From te publication
Anyone who looks at Ruud van Empel’s photographic works immediatly feels alienation. It is not like looking through a window at an actual situation that we could experience in everyday life, but at something that is at odds with it. His photographs are not obeservations of reality, of what ‚real’ people are or what they do, somewhere in a landscape or environment where the photographer is also present. Realism and people of flesh and blood are absent from his work.
Van Empel builds his images seated at a computer, by cutting thousand of little pieces and tiny parts ( which he photographed separately with a digital camera) from images files and assembling them. He skillfully uses a stylograph behind the scenes; he reduces, magnifies, straightens, retouches and adjusts. He sticks a sweater and long trousers under a head in a little figure and changes the colour or the background as he wishes. A face can have the eyes, the chin, the hairline of four or five different ‚real’ children. He makes a photo collage that approaches reality but at the same time remains far from it: the child he photographed in his studio has changed beyound recognition. According to Van Empel this is why the collage may not be about a specific child.
We find ourselves in a dream world, inspired by Van Empel’s memories of his childhood and by photographs he has collected over time. He brings together things that exist separately, just as the decor of his parents’ houses. This creates a strange, surrealistic image which only clings to reality at a distance.
Van Empel comes from the world of television, where he built sets, including for the Dutch absurdist children’s series Theo & Thea, and for productions by the director Michiel van Erp. He gained wider recognition with his series World and his work has been shown in the Netherlands and abroad. In 2016 the photographer gifted four works to the Rijksmuseum, including Reflection (pp 82-83) and work from his well-known World series (p.81)
-Mattie Boom, Curator Photography Rijksmuseum Amsterdam