Peter Kool: “I don’t understand what all the fuss is about personal space.”

Peter Kool, 62

Born in the Netherlands, moved to Belgium in 1973. Studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sint Niklaas, Belgium, from 1980 to 1985.

I was born in 1953 in the Netherlands and started working in a restaurant when I was 15, at first as a dishwasher, then as a waiter. In 1973 I crossed the border to marry my Belgian sweetheart and worked in a steel factory for 35 years. I went to the academy of Sint-Niklaas in 1980 a “studied” photography during the evenings and weekends, and graduated in 1985. I never worked as a photographer apart from some weddings on the side. I couldn’t stand the stress to perform, so I stopped doing these kinds of assignments soon afterwards. I also like doing sports; I go to the gym several times a week or go cycling when the weather is good.

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I’m a restless person really and easily bored, so I wander around a lot; no beach chairs for me. Taking pictures during these walks makes it more exciting; an ongoing mission in the quest of singularity and things.

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My favorite places are cities, because that’s where the activity is. The nearest city for me in Belgium is Antwerp. I go there frequently. However, I get more inspiration on my travels, often to Spain and sometimes France or Germany.

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I think that today many photographers have a more expressionistic, creative way of shooting things, in contrast to the old school with a decisive moment in a perfect composition; not that there were or aren’t great photos made that way, of course. Regarding the streets itself they have changed also and photography has to follow, nothing to do about.

I’m not working on a series in street photography. I don’t want to search for specific themes to shoot; each photo has to be a stand-alone and speak for itself.

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I really don’t understand the fuss these days about privacy in the streets. When I look up the word “privacy” in an established dictionary, it says, “the ability to completely be yourself in your own environment.” I don’t think the street is our own private environment. But if people want to be themselves in the streets, go ahead. I don’t mind, I wish they wouldn’t mind me either.

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When I went digital I had problems letting go of the black and white habit, but now I’m not thinking of going back.

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No, I’m very happy I can work digital now. I’d rather work in my garden as opposed to splashing chemicals for hours and hours.

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to be able these days to share your pictures on the internet for people all over the world to see, is the icing on the cake for me. I mean it’s nice to see your pictures hanging on a wall for a few weeks but it’s only for a small number of people to see, and most of them are coming for the free drinks on opening night anyway.

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No, I don’t make money with my photos, but at the same time, I’m not trying to. So if people want to buy a picture please let me know, but wait until I’m 65 years old because now the government will deduct the earnings from my allowance.

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I experience negativity towards street photographers from some people more as frustration and unhappiness under the guise of a violation of privacy. Angry looks are the most and rather frequent negative reactions I get when taking photographs and several unpleasant verbal ones. But sometimes, luckily, I get positive responses too, like a smile or even a “thank you” once. Many people just ignore me and I thank them for that too.

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The only thing I want is to keep on doing what I’m doing and try to make better pictures. I hope my physical condition won’t get in my way, because after a long walk my joints already are starting to squeak. That’s also a reason I do sports, to keep myself in condition and be able to walk with the camera back into the dust where I came from, so to speak. May the Almighty preserve me from a retirement home!

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