About Joost Tholens

“My pictures of reality are the materials for my imagination”


Joost’s father was an architect. He was supposed to become one too but although he has always kept a great interest in that profession, making documentary films became his main fascination. Soon he discovered that the work of directing a film is closely related to the work of an architect: only a director locates his films in the dimension of time as an architect places his work in space.

After his television career he changed from cinematography to the photographic domain. From movement to stillness. The stillness of the graphic. But just as one film shot doesn’t make cinematography one single photo shot is not enough for Tholens’ photographic evocation. For that he needs more.

Tholens developed - inspired by his cinematographic past – an analytic eye, a visual facility with which he dissects real objects around us in order to build up abstract graphic images from them, with their own harmony, colour pattern and aesthetic forms. Next to this, the mirrored images in connection with the real ones, play an important role in his work. In this way he creates an enormous variety of surprising imaginative effects.

“Composites” he calls his pictures. Composites are materials in which two or more substances are combined to create a better quality material. Composites are lighter, stronger and are easier to form than the non combined parts. A description that fits nicely with Tholens’ photography.

Until 2003 he mainly worked the analogue way via darkroom or laboratory then sticking the pictures together by hand. Nowadays the digital camera and the lightroom of the computer are the tools for his composites. But in making a composite, the first shot he takes from reality stays at the base and is in principle not to be manipulated and it is precisely then, in editing the original or mirrored pictures, sometimes mixed with subtly different ones, that Tholens’ creativity starts in full.

Kees van Langeraad


Joost Tholens, *Amsterdam
London School of Film Technique London
BBC Television