Bas Meeuws is a young photographer who is injecting the traditional Dutch genre of the flower piece with new élan. He composes his work the way the old masters did, flower by flower in luxury and splendour. The result is a layered photography that transcends time.
Meeuws was born in 1974 in Heerlen, Limburg, in the very south of the Netherlands and he grew up in the village of Spaubeek. After grammar school he trained as a physiotherapist, later specialising in manual therapy. He is married with two children. In the area of digital photography he is a self-taught all-rounder and proficient in documentation, portraiture, nature and children. It is only in flower pieces, however, that his interests coalesce: beauty, nature, the technical challenge, meaning and art.
Meeuws’ most important goal is the creation of beauty. He aims to bring real, timeless beauty − pleasure and delight − to everyday life. And, indeed, his magnificent work oozes with splendour. Flowers are ideal objects with which to achieve his aim, he says. In nature, flowers seduce bees and other insects with colour, scent and unusual shapes and since the very beginnings of history, they have had this effect on people as well.
The photographer makes the beauty all the more profound, however. His work is closely allied to the history and traditions of art because it is explicitly based on the still lifes of the seventeenth century. With all their polished digital beauty, the photos evoke the glory of the Dutch Golden Age: intense commerce, the regard for tulip bulbs and independence, and the artist’s workplace. Meeuws is intrigued by the function of flower pieces in the seventeenth century. “I try to summon up the feelings in myself that the people looking at the picture then would have had. The awe that they must have felt for all the expensive and exotic flowers together.”
He also has great regard for the sensitivity of the early modern masters for transience and mortality. Their pieces weren’t just to encourage the person looking at them to enjoy life and seize the day − carpe diem − but their frozen beauty also offered solace for the passage of time. “The bouquets in the paintings were impossible constructions of flowers from different seasons. I want to pursue this element of the genre. It gives you the opportunity to work outside of time, to make time stand still. The comfort of photography, that’s how I like to see my still lifes,” explains Meeuws.
Karine van ’t Land, Cultural historian
Still life photography is a genre of photography used for the depiction of inanimate subject matter, typically a small group of objects. It is the application of photography to the still life artistic style. This genre gives the photographer more leeway in the arrangement of design elements within a composition compared to other photographic genres, such as landscape or portrait photography. Lighting and framing are important aspects of still life photography composition.
New Generation of Still Photography is Part I of a series on Still Photography and the artists that have influenced the genre.