Meet Carolien Sikkenk, a Dutch photographer with a passion for portraits. Carolien’s chameleonic work covers a diverse range of settings and styles, with past work being featured in magazines, advertising campaigns and exhibited around the world.
We caught up with Carolien to talk about her latest exhibition, ‘BOLD’ which will be exhibited in collaboration with our official charity partner, Think Pink (located between booths E7 and C10) at Affordable Art Fair Brussels, 15 – 17 March, Tour & Taxis.
Meet photographer carolien sikkenk
You specialise in portrait photography – what sparked your interest in this area?
I’m a people person. I love interacting with people. Photographing people is like dancing together. If one dancer is out of sync, it’s not going to work. You need to work together in the moment to create a really good portrait, and I like this surprise element of portrait photography.
Who has been the biggest influence on your work?
Luckily, I come from a creative family so was always surrounded by art. When I was a photography student one of my teachers was the famous Dutch photographer Paul Huf who was a huge influence. With every photograph I take, I can clearly remember his words: ‘Even a blade of grass is very interesting if you use the right light’. Good lighting can make or break the subject you’re photographing.
What was the inspiration behind ‘BOLD’, the series of photographs that will be on display at Affordable Art Fair Brussels?
The inspiration behind BOLD came from a comment my sister Annemiek made. Our family business is in wig making, our father set up the business which my sister has since taken over. One day, after work she came around to my house for dinner. She told me how she had helped a woman that afternoon who had suffered severe hair loss after chemotherapy. She had advised the woman that the best option was to shave her head to get through the hair loss stage, during which she could wear a wig. This made her client very sad and once her head had been shaved, the only thing she could do was look at her reflection in the mirror and cry “I’m so ugly!” My sister however saw her beautiful face and could only think “Wow, you’re so beautiful! I wish you could see yourself through my eyes, even just for a second.” And so Annemiek asked me if there was something that I could do as a photographer. I quickly discovered that once the hair is gone, a different kind of beauty emerges. Other features draw our attention, delicately or strongly outlined cheekbones, cheerful freckles, the shape of the lips, a certain sparkle in the eyes. The hair no longer distracts our attention from the pure beauty of a face. Because you can’t hide behind your hair anymore, the emotions on your face also become more vivid. Photographing these women was a very special quest to capture their beauty, strength, purity and courage.
How did you start to work with THINK PINK?
After some very successful exhibitions in Holland, last summer I took the BOLD exhibition to the Sint Niklaas Church in Ghent and I wanted to team up with a charity partner on the exhibition - and that’s how I met Think Pink. We share the same vision. Think Pink is a really wonderful organisation. They are hardworking, driven, have a hands-on ethic and I love working alongside them. The exhibition in Ghent was really successful and was visited by over 32,000 people over a month. So, we wanted to continue the success in another city in Belgium, preferably Brussels – and luckily Think Pink work with Affordable Art Fair Brussels! It’s been really great working as a team and since Think Pink also works throughout Europe we are making plans to tour the exhibit further and even add more portraits of women from all kind of different countries and backgrounds.
Will your work be for sale at the fair?
Yes, there will be a special photo panel for sale at the Brussels fair which features a double portrait. It’s the same woman photographed during her chemotherapy treatment, when she had no hair, and then photographed again two years later in the same, but mirrored position. When the second picture was taken, she was in remission from breast cancer. Its a particularly emotive piece.
What does a typical day involve for you?
As a photographer my schedule is always different, so I don’t have many ‘typical’ days. I have a studio at home but most of the time my photograph assignments are on location. I also have to spend quite a lot time on the computer to work on post production. When I’m not working, I like being active, walking in nature, doing power yoga, dancing, being with my family and friends and working on new ideas.
Do you collect art?
I love collecting beautiful coffee table photo books of my favorite photographers like Annie Liebovitz, Anton Corbijn, Stephan Vanfleteren, Peter Lindbergh, Horst P. Horst etc. And I have some ceramic art in my home and a beautiful painting made by a dear artist and friend.
What’s been the most memorable moment of your career so far?
When the BOLD exhibit was on display in Holland, and all of the sudden it was in lots of newspapers, on the front page alongside articles about the Americans and Russians. That was kind of surreal. But it’s hard to say what was the most memorable moment of my career, it was really great meeting Sting, for instance, but I appreciate the little moments in-between just as much. It’s not the destination it’s the journey.
To see Carolien’s exhibition, BOLD, visit the Think Pink stand (between booths E7 and C10) at Affordable Art Fair Brussels (15 – 17 March), taking place at Tour&Taxis. To find out more about Carolien’s work, visit expo-bold.com or photoline.nl.
Credit: All photographs courtesy of Carolien Sikkenk, various prices. BOLD double portrait, photograph mounted on dibond with protective finish, no frame required, ready to hang, 100 cm x 100 cm, € 550, all profits will be passed to Think Pink.