Dennis Swiatkowski is a photographer and video director, intrigued by the power of images and the pureness of the human body. Growing up between the cold of Amsterdam freedom and the sunshine smiles of Cape Town, he developed his own sense of style, portraying small fractures of time and embracing the fullness of life. Never settling for what seems to be and always questioning everything he is a true rebel with a cause…tell us a story.
Interview by Vanessa S Miranda
You grew up in Amsterdam. Being a city recognized by its freedom, did it shape the person you are and your work?
Even though I did partly grew up in Amsterdam, the city that has really shaped me and helped me capture moments of freedom was Cape Town. Cape Town is just such a special place to me, it oozes with creativity and because it is in a sense so isolated from the rest of the world people have found their own ways to stand out and create or reinvent new things. One just has got to look around and realise how many great talents are coming out of Cape Town. It’s incredible. Amsterdam is a great city too and as of recent there is a boom of photographers who do want to capture that sense of (nude) freedom as well, but to me Cape Town and other sunny places such as L.A. and Australia are what resonate most with me.
Did you always know photography and video were going to be your career? Even since a young age?
Honestly, I did not. I’ve always been a dreamer, a philosopher and a rebel against the system. I would always be that annoying kid questioning the teacher, why certain things are the way they are and not tried differently or I’d play devil’s advocate more often than not. I never settle for a yes or no, I want to go deeper into things. In any case, I didn’t know until my mid-twenties that I really have a passion for creating stories in images. The funny thing is as soon as I did, some of my very first works are still my favourites and have been exhibited as well. In that sense story technique (because at first I didn’t know what I was doing).
Where does your love for photography/video come from?
I’ve always loved watching movies. The weirder and obscure the better. From a young age I was fascinated by American b-movies. The acting, the imagery, the atmosphere I thought it was all so exciting and cool. Photographs capture moments in time, depending on the type of photography it lets the viewer guess the rest of the story. I find it compelling and intriguing.
The female body is a constant in your photography theme. What fascinates you about the human body?
What fascinates me about the human body is the unbelievable beauty of it. On the surface it’s a near perfect capsule of what it contains. Of course there are different body types and different skin types, but essentially, especially with imperfections included the human body is a tantalizing object. This is why I try and portray the human body in a nice way, in a way that to me is aesthetically beautiful but also a bit pure. I want us all to celebrate the human body. Instead of covering up, let’s all stop being prudes and embrace our inner hedonists.
“What fascinates me about the human body is the unbelievable beauty of it. I want us all to celebrate the human body. Instead of covering up, let’s all stop being prudes and embrace our inner hedonists.”
In a lot of your photographs we just get to see glimpses of moments or details of a scene…the stairs of a swimming pool, a nature’s zoom, a girl’s body or face close-up. Do you like to leave some things to the imagination?
To me a photograph is a still from a longer story indeed. It’s a moment in time, a small frame of a long movie. The power of a photograph lies in its ability to tell a story, this is why I personally like to create “cinematic” images as I find them far more interesting to look at than a typical “fashion” shot. The compilation of moments one can see throughout my instagram are often part of complete series, but instead of showing the entire serie at first glance, I like to invite the viewer to find her/his own way first. Excite and inspire.
You worked with some of the big names in the fashion industry, Nowness.com, H&M, Vogue and L’officiel magazine, Tommy Hilfiger, among others. What was the project that marked you the most?
This is difficult to say. To me a lot of these commercial projects, are exactly that: commercial. This often means I have to compromise a fair bit, which I personally understand and I’m willing to make that sacrifice at times. After all I need to earn an income so I can travel, eat and do what I love most: keep creating. I’d say a platform like Nowness.com was the closest to myself, but that is because they give you a lot of freedom (because they understand and have the ability to provide you with such freedom).
Is an image still worth a thousand words?
Best inspiration for work comes from?
Music, films, books, (vintage) magazines.
When you aren’t working, where can we find you and with who?
I always have a thousand and one ideas crossing my mind and there is always a project I’m working on. However, I do love to hang out with my friends, grab a beer, dance and have fun. In Amsterdam this is mainly at a couple of bars and in Cape Town this is going for drives, weekends away camping, swimming and dancing.
The Soundtrack of your life so far is composed by . . .
The soundtrack of my life is a compilation of mainly psych-rock tunes (Brian Jonestown Massacre, Spindrift, Psychic Ills, Slowdive and many others). They reflect my dreaminess, my wandering, my mind dazing, my excitement and my love for life and creating stories.
If you had to define who you are in just three words, you would say . . .
Curious, Well-spirited, Ambitious
What future projects are the cards holding for you?
I’m actually working on a book of a selection of my work together with The Pelican Studio in Amsterdam and it is set to be released mid-December. Other than that I’m working on a couple of commercial projects end of November and December and the plan is to go to Cape Town again mid-January.