The Meijburg Art Commission: Interview With Elspeth Diederix

by Unseen June 19 2017

Dutch photographer Elspeth Diederix won the Meijburg Art Commission in 2016, allowing her to produce an artwork for the Meijburg art collection. She lives and works in Amsterdam, where she spends most of her time surrounded by plants and nature, in her garden. 

What were your initial ideas for the Meijburg Art Commission? How did the project develop?
First of all, I went to see the Meijburg & Co. office space and the area where my project would be displayed. When I arrived, I was immediately drawn to their office garden and ended up spending most of my time there. Since my existing work primarily features flora and fauna, I began developing a project that facilitated a gradient transition between the inside and the outside of the office, photographing subject matter from Meijburg & Co.’s own outdoor space. The office has very high ceilings, that's when I decided to make long prints. I am currently working with a leaf from a Calathea plant, which turns bright pink when it is lit from behind. I might also try to incorporate some flower buds and other fragments, but for now my focus is on the leaves.


What first inspired you to work more with natural elements like flowers?
I have always been interested in nature as a subject, and before becoming a mother I used to fuel this inspiration while travelling. Experiencing new places and landscapes is what prompted this interest in nature, but when I acquired my studio, I was immediately fascinated by its accompanying garden. I started photographing the flowers and plants, and they reminded me of travelling because they too were constantly changing. Each season fostered a new experience, and this consistent change inspired me. That’s why I started my blog, “The Studio Garden,” and the rest of my work has really taken off from there.

What do you hope to achieve by photographing these ephemeral subjects?
The main message I want to convey with all my work is the importance of observing magnificence in our surroundings. I am passionate about finding the beauty in nature, or in things which might be considered ordinary objects and often go unnoticed. I want my audience to realise the unique qualities of seemingly mundane subjects. I usually only play around with light and composition to re-contextualise what I photograph, and I think this helps reveal the special qualities of what I am photographing.

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How have you been able to reflect on the boundary between imagination and reality in this new work?
I use imagination in this work by making regular things, like leaves, seem otherworldly. As I mentioned, the Calathea plant becomes pink when it’s lit from behind, and I also add other colours to the leaves to alter their original forms. You can’t really tell what’s been done to them at first, but it is a product of my own imagination, which I think is important to integrate into a corporate space.

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What is interesting about the process of a commission compared to developing your own work?
Unlike a lot of other commission ventures, the Meijburg Art Commission is very open-ended, so developing this project has been quite fun. Without this opportunity, I never would have spent time in the office garden and I also never would have thought to create such long prints. The fact that the work has to be created for a particular area in their office was an interesting challenge rather than a restriction—it was a sort of puzzle that I had to figure out creatively. I usually avoid commercial work because of the limits it puts on artistic freedom, but the Meijburg Art Commission gave me the chance to experiment unlike usual commercial briefs.

Your work has been on show at Unseen Amsterdam for the past few years. What has this meant for your career?
It has always been a pleasure to show my work at Unseen Amsterdam, since it exposes my projects to a broader international photography-based audience. My work is primarily based in Holland, and finding ways to connect with other artists and a bigger audience is always beneficial. My other project, The Miracle Garden, also connects me to people from all over the world through my Instagram account. There I document the process of designing and growing an urban flower garden online. It’s amazing to see all these creatives from across the globe inspiring each other.

Find Elspeth Diederix Online