© Bert Teunissen

© Bert Teunissen


Convention has it that the photographic road trip is the exploration of unchartered territories – whether geographical or personal – that promises some measure of freedom and escape from the routines of daily life. It is axiomatic that the view through the side window is of more interest than the road ahead, and that the photography starts when the driving stops. Bert Teunissen’s On the Road suggests that these are conventions we can dispense with. The trick, it seems, is to stay in the car, look straight ahead, and always keep at least one hand on the wheel.


Teunissen is best known for the award-winning Domestic Landscapes series, and it was while researching and photographing that Europe-wide work that he began to conceive subsidiary projects


© Bert Teunissen

He explains, ‘Doing the Domestic Landscapes pictures I was away from home a lot for a long time, and that can be very, very lonely. Traveling to Bulgaria for instance is a three day journey just to get there, and then the work starts. But three days in your car – that’s a trip on its own. Traveling through a country where you’ve never been before and meeting all these people and seeing all these things… I felt like I needed to do something with that experience. I couldn’t just do it and only go for the Domestic Landscape and then come back home with nothing to show for where I’ve been.’

‘Especially since 2002 (when I really started to work on the Landscapes) I’ve been taking photographs on the side – so to speak – of lots of things that I come across by accident: little still lifes in people’s homes; portraits in the streets; sometimes just very abstract images, shadows or forms, that I happen to see. It’s like a translation of my personal state of mind at the time. After coming home I have been editing the material and composing little travelogs, or photo diaries from the trip. Sometimes the images are pure, abstract images. Anything can catch my eye – it’s just the joy of looking and the joy of taking pictures.’


© Bert Teunissen

‘Also I started doing it for my family – to be able to show them where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing, all the things that happened to me. It’s a big story which I needed to be able to tell and the travelogs were the perfect way of doing that. So far I’ve produced eleven of them, and with designer Eric Kessels have made a dummy of ten books, boxed, which Aperture is looking at.

‘On the Road is my self-produced, newsprint introduction to the travelogs, a way of giving them a starting point. I figured that the trips that I’ve been making for the project are interesting in themselves; so On the Road is solely about the traveling I’ve been doing for the project. I’ve been shooting from behind the steering wheel, through the windscreen, every time the road in front of me caught my eye.’

‘And I’m interested in repetition – you’ll find that in my travelogs as well – lots of sequences of images. For instance, in one there’s a series of the sun coming into my hotel room and throwing a shadow of the TV set on the wall. But it’s a setting sun – so I would take further images of the same scene, with a few seconds in between, so you see the fading of the shadow on the wall.’


© Bert Teunissen

‘When it came to the editing and sequencing, I printed them out and spread them on the table or floor; and you start seeing connections between two images – that’s how I do it. It’s really just playing around. We’ve got a lovely word in Holland for it – I’ve been looking for a translation but I can’t find it – it’s called bildrijm. “Bild” is image and “rijm” is rhyme, as in a poem. The single image is sometimes, like…nothing; it doesn’t tell you anything. But in combination with another one, it can become a story. And editing On the Road wasn’t hard. I just started looking at the material from all these years, and I came up with sixty seven interesting road shots. When I’m in the car I always have this little point-and-shoot camera within reach. It’s an Olympus Pen – which I got on the internet for a couple of bucks – a half frame camera which make 72 shots on a 36 roll of film. So whenever I see something I shoot it.’


‘I’ve been doing it for years. It’s the joy of looking. That’s what it is for me.’




On the Road – a Domestic Landscapes travelog, publ Bert Teunissen, Huizen, 2008

$35 / euro 25.


Available on foto8.com/bookshop