Noortje Knulst Captures Surreal Environments That Jolt Your Sense of Reality
Impending motherhood has changed the way that Noortje Knulst views her own work. At the time we spoke, in early July, Knulst was 30 weeks pregnant with her first child. “Now is a good time to take a step back, look at the stuff I’ve already done, and see what direction I want to take in the future,” she told me. Then, she laughed. “Or maybe that’s just a romantic way of looking at it.”
Born and raised in the Netherlands, Knulst received her BA in photography from the Royal Academy of the Arts at the Hague in 2011, and her MA in art direction from École cantonale d’art de Lausanne in Switzerland in 2014. Before becoming a photographer, she studied fashion design.
Early in her schooling, she found that she preferred working in a studio to documentary-style photography. “I really like sculpting, installation and set design,” she explained. “Recreating your own world, and building something from scratch.”
Two projects, in particular, informed her aesthetic. The first was “The every other day,” a series of photographs taken outdoors of objects including mirrors, rocks, wires and colored filters that slightly distorted reality. “It didn’t feel like work,” Knulst said of creating “The every other day.” “I just brought stuff outside, and built nothing from something. I really enjoyed doing that.”
The second was “The Pinball Palace,” which Knulst worked on with frequent collaborator, designer and stylist, Noortje de Keijzer. Together, the pair create work under the name Noortje X Noortje. For the project, the pair built completely imaginary environments redolent of the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico, and took photographs of them.
Knulst worked on the two series in tandem, and although she hasn’t explored this in her photography yet, she sees a space where they intersect. “I have this inside out strange feeling of things that don’t belong together,” she said. “I want to combine the two series and see what emerges.”
In the meantime, since graduation, she’s been busy working on freelance projects for clients including the catering company De Borrelfabriek, Ellrichshausen Architects, and Sleek Magazine. In 2018, she was featured in PDNedu’s Singles section.
All images © Noortje Knulst.