Rob never formally studied photography. As a philologist he has always been fascinated by languages and as travel organizer he learned several in practice. This interest gradually expanded into visual languages too, first for the film medium, then shifted to photography. His photography is at the crossroad of documentary, street photography and visual art. For him single photos have a short life, what makes him choose photo series that he often makes during his many travels.
His inborn ethnographic interest led him to focus on people and their emotions. What intrigues him most is how ordinary people, living in poor conditions, never seem to loose their optimism, dignity or ‘savoir vivre’. It is his aspiration to capture the essence of human struggle and joy: their underlying dreams, expectations and feelings. He tries to capture the decisive moment, always steering clear of staging and mise-en-scène. In his opinion staging or manipulating reality isn’t necessary because peoples expressions and appearance in their many possible life conditions is interesting enough.
He prefers his photos to be as finished as possible while taking them, limiting digital manipulation to aesthetic retouching. Approaching people in a respectful manner when taking photographs is top priority for him. One can feel his empathy for the people and places he photographs.
As organizer of walking holidays he travelled a lot in very different authentic communities and cultures, sometimes even entering into uncomfortable situations. So he developed his talent for getting close to people and learned to do it in a respectful way. He is able to capture a range of expressions, eyes and hands being often important elements in his photographs. In the many impromptu portraits of people that he meets ‘on the road’ he is not interested in creating a kind of cabinet of curiosities, but he tries to catch them unaware, pure and honest, preferably when they are entranced in their own thoughts. Religion and human faith play a major part in his work; that’s why he returned to India so many times.
Robs photographs are sometimes in B&W, sometimes in color. In a society where colors are becoming too dominant and distracting, as f.i. in the Hindu and Buddhist world of South East Asia, he prefers often the more graphic B&W version. In many cases B&W better represents the essence of ‘reality’. But in general it is the photograph itself, f.i. lighting and mood, that suggests the direction.