This is the fifth and second-to-last installment of my PhotoBomb Series, in which we look at the trope of photographic intrusion and distraction among a selection of contemporary artists.
As I wrote in my Short Imaginary Phenomenology of the Photobomb, Dutch artist Hans Eijkelboom can be considered a photobomber avant la lettre with his 1973 conceptual and performative series, Met mijn gezin (With My Family) and In de krant (In the Newspaper), in which he himself intrudes on the images. We had a nice chat on Zoom about In the Newspaper and a couple of other lesser-known images from his archive.
Federica Chiocchetti: For In the Newspaper, you managed to photobomb pictures of a local newspaper for no less than ten consecutive days, incredibly – how difficult was it to produce this work?
Hans Eijkelboom: Nowadays, it would be very problematic, but at that time it was not so difficult. Every day in the newspaper there was an agenda of what was going to happen the next day: a list of important events, between eight and ten. I would go to all eight/ten events and one of them would work. Also, I listened to the police radio and, as soon as they reported an accident, I would rush to the place with my bike to stand among the public near the accident.
FC: What about the pictures in which you appear that didn’t make it in the newspaper?
HE: They are lost. The problem was that I had to buy them and at that time I was a very poor artist, so it was impossible for me, and now it is a pity that I don’t have them.
FC: Exploring your archive, I found two other images that really caught my attention in terms of how they relate to the notion of the photobomb. The first portrays a protest of students, in which they are all holding placards with a portrait of you, a sort of meta-photobomb, a photograph bombing another photograph…
HE: It was made at the time of the Iron Curtain, for an art festival in Warsaw in 1978. At that time, it was impossible to organize demonstrations there, especially about one person. I wanted to do one in the city center, but finally I had to opt for where the students lived. It is about identity in the context of the communist situation. It was inconceivable to make one person important by demonstrating. People kept asking “who is that?” and thought it was a politician from Warsaw. Instead, it was a portrait of me at that time.
FC: The second one shows you with Joseph Beuys. Is it a photomontage?
HE: Not at all. I was working on the notion of importance, on how you become important if you have photographs with important people. I made two series, one about the political world and one about the art world. In the latter I chose four artists: three important Dutch artists who are now more or less forgotten, and Joseph Beuys.
FC: How did you manage to be in the picture?
HE: It was surprisingly very easy – I called him on the phone, he was very friendly and invited me to visit him at his place in Dusseldorf. I stayed there for half a day; we ate together, we talked and I took some photographs of the two of us.
FC: For some reason, I thought it was a photomontage, given the fame of Beuys; but now I see how it fits more into the category of staged photobomb, as you meticulously planned to be in a picture with him.