Daantje Bons: What Is There Not To Love

Artist Daantje Bons

Words Christian Ruess

Daantje Bons is a fine art photographer working and living in Utrecht. She began her photography career at the age of sixteen when she started studying at the Art Academy of Antwerp and graduating in 2008. Her next stop was the Art academy in Breda where she developed her personal photography style and process and graduated in 2013 successfully.

“I think in order to make a change or to show something else there should be no boundaries for a viewer to connect with your work.”

Hi Daantje. Thanks again for letting us show your amazing pictures at Container Love Exhibition. First of all: How are you? What did you do before starting to answer this interview questions? We are a bit curious where in the world you might be right now and what you are working on.

Hi! Well, thank you for inviting me to this lovely project. I am very happy to participate! Before I started to answer these questions I was working on a big upcoming exhibition in the Netherlands (where I am from). This exhibition contains 35 works that will be shown on a 30 meter long wall. So it is quite a project figuring out how I want these works to be shown, and I am every excited about it!

On your website you say, feminism plays an important role for you. “By photographing from the heart and not apologizing for it.” That sounds amazing, like your personal claim. What exactly is the meaning behind that words?

Thank you, for me those words actually keep reminding me of the honesty and sincerity I want to show and maintain in my work. Sometimes subjects are not easily talked about because of existing taboes or a certain stigma. For me it is very important to feel total freedom in my process of work in order for me to research my own thoughts and feelings. Therefore I create my own “safe space” where only I can judge myself for the thoughts and feelings I have and no one else. This empowers me to “photograph from the heart and not apologizing for it”

I like your way of playing with gender roles, provocation & humor. Your pictures always seem to be friendly and funny, but actually, they are highly political and on the pulse of the time. How would you describe your work?

I think in order to make a change or to show something else there should be no boundaries for a viewer to connect with your work. This is something I really believe in because I want to make a change for more freedom and inclusiveness. I would say my work is a mixture of sweet familiar comfortable esthetics to draw and attract a viewer to then show them a more raw, rebellious but different view on a subject. This way the viewer sometimes have to take a look twice because of the contrast of the different elements in the picture, causing the viewer to connect and think about the subject and identify more with it. I hope it is a bit like a Belgium praline where you choose to one that looks the most delicious but once you take a bite, the filling has a different, interesting, maybe new and unknown taste that takes possession of you which will make this praline something to talk about.

Why is that and what drives you?

For me it is important to have a goal with my work. I want to change the view on how gender is perceived and the way it has an impact on someones life. Especially when it is limiting someones freedom to express themselves. Every boundary I encounter is also a new playground to discover and to stretch its possibilities.

What inspired you to that and what does that tell about you?

In my work I research my own identity and how my gender has an impact on that. And what I mostly found, was that certain ways of behaving or the way I was perceived where not based on me as a person but on my gender first. This made me feel captivated in a way to truly express myself the way I wanted. Once I noticed that my identity was shaped by this, it made me very aware which lead to photographing myself in an intuitive way. Because a lot of the feelings and thoughts I have are subconscious and I don’t always know how I feel about a subject or about myself I try to release those thoughts by locking myself in my studio and aiming the camera on myself without a specific plan. So a lot of the photographs I make are also a personal diary.

In some interviews you can read, your pictures are sometimes disturbing people. I don’t feel that. Do you understand where that comes from and how to deal with it?

Yes, I think people who find my works disturbing are very used to certain “boxes”. I think my work sometimes can make people feel uncomfortable because it challenge their views on fixed patterns. This could be scary, especially in todays world where a lot of people are afraid to lose their identity and beliefs. Things are shifting and somehow people think when there is more freedom created on one side it is taken from the other side. I always try to connect with people that have an emotion with my work because it mostly is about someones personal story and not about my work. I find it interesting to understand another mind, even when it is not open-minded at first because I believe there lies another pain or history beneath it, which by showing compassion and understanding can bring us more together.

Container Love’s mission is to highlight the beauty in diversity, to change points of view, and stand up for more tolerance with the help of pictures and basses. Which part reminds you of yourself?

All of the above! For sure, this is also why I felt this is a good collaboration. It is so important to create a more open-minded world where everyone can feel free to live the way the want.

Where do you think does the current gender discourse take us? Will the world be a better one in 100 years? Thank you for the interview, Daantje.

I think there will always be boundaries to push because as humans we evolve and sometimes don’t see or understand (yet) how we have created boundaries ourselves or certain beliefs. I do think we are capable of accepting one another more, when we listen to each other. By creating awareness like Container Love does I really think we will be better. Because what is there not to love?

Thank you for the very nice questions Chris!

Best last words ever. Thank you very much for the interview and lots of love to Utrecht.