and “Raw Beauties”.
A Polaroid Project
Han Boersma is an “addict”, but not in the sense that most people give to this word. He is not an alcoholic or a drug user…; his addiction is made of Art and Beauty in their broadest sense. And when you have an artistic education, such an addiction does not make your path easier, because the endless search for them leads you to be honest with yourself. There are no compromises or half measures, and Han, after experiencing painting and, for a certain period, photography (he experienced analog photography and the magic of the darkroom), he realized, as he writes in the Forewords to his book “Raw Beauties”: “(…) I never felt like a true artist who could contribute to the world. (…) Let’s just say I wasn’t good enough to satisfy my own perfectionism. (…) So I had to be honest with myself. Being an artist was not the way for me (…). He did not become an artist in a broad sense, but, actually, Han Boersma is an artist in a sense broader that the simple meaning we can give to this word. Besides being an exceptional restorer of ancient artifacts, he has his peculiar idea of photography that, through his past experiences, led him to dig deeper until he understood that the true soul of an image is in the raw energy that it transmits before being transformed. The energy primordial of birth, pure and harsh at the same time. This awareness led him to discover the world of Polaroid (which he began to collect until opening his own Gallery, Raw Beauty1), and, soon after, to the creation of the “Raw Beauties” project.
Floz Visions: Has your artistic education and the restoration of ancient artworks influenced, and does it still influence your photographic choices?
Han Boersma: Sure it does! I look for authenticity, a reason to be on this earth. This applies to the way I look at paintings and restore them (my daily job), as much as it applies to how I find and select photographs. There is no blueprint. I begin in a state of not-knowing, relying on pure instinct. But of course thanks to all the years I’ve been restoring paintings, collecting art and studying, I have developed a certain basic understanding of art.
Floz Visions: Instead, as a collector, what drives you to buy an image rather than another? More specifically, what are the buttons that are pushed when you have to decide?
Han Boersma: Love. When I see an art work that somehow that moves me, that circumvents reason, I get sweaty hands, my heart starts racing and its image haunts me at night. I have to have it …, I only collect what I love.
Floz Visions: I know that you really appreciate the Collodion Wet-Plate that, in past, struck you like a bolt, but, later, you went for the Polaroid. What did you find in the latter that the Wet-Plate was missing?
Han Boersma: I certainly don’t believe that the one medium is necessarily superior to the other. There are really brilliant artists who create beautiful work with Collodion Wet-Plates, but I think that the medium is so dominant that it can convince the viewer that the work is actually better than it is artistically. I see that as a potential pitfall with this kind of art. Whereas with polaroids, there is more diversity. A broader playing field.
Floz Visions: “Raw Beauties” Project was born almost for fun. You created a page on a popular social network that has grown very quickly and led you to the publication of a book and to an exhibition in Amsterdam, at the Wanrooij Gallery2. Did you expect such a positive reaction? And what does “Raw Beauties” mean for you?
Han Boersma: I started this project out of pure passion, and people loved the idea straightaway. This gave me the strength to persevere with it. Which meant months of little or no sleep, trying to overcome all the problems related to such a project with hundreds of artists involved. I finally settled for just 66. There was so much energy generated that interest in the project snowballed and it achieved more than a thousand likes on Facebook within a matter of days. I expected a positive reaction, but nothing like this.
I have an old friend, Martijn Wanrooij, who has a large gallery in the middle of Amsterdam. We got to know each other via the art business and painting restoration worlds. He felt the energy of my project and we decided to have an exhibition in his gallery. The opening of ‘Raw Beauties’ was amazing. Happily there’s a great video of the event3, which can be seen on Vimeo and my website. If it wasn’t for that video I would have to pinch myself to remember it actually happened!
Floz Visions: Currently, “Raw Beauties” includes 66 authors from all over the world, and you asked them for two photos each. Why two, and not one or three?
Han Boersma: I started collecting polaroids some years before I started the project. I began with two photos by each artist. I like the feeling of ‘pairs’. If you have two, the one can make the other one stronger. It can provide the artist with a nice challenge too. Diptychs are of course common in classical art; you might have summer and winter landscapes meant to be viewed together as one work. I missed this approach in other polaroid artbooks, to be honest. If you have two good polaroids from one artist, it means he or she is probably not seven-day wonder. So in this project there are some pairs which function as diptychs, but there are also a few collages made out of two or three polaroids. The pair thing was a basic guiding principle which grew out of the way I collect polaroids, I guess…
Floz Visions: The basic subject is the (erotic) nude. Why this specific choice? After all, it is a rather exploited and at the same time controversial subject. An example is the introduction to your book by Professor John Wood4 that defines erotic art in such a witty way. He also cites an interesting motto of Terentius5 that says: “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto” (“I am a human; nothing that is human is alien to me”).
Han Boersma: Many themes crossed my mind initially. But I wanted to narrow the theme down and as art nudes are one of my favorite subjects, it was not hard to go for that. I tried to show different aspects of theme: the classic, the erotic, the funny, the brilliant, and so on.
As for the artistic nude being exploitative or controversial, it is after all one of the oldest types of image in the history of art and humankind. All the way back to the Venus of Willendorff6. I think responding viscerally to the nude figure is part of people’s genetic make-up, a basic need to shut down the prefrontal cortex in order to be attracted to one another and multiply our species. But I would like to emphasize that in my project I want to adress both the senses and reason. If I have failed in my endeavours … let me carry on where Terentius left off, “Errare Humanum Est”.
Floz Visions: Looking at every single image, I have the feeling of a photographic art that satisfies the senses rather than the mind. An art with a strong primordial energy that pummels and disturbs from below because reason is not in control.
Han Boersma: In my previous answer, I have already referred to the role of the prefrontal cortex, so we have covered the biology. Let me approach this question with a bit more focus on the format of the project. There are individual images I consider too erotic, but I have selected each one for its artistic value. Each polaroid is a part of the total theme and as such helps to define the outlines of the project and its theme. So for instance the Hello Kitty frames and the nudes by Tomi Knox are needed to make a broader view of the subject possible. ‘Artistic worth’ remains the principal criterion in every choice I have made, however.
Floz Visions: I guess you’re aware that some images will bother some people. Aren’t you worried that it might look like a mere provocation?
Han Boersma: The book is small, and is meant to feel intimate. Just like the polaroids themselves. This is what the project is based on. Small and intimate, so no-one needs to feel provoked. You can easily look the other way and ignore it, if you want to.
Floz Visions: How do you envisage the evolution of this project? You have already published a book for Galerie Vevais Editions7 in 2014. Do you have a second volume in mind?
Han Boersma: I did, and from time to time still do. There are so many polaroid artists out there wanting to be part of a Raw Beauties part 2. Amongst them are some well-known artists, which would certainly give a next edition a great boost. But the first edition cost me so much on so many levels that I would certainly think twice before undertaking a second edition. To run a project like this costs more energy than people realize. Perhaps a tribute book could be produced. Many internationals artists have created photographs of a model with the book. Some of the photos are beautiful. Watch this space!
Floz Visions: Last question: any new project in the bag?
Han Boersma: I always have projects running round my head. But for now I’m trying to relax and focus on the important stuff in life, like my family. Anyone who has ever tackled a project like this on their own knows the stresses and strains it places on family, wife and kids. So now it’s their time. But I would never say never ……..
I am supporting other projects, however, like the Polaroiders’ Book “Naked Woman” #18, curated by Alan Marcheselli and Carmen Palermo9. They asked me to write the introduction to their book and to contribute two original polaroids. I am proud they asked me to support their beautiful new enterprise.
And last but not least, the Raw Beauties project has found a partner and official Raw Beauties dealer in Steven Vijverman. His photo lab ‘Beeldmakers’ (‘Image Makers’) is certainly one of the best in Belgium. He started his gallery in Aalst (near Brussels), where the original Raw Beauties are permanently housed. Check out his website for more info: www.grabyourart.com
Floz Visions: Thank you Han, it has been a real pleasure.
 Gallery “Raw Beauty”, Sonsbeeksingel 111, 6822 BJ Arnhem, The Netherlands www.rawbeauty.nl
 “In the Brave and Loving Eye of Hokusai” pp. 8-15
 Publius Terentius Afer 195b.C.-159b.C.
 Venus of Willendorf known also as the Woman of Willendorf (about 28,000 and 25,000 BCE. It was found in 1908 during archeological excavations near Willendorf, in lower Austria.
 Polaroiders Selection “Naked Woman #1. Only available outside of Italy via the Gallery “Raw Beauty” webshop and gallery or
© Floz Visions 2015
In order of appereance thanks to:
Raw Beauties Polaroid Project
Ed Ross # Alan Marcheselli # Dieter Schmitz # Martial Lenoir # Martin Wieldraaijer # Penny Felts # Philippe Bourgoin # Robert Hutinski # Simon Larbalestier # Tomi Knox # Viola Lorenza Savarese # Vlad Kenner # Zsuzsanna Reisinger.
Arno Lafontaine # Carl Chen # Fabrice Mabillot #Jacqueline Roberts #
Martial Lenoir # Pasquale Salerno Alessandra # Pavel Titovich # Pawel Kufel # Radoslaw Pujan # Renata Mlynarczyk # Steve Lease # Susan de Wit # Zsuzsanna Reisinger # Julie Leon # Matei Stefan Hablinschi #Penny Felts.
“ Raw Beauties” Event
Freshmen Media for the video “Portfolio – Raw Beauties – a Polaroid Project”.
Photos: Menno van der Meulen
© copyright by their respective creators