Joost

Joost Vandebrug: Tales Of Innocence And Of Experience

16.02.2016 | Art , Culture , Film | BY:

Photographer and filmmaker Joost Vandebrug does with apparent ease what many struggle with for years: he let’s his intuition guide his art. But not just his art, also his passion, his productivity and ultimately – his success.

He is a man that wears many hats, but each of them seem to fit just fine. A Dutch art director, turned fashion photographer, who then became a documentary photographer and filmmaker, music video director and now kids’ clothing designer – he appears to weave between creative practices seamlessly.

Joost

All images from Cinci Lei by Joost Vandebrug

One of Joost’s most successful projects to date – which is still ongoing – is the Lost Boys series. For half a decade he has been following and documenting the lives of a gang of children who call the streets and tunnels of post-communist Bucharest their home. Over 6,000 photographs turned into a book, Cinci Lei, (which he gutsily got off the ground thanks to a Kickstarter campaign) and more than 120 hours of footage is becoming film-shaped as we speak.

Here, we catch up with Joost to find out how – and why – one man makes all that happen.

Firstly, when and why did you realise that you wanted to make pictures and films?
Although my mum and dad are both photographers, I never really considered it as an option while growing up. I was too busy playing in punk bands and wanting to become a rock star. I guess when that failed, I enrolled into art school, but even there I hardy ever worked through the medium of photography and film. It was only after my internship with Erwin Olaf and a year break from Amsterdam (where I lived at the time), that I came back and made a somewhat conscious decision to ‘be a photographer’.

Joost

All images from Cinci Lei by Joost Vandebrug

You’re described as both a photographer and filmmaker – how does your approach to each differ, if at all? And if you could only proceed with one of them for the remainder of your career, which would it be and why?
My approach in both film and photography is virtually the same, very intuitive. But lets take my Lost Boys series as an example: I have followed this group of street children and their leader Bruce Lee for over five years, and last year I published a book. In the book I have laid out the pictures, carefully of course, protecting the protagonists, and telling the story of how I see the kids, and what it was like for me being with them for all this time. Though choices are predominately made on visual aesthetic.

Now that we are making a feature documentary about the same group, there is much less that I can – and want – to leave to be interpreted by the viewer. I am compelled for it to be an honest, real and correct document of their lives. Although it will still be a poetic film, the choices that I make are not just from a visual perspective but above all they have to drive the story forwards. The devices available to tell the story are also on a completely different level. And although because of my use of small camera’s for example, which resulted in me being an unadulterated part of the story, the film is in the hands of the protagonists. Which is very exciting, but also difficult as I want to protect the protagonists at the same time.

Joost

All images from Cinci Lei by Joost Vandebrug

Can you describe your first serious photographic and film projects, respectively? Can you recall what were you trying to convey with them?
Quite early on, in 2007, I was offered a solo exhibition in FOAM Amsterdam (the photography museum). The exhibition was during fashion week, so they wanted me to make a fashion connection in the work. This work became my first step to combine fashion and documentary. And still today I love to shoot fashion on real people. This can be a documentary project, but also a portrait series with a great artist or musician.

How do you think your work has progressed over the years?
On all levels I got calmer. I used to rush from project to project, making huge leaps from personal work to commercial work. I guess it was important to experiment, so it wasn’t all bad, though nowadays its all come together. My commercial work goes hand in hand with my personal work and I allow myself to dive into my projects much deeper.

Joost

All images from Cinci Lei by Joost Vandebrug

What kind of journeys does your work take you on?
The Lost Boys project opened a whole new world. I am visiting and documenting the lives of young, aberrant and sometimes lost youths everywhere I go. And also, now that I have set up an NGO for the protagonists of the book and film, I am visiting many befriended charities and organisations. It is like an ongoing research and very inspiring to visit all these places where other NGO’s are dealing with similar issues as I went through with the Lost Boys.

Where would you love to shoot, that you haven’t already?
If I think of a place, I usually try and go pretty quickly. But, apart from those kind of research trips, I always go back for longer times to follow up on the people that I have met. Documenting them over longer periods of time. I have no interest in shooting little stories all over the place for the sake of it.

Joost

All images from Cinci Lei by Joost Vandebrug

How did you segue into music videos? Was it something you’d always wanted to do?
The great thing about making music videos is to collaborate with great musicians. So its important for me to feel a strong connection with the artist. My work has always had a connection with music, so once i started using video as a technique, it made sense to shoot music videos.

Is there a music video that you wish you’d shot?
The first that springs to mind is Pink Floyd, Another Brick In The Wall.

Joost

All images from Cinci Lei by Joost Vandebrug

What are you working on right now and in the year ahead?
The biggest ongoing project is of course the feature documentary about Bruce lee and the Lost boys. I have found an amazing supporting team at Grain media who are very dedicated to making this a beautiful film. Its in very safe hands with Katie Bryer (she edited the Oscar-nominated documentary Virunga) who is working on the film full time, so I am able to walk in and out the editing room and thus work on my regular photography and film work as well.

Also, my husband [Tom Eerebout] and I have just launched a kids’ wear label, Jumping Dog which is super exciting. All the pieces are inspired on adventure and interactiveness with the wearer, but best of all with the profits we are 100% funding the Cinci Lei project.

To find out more about Cinci Lei, Joost’s documentary or Jumping Dog visit joostvandebrug.com

All images from Cinci Lei by Joost Vandebrug – buy it HERE

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