Narrative Photography: Brand Overeem

When looking through my parents books, I stumbled across a book of a Dutch photographer Brand Overeem 'Beschouw ons maar als een uitzondering', translated 'Regard us as an exception'. This book shows images and tells stories about extraordinary people who lived on the Veluwe, a rural area in the Netherlands in the 70s. The stories and photos tell about their lives, their resistance to modernize and a stubbornness to adapt to supposed-tos.

I was immediately struck by the quality of composition, the use of natural light and especially how each photo tells a story. It's shown through the clothes, the expressions on the people's faces, the way they live and their surroundings. All the details work together in telling the story in its fullest. As a viewer I feel a connection with the subject straight away. 

This image is a good example of Overeem's work:

 

Brand Overeem (1985) ‘Het leven van Evert’. [photograph] In Het leven van Evert, In de luwte van de snelweg'  . Baarn: De Fontein, coverpage 

Brand Overeem (1985) ‘Het leven van Evert’. [photograph] In Het leven van Evert, In de luwte van de snelweg'  . Baarn: De Fontein, coverpage 


This image shows a lot about the way Evert lives. A sober life, full of habits. He eats six sandwiches for lunch, prepares them all beforehand, so that during his meal he can read his newspaper without disturbance. He is alone. The chair behind him is set against the wall and not being used for an extra person to sit with him at the table. This doesn't mean that he's not connected with the world. The way he reads the paper is like he is really interested in every detail. Evert doesn't come across as a rich person, the table cloth is frayed, the chair behind the table is ragged, but it is not a pitiful picture. The image shows an abundance of content in its sobriety. No extra frills or luxury, just pure enjoyment of a simple sandwich and bacon.

The lighting draws the viewer to the line of sandwiches, the butter and meat and the newspaper, stressing this abundance even more. The way Evert is connected to the news shows a lot of his character. He is engaged in the world around him, although his lifestyle remains the way he wants it to be.

The way of having all the elements right in the photograph to tell the story at its fullest is a skill I want to explore. Everything should be directed towards the message and feeling it wants to convey.