Simone Henken Photography
Visual story teller
A cook book
The Municipality of Amsterdam wants to get rid of gas and decides to put together a cook book with recipes prepared by residents, with fun information for inspiration and photography that is accessible and to fancy or 'arty'.
I went to visit Canan to shoot Turkish pisi, Khalid cooked Iranian Dolmas.
I was welcome in many kitchens and got to know new ingredients and after the photo session we ate everything with taste.
Soon I had a collection of tablecloths with prints that reflected the cultural background of the residents. My collection of plates and cutlery grew and I adapted to the color of the dishes because not everyone had photogenic crockery. I learned to store ingredients separately and use them as garnishes. I photographed details and prints of fabrics that the graphic designer could use again.
It was a challenge to photograph the dishes - which were prepared by the people themselves and therefore not by a culinary stylist - in such a way that they still looked appetizing, because one-pan dishes quickly become an indefinable gunk. But too much styling was not to prefer, it had to not be a slick advertising photo. The people must of course recognize themselves in it.
Young and promising
When I came to live in the Bijlmer (Amsterdam), I was surprised by the colourful, diversity of the population. I regularly spoke to young people on the street and made an appointment to photograph them at home.
Like with Elionora from Ghana. an expressive child. We decided that she would put on her prettiest dress that her mother sewed for her. She felt so pretty and started to dance on the couch as it was her stage.
And then Urvin. The background corresponds to his tattoos on his arm. It's a mattress. Suddenly I saw the similarety.
With the Moroccan Emine I knew that the net curtains would form a perfect background. Due to the softly incident light and the belly dance-like shape of the mirror image, the photo breathes the mysterious atmosphere of a city like Marrakesh. Just in a girl's room in the Bijlmer.
A fascinating picture of young people in the Bijlmer Amsterdam.
Zaans Medical Center
An entirely new hospital is under construction. There are scaffolding everywhere, workmen are walking around, there is cardboard on the floor to protect the it. Three photos must be taken from this location to give the Zaan region an impression of their new hospital before it opens.
The photos have to do justice to MECANOO's architecture, where light and spaciousness is so important. The photos should also give an idea of who the hospital is intended for. It should show a cross-section of the population.
An exciting and intricate puzzle. We make a preliminary study of the space and print test photos to determine the right angle and crop. Because the hospital is still under construction and there are no patients or staff yet, we have to stage it. An important principle is that the doctor/patient relationship is positive and avoids the cliché of the needy patient and the doctor who knows everything.
We make a list of people and events that can take place; a doctor talking to a pregnant woman, a Turkish lady being picked up by family, nurses walking around. We place them in the sketches. When everything has been determined and approved, a crucial moment follows.
The photoshoot. All building materials have to be put aside, the construction workers cannot get to work this day. The models are real people and not actors and must be given clear stage directions. They are scheduled on a tight schedule. The doctor only has 15 minutes. It's stressful because there's no room to do it over. It's a logistical powerhouse. but with good planning and clear coordination, the job is done.
Portraits of the managers had to reflect the identity of Stausscoffee; jacket but no tie. Informal and approachable.
And of course a reference to the product, coffee.
The background turned cappuccino brown. Somewhat 'cloudy' as if the milk had to be stirred through. It brings movement and a subtle dynamic.
The choice of light playfully refers to glamor photos from the 1950s. The managers are Strausscoffee's ambassadors, giving them a touch of 'star status
Every month I photographed Daphni to portray her attempt to lose weight.
She wears bathing suits to accentuate her figure and the chair with the ultra thin legs supports her body effortlessly and seems to ignore her weight completely, as if she were floating. Her poses refer to models from a fashion magazine, are powerful and self-confident.
This series is strong conceptually an visually, The bright colors, styled hair and staged pose reflect the glamor and excitement of high fashion, Hollywood's golden age and pin-up portraiture.
It is clear the outcome of these sessions diverged from the initial objective.
However the unexpected outcomes ultimately becomes the strength of these series. Daphni is unashamedly presenting herself to be photographed, simultaneously embraces her body and makes herself vulnerable to the viewers.
This is a beautiful thing.
Published in NRC
The 'babies' these mothers carry in their arms are indistinguishable from the real thing and yet they are dolls.
Their care and love for their 'child' is touching but also somewhat astonishing, for it is a latex and cloth doll that is surrounded with all care as if it were a flesh and blood baby.
My instruction: "Put the doll in the basket" was answered with an ice-cold silence. "It's not a dog" I was reprimanded. "Excuse me, put the baby in the crib."
It illustrates how deep and authentic their feelings are.
The women are photographed in front of a background stripped of any environment. This way all the attention comes to the way they show their great love holding, cuddling, taking care of and looking lovingly at.
Published in Volkskrant