Desire, longing, happiness, pain and disappointment: in her delicate yet powerful black and white series Borders of Nothingness, Margaret Lansink dwells on the emotional state of transition between knowing and not knowing another person. At the same time, the pictures are an expression of her own feelings.
Your Borders of Nothingness series is based on the lost contact to your daughter. What is the meaning of the title, and what was the starting point for the project?
When I started this series I was doing a Artist Residency in Japan. During that residency, I was hardly able to work because my daughter had already decided to suspend contact some years earlier. I had to do something with this sharp emotional pain – also as an artist. I had the feeling that I would never see my daughter again in my life. At the time it helped me to believe that we might one day meet up at the “borders of nothingness”. I see the series as an image for farewell.
Are your pictures always memories of your own life?
Always. I’m an intuitive person, and that’s exactly how I photograph: with my feelings in every picture. It might be the moment in which I took the photo; or it could be a moment that lies way in the past. The picture always expresses what I’m feeling, when I release the shutter. For me, the images of the two girls, for example, symbolize my two daughters. They are a sign of my love, but not just for my daughters: they are also an expression of love and respect for all women on this earth.
Is it at all possible to photograph something to which one has no connection?
I can’t speak for others, but in my case it’s like this: when I take pictures to which I have no relationship, and then I see them in the dark room or on the computer, I don’t feel any vibe. They land in the garbage.
Can your images be seen as a social commentary?
Yes, I think so; even though you may not think so immediately when you look at my pictures. But we live in a world that is very fast paced and materialistic. Therein, we forget to feel the real meaning within us. People who look at my series often become quiet. They are less fearful about looking at their own emotions, fears and desires. In Arles last summer, a number of visitors cried in front of my Borders of Nothingness series, without having read the accompanying text.
Why do you choose to work in black and white?
The black and white in Borders of Nothingness imbued my pictures with the emotional message that I had in mind. My new series will be in colour, however.
Your pictures are a bit reminiscent of daguerreotypes. Is it a homage or a deliberate form? What does it express?
Honestly speaking, I’ve never made the connection. But there is some truth in it: I love the old, authentic way of taking photographs. Virtually everything I do is analogue: I develop everything myself, I make the first contact sheets in the dark room. After that I can feel free: I can print in the darkroom, I can work on the pictures with photoshop, or I can make pigment prints. At the end of the day, it’s the result that’s the most important thing to me.
You work with a Leica M6. What do you find is special about the camera?
Before I worked with a Leica, I was a bit sceptical about all the stories I’d heard of how great this camera is. But I fell in love right from the first hour I spent with my M6. Every time I use the camera, I think: this is how photography is supposed to be. Everything is manual and it can require a bit of time – a piece of quiet in this hectic world.
If you were to take the pictures again today, would they look any different?
As far as I’m concerned, the series is good as it is. Of course, if I were to take the pictures again today they would look different; because my life has gone on. The feelings have changed; my daughter and I are now working with a psychologist on a new form for our relationship. That is the reason why I always interpret Borders of Nothingness a new. I combine the pictures, tear through them and “heal” the breaks with gold leaf – these are the photos in Borders Revisited. With this I’m expressing my hope for a stronger and more beautiful relationship.
To see things that others don’t notice – is this the most important thing for a photographer?
My goal is to show things differently to the way they’re perceived. They shouldn’t only be registered, but also capture my own inner feelings, in all their different manifestations. I give my pictures the freedom to wander between reality and dreams. In this manner, I invite the viewer to take a journey through his or her own complex network of memories, emotions, expectations, fears and desires.
Do you think while you’re photographing?
When I’m in the mood to photograph, all my senses are open: first I see, then I feel; and when these two things come together, I release the shutter.
Margaret Lansink studied photography in Amsterdam and Paris. Her work has been exhibited in Holland, Vancouver, New York, Arles, Great Britain, Lithuania and Japan. In 2013 she won the Dutch New Talent Award, followed by the Bronze Star Award for art books. The Dutch photographer has been a member of FemmesPHOTOgraphes Paris since 2018. In 2018, her Borders of Nothingness series was part of the FOTOFILMIC18 Shortlist-Show, and of the Reclaim Photography Festival, Wolverhampton, UK. A year later she was nominated with Borders of Nothingness for the Gomma Grant. Margaret Lansink supports young photographers in the development and creation of their portfolios.
To see more of Lansink’s photography you can visit her website.