Interview by Currant Magazine 11-2021
Astrid was interviewed by Amsterdam based Currant Magazine for their second book release: THRIVE. In 7 spreads she tells about her practice and new series in progress "Human//Nature", working in a post-pandemic world and the influence it had on her photography.
Currant books are published biannually in May and November, and aims to analyze the emotional shifts of our time and seek to find meaning behind trends, style and aesthetics. Online and in print, currant strives to be immersive and impactful, and like to challenge the traditional norms of storytelling. This issue is an anthology of stories representing the pivots and shifts that mark our present time and our recovery towards a better tomorrow.
Retreating - with Astrid Verhoef
Fine art photographer Astrid Verhoef is known for her iconic images that exude a sense of calm and surrealism. They make you want to disconnect from the world and retreat into nature for a moment.

On: The positive of the Pandemic
"Because of the pandemic practically everybody was forced to put their regular lives on hold. Hit the pause button so to speak. I think that’s not such a bad idea for people living in career driven societies, being able to take time to count our blessings and revaluate the way we live.
The most immediate change for me was that I had to cancel my travel plans. Instead of going on a 2 month trip to Australia to make new work, I couldn’t leave and had to stay home. I had done a lot of work in The Netherlands before, but usually the unpredictable weather is something that drives me abroad to do longer stretches of work in my photography.  Luckily we had a fantastic summer in 2020, and I could enjoy the beautiful Dutch landscape with my camera and new ideas. Regarding the content of my work I think the pandemic has only strengthened my believe in the importance to explore our connection to nature."

On: A good Photograph
"Art is one of the most subjective things in the world, so it’s always hard to determine what makes a good fine art photograph. However, I think it should at least cause an almost physical effect of keep wanting to look at it for whatever reason. But what is more important to me is that an image provides a framework of an idea and leaves room for interpretation. Personally I think that it should ask a question rather than provide an answer, and with that trigger the imagination of the viewer. This way something unique happens between the artwork and each individual beholder."

On: Creating
"Creating is always a very personal and emotional process. The experience of creating can sometimes be even more valuable than the end result, all my photographs are cherished memories as well.
For me it is important to create from a place of freedom: to cast away all distractions and incentives that our daily lives are filled with, and find intrinsic values in the natural world. To be able to create your own reality from a place of ultimate freedom, which is the imagination.
Most of my work has to do with the connection between humanity and nature, and after each series something has changed in that connection that leads to the next. For example the series “Urbanite” focusses mainly on the contrasts between a city dweller and the landscape it is portrayed in. Whereas “Inscapes” shows a search for connection in a less obvious metaphorical way. For the series I am working on now, “Human//Nature”, I tend to move more to the desire for synergy. This all may sound very well planned, but that’s not entirely true. I like to work in an intuitive way, to create from a free state of mind within a framework of an idea. Then try to listen to what the idea or image is revealing, and work from there to the next."

On: Space
"It’s important to me that ideas come from a world of possibility, to be able to create in a state of mind with as much freedom as possible and engulf in unlimited imagination. So I am glad to hear that you experience this in my work. I guess the spaciousness has the same origin as the decision to shoot in black and white. To strip away all possible distractions, maybe in the same way tried to eliminate countless incentives and distractions by travelling to these secluded areas. It seems to demand a strong focus on composition and content. It can strip a scene to its bare minimum and by doing so expose the core of things."

On: Surrealism
"It’s absolutely true that I like to add surreal elements to my photographs, they are like glimpses of the subconscious where the rules of reality do not apply. What I love about surrealism is that it shows us things that go beyond our understanding of reality and creates possibilities. It’s important to see possibilities in life, and we need imagination to be able to do that. Of course I would also like to invite the viewer to reflect on their own relationship with nature, but would never want to force any ideas or concepts into the viewers minds. It is all up to them what they see or how they perceive these images. So I hope to at least invite the viewer into their own imagination by welcoming them into mine."

On: Living in a Post Pandemic World
"The pandemic of course, had a profound impact on all of us. Suddenly our lives changed dramatically  not knowing if it will ever return to normal. I think what I missed most were the embraces of loved ones and friends. Also many work related activities, such as exhibitions and some commissioned work, were cancelled or postponed.
Still, I consider myself to be very lucky. I was able to do most of my work in the National Parks and beautiful landscape The Netherlands has to offer. As for how it has affected my work, I guess it mostly intensified. It taught me to make no mistake: the control we think we have over our lives only extends to length that nature allows us to enjoy. And even though it is not easy and if we don’t always see it, there is so much beauty and valuable experiences to be found in letting go of that control. Sometimes I feel like we are so busy trying to chase happiness that we’ve become blind to the possibility that it could be right in front of us, or better yet: inside of us. I’m not saying this is true for everybody, but I do think it is a question worth asking. Anyway, if nothing else and especially now, I hope that my work can provide a silent moment, to retreat into and enjoy a place of peace and beauty."

On: Balancing Work & Life
"This will always be a challenge, especially because art is such a personal matter that it can be hard to separate the two. Also there is the odd hours, sometimes working a deadline at night or shooting in the weekends. Practically every ‘vacation’ is all about photography. Thankfully my family and friends understand how this works. But still it’s very important to be able to put work aside and make time for all the other important things in life. Sometimes that is no problem at all and I can enjoy time off when others cannot and at other times work can be just a little bit too much. It’s a balance that always needs to be managed and there is no manual to help you how to do that. I guess the key is to be vigilant, realize that there is always more to life, and be sure to make time to live it."​​​​​​​
​​​​​​​Currant book THRIVE, 36 chapters of photography, poetry and short stories, 240 pages on refinded bio-degradable paper. Aavailable at MENDO Books, Athenaeum Bookstore & 
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