Jan Stel [1970, Purmerend, the Netherlands] is a self-taught photographer. As a creative person, Jan was a pioneering artist in his youth. He sprayed graffiti murals in the suburbs of Amsterdam and at home he made detailed drawings and realistic illustrations. The analogue photo gear from his father prompted his interest in photography, and inspired him to develop his own creative style.
Jan Stel’s photography is made in pure natural light, no flashlights or studio lamps are used. This authentic working process takes time, sensitivity and the right timing for action. Jan explains his photographic style in this way: “The human eye is far more sensitive than a camera lens and picks up minor as well as major differences in a scene. Because the photo camera is limited in its ability, I capture the image in multiple exposures. The scene my eye has seen in contrast with the part that the camera is unable to pick up is what fascinates me. I want to reassert this sensitivity. I do this by brushing the photographed brackets into a sort of light painting, similar to what the dark room masters and painters of past times used to do”.
ABANDONED & FORGOTTEN - MANMADE / NO HUMAN
It was around 1998 when his fascination for the “Abandoned & Forgotten” started. For almost 20 years now Jan Stel is focussing on capturing the remains of our past glory. It continues to astound him what giant technical constructions several industries have left abandoned. Old craft businesses, antiquated machinery, rusty tools and equipment appear as if they were suddenly turned off and walked away from. Most of these abandoned places have gone bankrupt or were taken over by cheaper working competitors. And what’s the story behind the abandoned private houses? Where personal belongings are left behind as if the last inhabitants could walk in any minute. Richly decorated historic buildings have fallen in decline, forgotten castles which are slowly transforming into ruins. Places that once thrived with life and movement stand silent and void of human life. One of Jan’s motivations for Manmade / no human: “Most people only see decay, vandalism and ruins, but I see much deeper. Silenced by men, it is now the quiet power of Mother Nature that reclaims our men-build world, a desolate and seemingly soulless place but still full of history and life”. In every day life these fascinating places will cease to exist soon and their memories will fade away. Jan captures these characteristic places before they become lost in time. Hopefully some day an extensive restoration for future protection will happen, or perhaps the reconversion into a museum or another place of interest. Until that time we just have to do with the pictures …
In 2011 Jan Stel made his first portraits. They were exhibited at FotoFestival Naarden in 2011.
On 24 September 2016 we published Jan's first book: “Manmade / no human”, during his second solo exhibition in our gallery.