This article was published in the online art magazine:
Witte Rook, 03-06-2021.
This is the English translation of the complete text from the original Dutch text by Esther van Rosmalen, journalist.
The sun was shining brightly against a clear blue sky when Betsy Green wanted to capture Zundert's most famous road on film. The old cobblestones of the N638, which Vincent van Gogh walked over on his night-time walk from Oudenbosch, must make way for renovation and safety. Even the preservation of this piece of history was no reason to stop work for a moment. Progress continues without making time for the analogue photographic technique that Betsy practices.
To understand Betsy's work one must look beyond the technique of photography. The camera she works with is from the 19th century, beautifully shaped and finished. She travels around the world with it to faraway places to experience the beauty of what she sees through the lens of the camera. Shooting takes time, experience and dedication to capture the poetry of the moment on light-sensitive film.
"In my method of working, everything plays into the shots; I make the composition on the spot. All I need is my sense of momentum and timelessness. I want to show that intention. Although I start from old-fashioned techniques, it is not a nostalgic look back what I do. I combine more modern choices in photographic material with the classical method. At the time, photography was not yet an artist's material and not comparable to how I use it now to bring about a special look. Like drawing, this camera is also about eye-hand coordination. The camera and I enter into a symbiotic relationship to achieve a unique look, it is an extension of my body and vision."
Betsy calls herself an artist photographer, she photographs like a painter. The camera obscura, as it has been the tool of painters for centuries back, is no stranger to her either.
"I have a passion for art history. I build from this knowledge on the work of my predecessors. How do you get into the past through the eyes of painters? Artists like Breitner, Turner, Monet and Casper David Friedrich, and now Vincent van Gogh. To find out, I even traveled to Rügen, where Friedrich stood. You feel the same dynamic there as is present in his paintings. It's a matter of the sublime. The grandeur and the forces of nature in relation to man. I feel deeply connected to this thought and experience.
Although Betsy had already come to Zundert to make exploratory photos, the landscape here still managed to surprise her. The challenges in the diversity. The magic of the place. She surprised herself despite her baggage of knowledge and method by physically making what was in her head in a short time and hard work.
"It's about the connection to Vincent and his sense of place. His desire to be in the landscape as he described to his brother Theo. In this letter*, Vincent writes: '...I see in all of nature, for example in trees, expression and as it were a soul.' That is what it is all about. I follow his influence, not his footsteps. It is a very simple instruction that I give myself: Go there, look and see what's there. The photographic works I made during my artist in residence period are my interpretation of Vincent's observation of these trees, and my own personal quest."
Copyright Betsy Green 2023