about

Sometimes I make my work for public space, other works are with and about photography.
The connection between the two types of work is to be found in the themes of history, (collective) memory, the absence of (photographic) images, seeing, reflection on seeing and its residue: what should be physically present, or, what do we need to see in order to generate a memory? How can an autobiographic memory transform into a collective memory, and what kind of social role plays photography in this process?

I can’t think of another medium what has such an immediate relationship with memory than photography does.
I'm looking for different relationship with the photograph. Usually we look straight through a photograph towards the scene that is depicted. Instead, my work often carries the possibility of making this ‘transparent’ medium receivable itself. So far this notion has resulted in projects like the vernacular photography archive, After Images, Dark Dunes and Retracing.

Right now I am working on a photography project about the Robert F Kennedy funeral train, that rode from New York City to Washington D.C., carrying the dead body of presidential candidate and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, on June 8, 1968.

For the project Afterimages (2002) I invited friends and colleagues who were engaged with memory, language or photography, to write a story. This was the invitation I sent them.

(Also published in The Photographer's Playground, publisher Aperture.
Edited by Jason Fulford and Gregory Halpern, 2014).


Januari 2001, Amsterdam

Dear friend,

We were in a car getting lost in one of Antwerp’s old neighborhoods, trying to find our way back to the ringway. We pulled over for a bit and there I saw them, slowly moving on the pavement: two young girls, identical twins, walking next to each other, their nanny right behind them. The girls each had one eye taped over, the left girl’s right eye and the right girl’s left eye. Together they saw with one pair of eyes, as if to complement each other’s eyesight, as if together they could see with full depth of field. How would they see, and what were they, simultaneously, looking at? Probably not at me, who kept on staring at the girls while the car started moving again, the camera sitting on the dashboard.
Many of us carry a photo in our memory: an event or a moment that we saw but failed to capture in a photograph. Perhaps the camera was out of film or the battery empty, or perhaps the moment was simply too important.
Sometimes such perceived moments haunt you like persistent after-images. These images are fluid, because never recorded. Perhaps these kinds of after-images will lead you to new thoughts and new stories.
With these considerations I invite you to write a story about your untaken photographs. The story might be better than the photograph could ever have been.

Warmest regards,

Rein Jelle Terpstra

After a residency at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten (Amsterdam), I began investigating the relationships between perception and memory, by making slideshow installations and books. My work is held in various collections, including the collection of the SFMOMA (San Francisco), MoMA Library (New York), EYE Film Museum (Amsterdam), Nederlands Fotomuseum (Rotterdam), The Royal Museum of Arts (Brussels), Yale University Library (New Haven), and the Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles). Furthermore, I was nominated for the Dutch Doc Award in 2014, and I teach fine arts and photography at Minerva Art Academy, Groningen (NL).
During the spring of 2017, I undertook a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship in Washington, D.C. to work on the project RFK Funeral Train - The People's View.