Maarten Wouters is a self-taught studio photographer whose stunning series on pollution in our oceans was inspired by a lifelong love of the water and the understanding that beautiful, secluded places are also hurt by pollution. Maarten has passed his love of the ocean onto his daughter, saying he makes the ocean “our second home during every holiday.” As part of his pollution series, Maarten created a wonderful piece exclusively for Oceanic x Ibiza on July 20th.
Could you tell us a little bit about the custom piece you created for Oceanic? How did you come up with the concept and how did you bring it to life?
Seeing very beautiful places around the globe while snorkeling (and diving, in recent years) it gradually came to me that even the most remote paradises suffer with some kind of pollution. This feeling triggered me to make a photographical series about pollution for one of my clients called Getty Images. Basically, the shots were a combination of studio photography with some underwater photography. Oceanic Co-Founder Lea D’Auriol contacted me when she saw my pollution series and was very enthusiastic about it because it gave the exact message to support Oceanic’s cause. In collaboration with Lea, we decided to make an additional image in the pollution series solely for Oceanic. To strengthen the emphasis that the hour to act is now, we used an hourglass in the image.
How long have you been a photographer? How would you describe your work and your artistic background?
As an advertisement studio photographer, most of my commercial work is in the hands of art directors and very creative individuals. My task is mainly to product their creative ideas by being creative in my problem solving rather than by making my own ideas come to life. Only in my personal work do I tend to show a little of what happens in my mind.
Nowadays I work as a self-taught photographer, mostly inside my studio near Amsterdam. Throughout my 25-year career, I’ve ventured through the entire spectrum of photography, mostly in service of other photographers. I have worked as a photo researcher in a stock agency, been a photographers assistant, and an image retoucher. I gradually kept on filling my backpack with the necessary information before I decided to spread my wings and become a full time photographer.
What is your relationship to the oceans and environment and how has that relationship impacted your work?
Since childhood, my parents always brought me close to nature and sports. My hometown was walking distance from a huge freshwater lake, where windsurfing and sailing were the sports of choice. To my parents’ regret, I was more in and around the water than studying. This is where it became apparent that I would probably have more of an autodidactic career, I guess I was a more hands-on individual than a theoretical one.
My love of the water triggered my interest in oceans across the world. Planning almost every holiday close to the water, I discovered that we lived in a beautiful yet very fragile world. I felt very fortunate to have had parents that taught me to care about and enjoy nature, it felt so natural to pass it on once I became a father. From the age of four, my daughter would come snorkeling with me, the ocean is our second home during every holiday.
How do you find inspiration? How long does a project take and when do you determine it’s complete?
Normally during my work, I get inspired indirectly through the ideas of my clients. Unfortunately, I have quite a busy commercial agenda so finding time to make personal work is often very challenging. Personal projects therefore often lay on a shelf as an idea before they come to life. I tend to find inspiration and creativity for personal work easier once I can step out of the rollercoaster of deadlines that come with my daily routine. Personal projects never take so much time once I start them, but starting them at all seems to be difficult sometimes. I have loads of ideas but limited time. In recent years I did some small exhibitions with the work that did come to life, but most of it ends up in my portfolio.
What reactions would you like people to have to your work and what message do you want them to take away?
I have to be honest that I’m personally quite modest, I’m still very flattered when people tell me that they liked or know my work. Most of the time I do not have a specific message in mind with my work, maybe hidden inside me but not on purpose. However, when my work helps spread a message like the piece I was allowed to make for Oceanic, it really feels very good. Paying it forward feels like earning some extra karma points. I have very much respect for all of the individuals that sacrifice their life and spare time for a good cause like Oceanic, I’m proud to be able to contribute just a tiny bit as well.
See more of Maarten’s work at his website.