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She is amongst fashion's favourite photographers. Peggy Kuiper’s artistic eye turns bodies and faces into lines that design a new understanding of the symmetry of perfection. By questioning our relationship with order and beauty, Kuiper welcomes us in a plain and absolutely perfect environment, somewhere almost creepy. Her new fashion story, entitled Sir Edmund, tickles the viewer's imagination again to, tenderly, give him a sense of discomfort. 

Peggy Kuiper is a Dutch photographer, or rather, one of ‘the’ Dutch photographers. More than colours, objects or bodies, geometry is what really gives her photos a very strong power. She painstakingly composes her pictures to align the human body with the walls’ structure, and that's precisely where a certain neutrality arises. Those beautiful men and women suddenly appear so empty, that they seem they can't be from this world. Disturbing and inhuman, Kuiper's characters thus provide something different to fashion; something that her new story, Sir Edmund, tells frankly. 
Peggy, would you say your personality is imbued with your work? If so, how would you define the outcome of those melting elements?
Yes, I think some elements of my personality are visible in my work. I am for instance straightforward. I know what I want during the shoot, and it’s always well prepared. Working efficiently to maintain people’s energy during the shoot is what’s most important to me. Although I also think it’s important to have an open mind regarding the ideas the team I work with might have. I've also noticed some contradictions when I’m working: I am more open and extrovert at work, but I am more introvert and quiet (not shy) in my personal life.
You have a background in graphic design, and I was wondering to what extent do you anchor it to your practice in fashion photography? 
Graphic design still plays an important role in my work. I often work with geometrical compositions, and the pictures I make have an ‘illustrated’ feeling. During my internship in 2009 with Dutch graphic designer Anthon Beeke I was intrigued by how he plays with photography in his designs. The photography he uses is very outspoken and playful, so he’s had a big influence on what I am doing now.
You mostly do fashion editorials for edgy fashion magazines. How did you first connect with fashion? Do you remember your very first assignment?
I've been photographing for 3 years now. At the beginning I was making more autonomous work, so I got signed in a great gallery, yet the style I had back then wasn’t what I really wanted to do; I was still finding my identity as a photographer. To be honest I don’t know a lot about fashion, but the clean, geographical style I’ve developed fits well in the fashion scene. My work is an escape from reality, and fashion is just merged in my images to make it more surreal, so I don't see myself as a fashion photographer. The first fashion assignment I got was for a Dutch magazine, and it was the first time I worked with fashion items (which were already chosen, and quite ugly as I can recall). So that was a big challenge for me: to make something out of it. It was also the first time I worked with a team, and things were so much easier. I used to make solely portraits, and I would do everything myself. So the first assignment was also an encounter with a team.
Who were some of your favourite photographers back then?
I really love Vivianne Sassen. She is a big inspiration. She really has her own style and that is the reason why people want to work with her; you can recognize it immediately.
This very clean, soft and refined aesthetic you’re exploring appears to me as somehow pretty Dutch, don’t you think? And I think you’ve recently moved to London; would you say that the I-don’t-care attitude of the city has had a little bit of affect on your work?
I’m living in Amsterdam and, sometimes, I work in London. I think my aesthetic is not Dutch at all; it’s too edgy for the Dutch way. That’s the reason why I often visit London. When I get an assignment in Amsterdam they want something outspoken, and the group of people who loves that is actually quite limited. So when clients approach me, they really let me do my own thing, which is pretty cool.
Some people state that fashion editorials have nothing to say except showing clothes, style and brands. Do you agree? Cause I feel your fashion stories have actually a lot to say about current human relationships.
I agree! I love to seek boundaries. When is it that something is considered as fashion? For example, if you look at the picture with the puzzle you don't see a lot of clothing, but it gets a fashion credit. How far can I go? For me it’s important to move the viewer by telling a story through combining stills with portraits. The story is more important that the fashion items and, maybe, that makes me not a fashion photographer but a photographer who inserts fashion into her work. The story I come up with is the main inspiration, not the fashion items.
For instance, the characters you depict are often alone, almost alienated –a little bit control-freak–. Men and women here come close to perfection; a little bit scary but very aesthetic. Are they to be understood as sublime decerebrated dolls?
My work is an escape from reality so I love to alienate the character. It feels uncomfortable for the viewer. Yet, because it is shot in an aesthetic way, the viewer is often confused. This is the emotion I'm looking for. It raises questions and doubts, and makes you wonder.
As you said, your work is an escape from reality. Where would you like to take the viewer? Somewhere ordered, out of the chaos of everyday life, maybe?
I think it is important to look at the reality in a different way; in my way, maybe… It is important for me to take things out of context to see what’s going on. I've read Uncanny, the book by Freud, and that really inspired me to look at things differently. He says that, whenever you have an environment that feels comfortable and structured, you feel safe. But if you put an element that doesn’t belong to that environment, people get confused. So I create an environment that feels safe and comfortable and I add strange items or I take the picture from a different angle, which leads people to confusion. That's where imagination starts for me (and hopefully for the viewer).
In the fashion story you’ve just shot for us, Sir Edmund: who’s the woman? She appears so bored she could die right now; she seems quite close to hysteria! How should this project be read?
What makes photography exciting for me is that you don't know where the story begins or ends, and the viewer has to use his imagination to understand what he is seeing. There isn’t a unique way to look at this story because it’s mainly the story of the viewer.

Doria Arkoun
Photography and art direction
Peggy Kuiper (Cake Photography & Film)
Julia Mὔller
Jolanda van den Berg
Hair and make up
Magdalena Loza for Balmain Hair Couture and MAC Cosmetics (House of Orange)
Photographer intern
Jill Louise Verweijen
Styling assistant
Tessa de Haseth

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