Josje van Stekelenburg’s photographs are like visual ASMR

Leaving this door open to abstract interpretation developed from Josje feeling like “all the images I took at that time were really claustrophobic,” the photographer tells It’s Nice That. Looking for ways to allow her photographic focus to breathe, she found that “zooming in on things to reveal textures, lines and colours that are otherwise lost in the overflow of information,” is a way to offer visual suggestions to the viewer. It’s an approach that she also finds more enjoyable, like when the “subject is less defined by its surroundings [it] becomes a thing on its own. I want to stimulate the senses, she adds.” I need it to be expressive.”
While studying at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague, photographer Josje van Stekelenburg found that students were steered to think about the medium through the framework of a series. While this pushed Josje to “work thematically”, as well as offering opportunities of “focus to research and reflect”, the intuition she felt as a creative was often pushed aside. Developing her style mostly within the documentary genre, Josje now combines this approach with a want to hunt for detail and meaning in photography. The result is a unique body of work that hints at a possible narrative while remaining abstract, encouraging the viewer to interpret her works as they see fit.
The thinking behind her photographs can be spotted in each piece, whether it’s a wider thematic series or a singular image. Evoking a particular feeling is also a favourite task of the photographer’s, stating how: “Sometimes an image is just an image and that’s enough.” Being involved in a process was something Josje felt “was looked down on a lot” while studying, so her ability to communicate so much in just one shot really displays her craft as a photographer. For example in Apothesis Apophenia Echo, Josje photographs a still glass of water with such precision you could interpret it a thousand different ways. Carefully orchestrated, it features a tall glass of water sitting a top a surface so fluffy it could be a fleece. The texture creates a red backdrop which, at first, appears to reflect in the glass, until you look closer and see several colours, from a dark purple, a grey mist and an almost neon green swirling inside. A possible narrative is then furthered by the actual surface of the water, rippling from some unknown source.