HeavenPaul Kooiker(van Zoetendaal, 2012)
Dutch photographer Paul Kooiker’s studies of the female nude invite the viewer into a perpetual dual: a battle between beauty and brutality, the observer and the observed; a spectacle that entices the viewer into a state of overwhelming self-consciousness. Kooiker has been producing photobooks for the past thirteen years, and in that time, one theme has been a constant: his repetitive, sexualised, often playful examination of voyeurism, which he explores with infinite zeal.
Paul Kooiker’s early title, Hunting and Fishing, had his naked subjects fleeing the camera’s lens, the reader becoming the witness in a game of sporting voyeurism. The hunt was on, and we were firmly placed as the merciless stalker, viewing the quarry through the hunter’s scope. In later works, his subjects were located in the studio, and this complex relationship became increasingly menacing. Obsessively intrigued by large Rubenesque women, Kooiker’s faceless subjects inhabit a place that oscillates from the sensual to the unsettlingly sinister, but always visually captivating—a fusion of crime scene documentation, medical photography, erotica and vernacular imagery.
Heaven is a collection of some five hundred Polaroids—an archive that has formed the basis of many of Kooiker’s published works. Presented as a rigid narrative, each spread of Heaven seems to reveal and elaborate on the artist’s process, revealing sub-plots and developing intentions. This experience further highlights the voyeuristic nature of Kooiker’s lens and the ambiguity entwined in his complex vision.
Paul Kooiker’s Heaven entices us into a playful collaboration; anxious of what we’re looking at, we’re forced to discover what has been averted, eliminated and hidden, whilst inquisitively comprehending what we’re actually confronting. Exquisitely produced by master Dutch photobook makers van Zoetendaal, this is a wonderfully seductive and incredibly considered object.