IT TAKES ME A WHILE TO PUT my finger on what’s unusual about Ivo Kerssemakers’ photographs. His photos of Botany Bay are perfectly still. There are no people, no birds, no ripples on the water. When I see his city photographs of London and Amsterdam, I get even more curious. How has he captured the Westminster Bridge without any people in the shot? Here is Tower Bridge, Vauxhall, Brighton Pier—completely empty. In Kerssemakers’ photos time stands still. He has captured extraordinary environments without all of the movement and chaos that normally distract us from their beauty. How does he do it?
It isn’t magic. It’s long exposure. Kerssemakers uses a special filter on his camera that filters out light. Then he exposes the film in a way that records the scene over a period of about four minutes. Everything that moves, such as people, birds, waves, clouds and cars, disappears.
Long exposure makes water look foggy or like a mirror. Clouds take on dramatic streaks. “Long exposure lets you transfer the normal landscape into a surrealist landscape,” Kerssemakers says. “For example, that’s how the Westminster Bridge is empty in my photographs. The exposure is so long that people, cars and anything else that moves don’t have time to record.”
A native of the Netherlands and resident of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, Kerssemakers has always had an interest in photography. When he started exploring long exposure photography, it became an important part of his life. Then, as his technique developed, he started winning awards. Recently, his work took first place at the Florence Regional Arts Alliance and third place at the Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival in Huntington Beach, both in South Carolina. He won an Emerging Artist Grant at Piccolo Spoleto, has exhibited at the Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Exhibition, and has been an ArtFields participant.
Kerssemakers uses a Nikon D810 and a Hasselblad X1D II camera to create his work, but he says long exposure can be done with any kind of camera. “I am always drawn to nature, and I am really attracted to old architecture,” he says. “I keep an eye on the weather and the light. I have certain places that are my favorite, and I go at different times of year.” Some of his favorite places are Bull Island, Botany Bay, Lake Moultrie, Lake Marion, the coast, and Pawleys Island. His long exposure photos make these special places seem untouched by humans.
Because he is extremely picky about paper and canvas, the artist prints his own work on a large-format printer. For canvas prints, he uses pure cotton Hahnemühle Cézanne.
After printing on canvas, Kerssemakers lets the ink dry for 24 hours, then sprays it with a protective coating that protects against UV rays and scratches. Then he stretches the canvas on hardwood stretchers that will never warp. “The great thing about canvas is it is light and easy to hang, and you don’t have any glare from glass,” he says.
Fine art paper shows a little more clarity and detail than canvas, which is a preferable option for some. To frame a print under glass, he uses archival-quality Epson legacy fiber fine art paper, which has no optical brightness. Paper without optical brighteners added allows the color and contrast to stay the same regardless of lighting or aging.
Kerssemakers’ photos don’t just capture the natural beauty of landscapes or the architectural importance of historical cities. They create worlds untouched by humans, solitary rabbit holes you’ll want to fall into and ethereal universes that satisfy a longing for peace and simplicity.
To see more of Kerssemak-ers’ work, visit his online gallery, the Lowcountry Art-ists Gallery in Charleston or the MISC-Everything gallery in Murrells Inlet. *
Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com.