaers investigates figuratively but also literally the reversibility of images. Each time two photos are presented, with the right image standing upright and the left image upside down. The resulting combinations can also be reversed in their entirety. Then the image pairs reveal other details and evoke new associations. In the book of the same name, this results in a sequence of images that can be ‘read’ to two sides. Presented on the wall, the works have another special feature: each photo combination has two ‘sides’ and can actually be hung in two different ways. The maker therefore advises to reverse these works every six months, so that the look is constantly refreshed. ”(Website Paul Bogaers)

(The books ‘Upset Down’ and ‘Onderlangs’ are in the library of Pennings Foundation.)

After that, Bogaers started to work more sculptural. He made extensions from his photos in papier-mâché. His work was frequently seen in the gallery. His work stood out because it was three-dimensional and because you had to look carefully wether it was still photographic.

“Still I don't sell much. That is sometimes daunting. Photography is already a niche. I am also an outsider within that.” Petra has always believed in him and always took his work to fairs, including Art Rotterdam, Art The Hague and Fotofever in Brussels and Paris.

Reframe by Paul Bogaers, on show at Fotofever, Paris (2013)

“Suppose I started my carreer now, my work would be better appreciated. I was just too early with it. The 90s, that was the time of the razor-sharp photos of Hans Aarsman and of the staged photography. My work did not fit in well. Only now does the time seem ripe.”

Paul Bogaers was a member of the Harry Pennings Award jury twice and is regularly asked as a reviewer for the portfolio review days that Pennings Foundation organizes twice a year.

Thanks to Laura van den Broek, student history of art Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen

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