Artist: Aernout Overbeeke
C-print, size 100x100cm, signed by the photographer.
“Before we were allowed to photograph the Masai in their biotope, a meeting had to be organized with several elders. They wanted to know who we were and what we had come to do. Whites are not often allowed into the closed society of this (semi)nomadic people.
The meeting was held in an old school building far from the boma. A group of at least forty Masai accompanied the eight elders. We five whites sat on the benches in the classroom and the eight elders sat opposite us on chairs. They were men with authority, you could see that immediately. Jeroen, our guide, spoke with them. Although we did not understand a word, it was immediately clear that it was treated as something very serious. There were long silences at regular intervals, they looked at us and we looked at them. We were weighted up. The whole confrontation lasted no less than an hour and a half and was particularly impressive. In the end they gave us permission to stay in their midst.
During my stay with the Masai I came to the conclusion that they live in complete harmony and accordance with the laws of nature and have done so for thousands of years. Who are we to think that it should change? I earnestly hope that they will continue to be able to live in this traditional way for centuries to come”. (Aernout Overbeeke in ‘Tanzania Dream, Ndoto’, published Ludion, 2010, ISBN 978 90 5544 789 3)
Aernout Overbeeke (Utrecht, 1951) moved as child with his parents in 1963 to Amsterdam. In those formative years he studied art history on his own, by spending all his free time in Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum, which turned him in an obsessive viewer. Overbeeke left secondary school before completing his education and became a freelance photographer.
For almost a year he was an assistant with Ed van der Elsken. Because he enjoyed seducing girls with his camera, he decided to become a fashion photographer. At the time there was hardly any fashion industry in the Netherlands and little innovation in fashion photography for the magazines. So Overbeeke gradually came to realise that his talent could not flourish here. After the bird of this children (a son Kenzo in 1978, and a daughter Teska in 1980) he had to change and earn a living.
He invested all his time and energy in mastering the finesses of his technique. In 1983 he showed his new work, slowly produced with a large format camera and crept under a black curtain, to Paul Meijer, then art director of the GO/Needham advertising agency. Meijer was impressed and gave him his first assignment for an insurance company. The campaign won an award in the Netherlands Art Director’s Club that same year, and Overbeeke’s reputation was made.
Work by Aernout Overbeeke can be found in the collections of Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Groninger Museum (Groningen), Cobra Museum (Amstelveen), Kunstmuseum (Den Haag), Davenport Museum of Art (Davenport, Iowa), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, Calfornia).