From 3 October to 6 December 2020, the Nederlands Fotomuseum will present photographer Sofie Knijff’s project Translations . For more than ten years, Knijff travelled the world in search of a visual translation of the dream world of children. She asked the children what their dreams were for the future and gave them the freedom to shape this dream character themselves. This resulted in a rich series of portraits of children who see their future selves as, for example, a hunter, a stewardess, a doctor, or a journalist. A large selection of these portraits can be seen from 3 October in the Nederlands Fotomuseum as a projection on the windows, even now that the museum is closed. After sunset, the windows of the museum will lighten up and the dream worlds of many children all over the world will come to life. This way, even in these difficult times, you can still enjoy all the beauty that Dutch photography has to offer. Do you live further away from the museum? Then watch this projection online in the following video clip, in which you see all portraits, accompanied by composition played by violinist Marc Daniel van Biemen, leader of the Camerata Concertgebouw Orchestra.
Video Clip Directing & Recording: Oscar Schenk
Violinist: Marc Daniel van Biemen, “Capriccio” – Simeon ten Holt
“To what extent are children’s dreams influenced by their environment, culture, history, and living conditions?” Knijff wondered. This question was the starting point of her photographic research into the dream world of children—both a universal and very personal phenomenon. Knijff travelled all over the world for ten years. She photographed children in Mali, India, South Africa, Iceland, Greenland, Brazil, the Netherlands, France, Spain, China, Mongolia, and Sri Lanka. She asked children what their dreams were for the future and gave them the freedom to shape this dream character themselves through clothing and decoration. “As soon as the children appeared in front of the camera, I asked them not to play their dream character, but to be it. This transformation is still fascinating to see.” In each country, Knijff used the same neutral background: “By consistently using the black backdrop, the focus shifted to the child’s inner world as I switched off the environment.” During her travels, Knijff observed a number of trends. For example, it turned out that many children in Mali want to become doctors, while in Greenland the children want to work in local stores, airports, or become hunters. This allowed Knijff to conclude that environment, along with social norms and values, play a major role in shaping future dreams.
The hunter (Greenland); The stewardess (Iceland); The teacher (Mali) © Sofie Knijff
At the request of the Nederlands Fotomuseum, Knijff made an installation of her project. In the dark months of October, November, and the first week of December, her work will be projected on the windows of the Fotomuseum. As soon as evening falls, the children’s dream worlds will come to life.
The installation can be seen from the street-facing side of the museum until 6 December, every day from sunset until sunrise even now that the museum is closed. Nacht In / Dag Uit is a project realised by the Nederlands Fotomuseum, in which artworks are projected on the windows of the museum. The public can admire these works any time between sunset and sunrise. With this new ‘exhibition area’, the museum not only offers space to more artists but also reaches the public in a surprising way. The photo installation Translations by Sofie Knijff is the first Nacht In / Dag Uit art project.
The children’s portraits have been gathered together and published in Translations a photo book. The book was designed by Kummer&Herrman and published by Hatje Cantz Verlag. The book contains 50 portraits from the series, together with an essay by Rutger van der Hoeven.
The book launch will take place on Saturday 24 October at the Nederlands Fotomuseum with the participation of Sofie Knijff (photographer), Nadine Barth (Hatje Cantz Verlag), Birgit Donker (Director, Nederlands Fotomuseum), Rutger van der Hoeven (Editor, De Groene Amsterdammer ), Jeroen Kummer (book designer), and Laura Stek (radio and documentary maker). Laura Stek will be hosting a discussion between the guests.
Sofie Knijff (Belgium, 1972) studied at the theatre academy in Maastricht and later at Amsterdam’s Fotoacademie. These two disciplines visibly come together in her work as she combines documentary and staged images. Her work has been exhibited at various museums and photo festivals, including Les Rencontres d’Arles Photo Festival and the NY Photo Festival. Knijff regularly works for d e Volkskrant , NRC , Het Parool
and others, and her work has been published in international media such as The Huffington Post and The New Yorker .