Sitting down to chat with fine art photographer Herman van Bon is a bit like jumping on a magic carpet. A few seconds in and you are time travelling to visit the ancestors. Minutes later you are standing with him at the very edge of space, pondering heaven, hell and the wild beauty of it all. Herman is a well of stories, a maze of great questions and a master of his craft.
You have been described as quirky, complex, playful and very creative. Here is my first question. In your own words, who is Herman van Bon?
Well, I think I am an adult who kept my childhood imagination alive. I have a very wide field of interests and I do love to have fun with photography. I was born between the dykes of Holland and worked as a photojournalist on the technical side of things for many years. It took me through the whole wide world. About 17 years ago my wife Yvonne and I moved to South Africa to find space and breathe fresh air. We settled in the Overberg and love living here.
Someone said you are the Hieronymous Bosch of the digital era. How would you describe your work and style?
I like to photograph landscapes, especially during early mornings, in the golden hour. But taking a picture is just the beginning as I enjoy playing with it. I explore and just let it flow to see where it might go. It can take weeks to come together and the end result can be landscapes, haikus, photographic mixed media and imaginary photography next to abstract and portrait photography.
Something that is regularly reflected in my work is my interest in the universal archetypes embedded in our ancient human heritage. I find it interesting how they are awakened through the associations we sometimes make when looking at images. I also find the interaction between light and dark, good and evil fascinating. Especially subject matter that touches beyond religion and the best way I can explain this is with a quote from Albert Einstein,
“The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the centre of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the rank of devoutly religious men.”
Herman so if we get down to it, what really inspires you?
Simply put, beauty. You know beauty can be in the small details of an even ugly looking subject. And the fact that some rules are there to be broken.
You mentioned settling in the Overberg about 17 years ago. Do you have any favourite places that you enjoy shooting at?
Yes definitely, the rolling hills and changing skies of the Overberg is a joy to any landscape photographer. I have many spots that I enjoy shooting, but let me highlight three for you:
Last question Herman. Where do you and Yvonne go to unwind here in your hometown Napier?
Have to say we are still relatively new in Napier. It’s been just about a year and I can tell you, this is a town with a lot to discover. It’s difficult to mention just one place. We enjoy visiting Napier Farmstall, The Fox Pub for lunch, Pascal’s for dinner and for the best pizza in the Overberg, The Suntouched Inn.
View and buy some of his work here: