Anouk Kruithof (1981) is a Dutch artist based in New York. Her multi­layered, interdisciplinary approach takes the form of photographs, sculptures, artist-books, installations, texts, printed take away ephemera, video and performance. Her work explores and questions the philosophy and physicality of photography.

Her installation Subconscious Travelling will be included in MoMA’s New Photography exhibition Ocean of Images opening November 7th 2015. Recently a solo exhibition Sweaty Sculptures was shown at Green is Gold during KopenHagen Art Week and AHEAD (version 1) at FOUR A.M. in New York and #EVIDENCE, a new project is on currently on view at BoetzelaerINispen in Amsterdam Kruithof’s tenth artist-book AUTOMAGIC will be co-published with the Spanish art-book publisher Editorial RM in 2016.

Her work has been exhibited worldwide. Kruithof is also co-creator, director and jury member of the new Anamorphosis Prize, which will award $10,000, no strings attached, to the creator of the best self-published photo-book from the previous year. The prize was launched for the first time in spring 2015.

Images by Wikus de Wet and Anouk Kruithof

It’s one year we started our partnership with the International Summer School of Photography (ISSP), a week long "informal education program" that takes place every year since 2006 in the beautiful Latvian countryside. ISSP offers advanced workshops by renowned international tutors in combination with an exciting evening programme of talks, presentations and portfolio reviews. 
This year ISSP hosted 72 photographers in 6 workshops leaded by Anouk Kruithof, Paolo Woods, Federico Clavarino, Jason Evans, Alejandro Chaskielberg and Taiyo Onorato. 

I was there for the whole duration of the program, in a relaxed and informal environment, where students and teachers (or masters as they are called at ISSP) work side by side in this intense learning/teaching experience. Teaching photography is a topic a lot discussed especially during the last year, this has brought an important attention on the educational system, made by institutions and alternative photography programs. 
I wanted to know more about the perception people and professionals have of the meaning of studying (and teaching) photography today, so I went to Latvia to spend some time with the ISSP 2016’s masters talking about their personal experience both as teachers and students.

What is your main focus and interest when you teach photography?

To me it’s important most that students come together to think and work in more intense short period, so I mainly teach workshops once in a while, for example 3 to 5 days, this one is 9 days though. I like the group dynamic and reflections from the students to one and another and I believe these kinds of conversations help to learn in a group context. I’m not interested in teaching photography as in learning students about other photographers or the history of photography. I really like to create a “think plus making tank” where an intense working process develops in for example a book-dummy or exhibition as final outcome. I think there is talent and motivation in every single person and the best way of teaching is to find that sensibility through students and to trigger and stimulate what is already there inside. After graduation the hard fact is there you’re on your own. I try to find the independence in each student and stimulate this so when they will be out of school, they’ll survive in the real world. If you always do what you have been told you will never be a successful photographer or artist, because the only thing you can count on after graduation is yourself. You need drive. And better be prepared for the black hole. So this explains why I find it important to be both 1:1 with students and as well work in a group context and by doing this try to find the students specifics and challenge and enlighten and stimulate these. I love the collaborations between teachers and students.

Talking about your experience as a student, if you could have the chance to go back in time there is something that you would like to change in your educational path?

Oh totally, because I was super young, I was just 18 when I started studying at the art academy and the first year we learned all mediums and went around all the different departments. It was like a mixed year and then in the second year you had to choose a department. I chose sculpture and photography, I did both departments and then and in the third year I though that was too much and graduated in the photography department. I had so many classes, don't get me wrong I absolutely loved to work at the art academy and I was always there; day and night. I even got a student-room close to the academy; the school building was a monastery in the forest, so not located in the centre, where you could go out and to party. I preferred to live close to school and I just cycled a short while to go to school. Art academy in the Netherlands was super interesting for me, because I could learn so many new things after high school, let’s say and experiment and play a lot. We also had theory courses like philosophy, art-history and photo-history. I would say the theoretical level was a bit poor, but maybe that wasn't the most important at all in the age I was attending the academy. 

Looking back I think that my teachers were not so inspiring but on the other hand I could develop freely and at the time was fully satisfied with what the academy offered me, but now I would prefer to have had more input from international tutors that come in and give lectures or critiques or workshops. At my academy we never had that. I learned a lot in my process after graduation all these 13 years up till now, a lot of what I do now is self-taught. 

Nowadays teaching photography seems a kind of trend, what do you think about the educational system? And how is changing in your opinion?

I think alternative education, like Fotodepartement in Saint Pietersburg Russia and D.O.O.R in Roma and ISSP here in Latvia are of huge importance. They are trying to fill the gap, in many countries the education isn’t like the level in for example Germany, Norway, Switzerland or the Netherlands en this initiatives compensate poor education provided by the government of certain countries. Still many countries don’t provide high quality public education in art and photography or only super conventional and classic. The alternative schools provide in a certain resistance to this fact and this is what is quite unique in spirit and I have a lot of respect for the people making this happen. That's also why I committed to 2 workshops in these last 3 weeks, the summer school here in Pelci Latvia and just before I was in Gibellina Sicily with D.O.O.R. 


Anouk's workshop at ISSP 2016: Photography as a starting point of infinite possibilities