World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 168 - Pete Purnell
In the living room of Pete Purnell three pictures of polar nights hang on the wall, made above the Arctic Circle in the north of Norway, near Tromsø. In two you see the northern lights, Aurora Borealis, with light beams that shoot up like searchlights. At the third you see a mountain lit by the moon. This is his favorite photo.
It is a key work, says Pete. "The photo emphasizes infinity, it shows how insignificant we are here on earth." With some photographs you can clearly see the universe with the galaxy. A friend who is an astronomer pointed out the Andromeda Nebula. It is two and a half million light years from the earth. "It took us that long before we could see it on earth." He delved into the distance from other star groups to the earth, for example the Pleiades. They are 450 light years away from us. "That's 450 years ago. If they could look at the earth from there, they would not have seen Rembrandt walking around, perhaps his father. "
Light of the North
Three consecutive winters, from 2013 to 2015, he has been in Northern Norway. "You have to do something about it. In all cold you have to set up your equipment and press at the right time." But he did it. They have become beautiful photographs. Now he is busy making video films based on the photos with appropriate music. A film (about 15 minutes) is ready. We look at it. The photos are connected to each other with the help of overflows while the images are supported by modern classical music. It has become a real movie. The astronomer, Huib Henrichs, composed the music for it and Ton Schuitemaker provided technical support.
The film has already been shown a number of times, in Amstelveen at the Open Ateliers. "I projected it on the wall in a parking garage under a car showroom. There was a nice atmosphere. The music echoed throughout the room. Later on, I also showed it at my exhibition 'Light of the North' at the WM Gallery in 2016. The onlookers were impressed. Aloys Ginjaar, from the Amsterdam Photographers Night in Cafe Kalkhoven, came out as if he had attended a religious meeting." With the music, it has also become a new work. He is now making a new video.
Another key work is a photo on which Leonard Cohen thanks the audience after a concert. Kneeling, head bowed and his hat in his hands. The photo of his last concert in Europe was made on 20 September 2013. Pete has been to many Cohen concerts. The first time was in 1974 in the Jaap Edenhal in Amsterdam. Then the photos were black and white and analogue. Then in 2012 and 2013 photos in color of performances in Amsterdam, Ghent, Antwerp and Bournemouth. "At the last concert in Amsterdam, we were sitting in a row in the middle, I gave a present to Cohen. It was a book with photos of me about the favorite colour, 'My colour'. In the beginning of the book I wrote something: 'Thank you for everything'. I never spoke to him personally, but I did with one of his singers, Sharon Robinson. An American publisher / fan has made a book with stories and photos of fans on the occasion of his 80th birthday. There are photos of six photographers, more than a quarter of them are mine. "(Https://bookstore.weeva.com/products/letters-to-leonard-cohen-book). Pete also cooperates with the site https://cohencentric.com/. "I agreed when they should want to use photos of me from Cohen."
Pete Purnell is not commercial. "On the portfolio photographers evening in Arti et Amicitiae I showed my picture of the mountain with moonlight. 'WOW' was the reaction. A week earlier I had the same reaction to Leonard Cohen's photo with hat. Twice 'WOW' within a week, that counts for me.”
There is a third key work, or key series, in the series 'Closed Doors'. The photos were taken in Northeast Germany, not far from the island of Rügen, in the former GDR area. They are closed doors, with weeds and even a tree in front, doors that no longer open. At the last door of the series the door is gone and you see a mortuary-like room. "I showed the series at the Open Ateliers in de Baarsjes. I heard in a different row the comments from two ladies who walked by. 'Very moving' was the reaction. An Indonesian friend even had to take away a tear. She felt 'the silent force'. On another day, a man walked past the series and returned after the third of the 12 photos. He could not look at it. "
Pete appreciates it when people respond to his work. "That way I communicate with people. Someone who looks at one of my portraits must have a feeling of affinity with the person portrayed." It also has to do with the fact that Pete originally comes from England, Gosport near Portsmouth in the south of the country. “Although I have mastered the Dutch language well, it remains a foreign language. I feel that sometimes I speak a little confused. It is easier to convey something photographic. Something that is on a photo is not in dispute. "
Pete Purnell started photography when he was a teenager and still lived in England. "I had a black and white camera, very cheap, I had my negatives developed at the pharmacy. My neighbor turned out to have a darkroom, in a closet. I then printed my photos there. The quality was not that good. They were mostly holiday photos. In the nineties I did photo courses at De Moor, later the Amsterdam Center for Photography. I had lessons in portrait photography by Koos Breukel and Annaleen Louwes. From Siebe Swart and others, I learned a lot about printing, working with barite paper and assessing photos. That way you slowly get into the photography world. Everything still was black / white and analogue. In the end I had a big enlarger, which suddenly became very cheap." Around the turn of the century, Pete switched to digital.
He often participated in group exhibitions in the context of Open Ateliers in De Baarsjes, Amsterdam. At Gallery WM he portrayed the exhibiting artists for the archive. See: http://gallerywm.com/WP/petes-portraits-2017/. In 2009 he participated in an art contest on the occasion of the Hudson Year, 400 years Henry Hudson Amsterdam / New York. He made a portrait of the American art critic Daniel Gould as Henry Hudson, complete with millstone collar and black hat. "A Puritan hat, but it can also be a cowboy hat." He won the second prize.
We are still looking at a special photo, 'No Title, No Saddle'. A horse is completely wrapped up, including his head. In addition, a brown horse is turning on his back. The photo was made in 2006. "First the packed horse was alone, the other horse came running and lay down on his back. It seemed like he was laughing at the other horse. It had something alienating and scary." The photo is included in the photo book" The living Other", (2009) a book about how people deal with animals, composed by Ata Kando, Diana Blok and Sacha de Boer.
1) Mountain in the Moonlight, 2) Aurora, Green Lake, 2015, 3) Aurora, 5 x Green, 2015, 4) Aurora, Green ribbon, 2015, 5) Leonard Cohen - A'dam 1988, 6) Leonard Cohen - Bournemouth, 2013, 7) Leonard Cohen - A'dam, 2013, 8) Heli-Moon, 2015, 9) Felicia, 2011, 10) Fleur Ouwerkerk, 2016, 11) Marina Chernikova, 2012, 12) Piet, 13) Dan Gould as Henry Hudson, 2009, 14) Pete Purnell