Jeannette Slütter, Absent Touch


A- Your series Absent Touch is certainly visually enticing. It makes me feel like I want to know more. Perhaps it is the blank faces covered by beautifully strange textures with nothing to give us an impression of the person but their hair line and shirt, which are all regimented and almost soulless.
Could you maybe explain a little around your thoughts around the project? Reveal as little or much as you wish.

J- This project started with a given theme, it said, “Empathy is in, greed is out.” It was such a demanding stand, that I wondered where you need to go when you don't fit in this image. Where to go when for you empathy is not a logical feeling? So, I want to show indirectly the need for empathy, the struggle with miscommunication and the feeling of longing. Next to that its important to show that not everything is how it seems to be.

A- The series also covers up ideas of loss perhaps, with an idea of the childhood landscape. Covering up in the sense that characters are there but they are not. Their outlines are clear to us but we do not know who they are. Could you explain your thinking around this technique, and what you aimed to achieve with this?

J- I think a family is a symbol for being close, for intimacy, you live and share a place with them, you know their movements and their smells, but what if the conclusion comes that all the time you were watching from one side, and it seems that the other side is only a shape. This series is also based on the other side of the story, what would you see if you lack the ability of empathy.

A- I get the feeling that post production plays a large part in your methods, and a crafted feeling is a result of this. Had you seen any work that inspired you to take on this type of photography, and how influential had it been in your production methods?

J- It started before I came to study the academy and I did a internship with a fashion photographer. He gave me great perspective in that time on what was possible with a image. Anda lot of energy to start studying this medium. I see around me that its a method used in many different ways, its nice to work like this, someone once said to me that you work with different parts of your brain.

But more related to this project, I think eyes tell a lot and I didn’t want them to take over, for me it is about the non readable, not getting close enough to really hear what is going on. Eyes would make a face recognisable and you will start wondering about the specific person.

A- Having been one of your subjects for the project, one not included in the series, I got a strange feeling of detachment when being photographed as if I was a mannequin merely holding the shirt and my hairs attempt to be perfect was the subject. It was strangely haunting almost. Could you explain how you intended these portraits to feel, as part of your overall intentions?

J- My main idea, as I explained a bit above, was to get the need of seeing the face, but you can’t. Some people tell me they start making faces out the new created landscapes, to still get a glimpse of the person who’s behind. I choose for similar characters to give the story a name, but next to that they’re still different to not point anything out. And because of this I knew that I didn’t had the need to uses faces, I just searched for the right body types, hair colors and different shirts.  

A- A particularly fascinating element of the series, is the image of a snow covered drain yet it seems like a deep hole to somewhere, this to my mind, matches the same feeling of the portraits and it makes me feel almost hopeless, as a personal response. How crucial is this in your thought process? Am I right in this feeling or did you intend something different?

J- For me it’s important that the series gets a certain air, that I create with use of different techniques. But of course it is important that the same feeling sticks around. So I search for the same feeling, for me this image shows a hard clear shape, but on the one hand its not clear at all.

A- The most interesting element of the series is that it leaves us guessing, sticks in our minds and develops overtime. Was this something you intended?

J- Definitely, I'm not after for clear explanations, I hope that people start to guess what is happening, and give there own thoughts and feelings a place in the work.

A- Is this way of working something you are developing in recent projects? Or are you starting over and pursuing a different working method?

J- This is hard to say, I like this working method but maybe if I make a new concept it doesn't fit so well. I don’t think that all my work needs to be this poetic. But until now I'm very fine with this. At least I'm not afraid for developments, I change my mind often so for sure there will be changes.

A- I would like to say it is exciting work, I know there is a small revival of ‘cut and paste’ photography at present, but I feel what the series is achieving is something independent of this. It is a powerful set of images, not only visually, but also in meaning.