PHOTOGRAPHY: Marcel van der Vlugt

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The powerful work of photographer Marcel van der Vlugt is at first glance a wee bit……creepy.

A bold and sensitive photographer, Marcel van der Vlugt is widely acknowledged for his striking and sometimes controversial stills shot on gigantic Polaroids.

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Hailing from the Netherlands (where so much unique talent is nurtured) van der Vlugt graduated from the School for Photography in The Hague, after which he moved to Düsseldorf, Germany to assist an advertising photographer. Although his school was largely focused on the technical aspects of photography, Marcel managed to create bodies of work that, although technically perfectly executed, are multi-layered in context. His images are often sensual, poetic and carefully composed, completely blurring the line between fine art and commercial shots.

In the series ‘I like….’, Van der Vlugt gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘food facial’ and uses edible objects to give models a second skin. Instead of high-end cosmetics, he decorates his model with pastes, sludges and litter composed of materials from his own addiction and stimulant arsenal: coffee, chocolate, sugar, licorice, cola. He lays prosciutto across the face of a model, and stuffs a mass of squid ink pasta into the mouth of another like seething alien-like tentacles.  van der Vlugt examines another aspect of the term beauty in this series. To the beholder these look like a surreal extension of the human face; the model of perfectionism is destroyed.

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Various aspects of beauty, such as the transitory nature of beauty ideals, are recurring motifs in Van der Vlugt’s work. His book ‘A New Day’, released in 2008, simulates an imaginary cosmetic clinic where instead of liposuction and nosejobs, the patients get implants of flowers. The blossom is a metaphor for youth, new life and fertility. He channels BDSM by completely wrapping some of his models in mummy-like bandages.

Marcel is a highly accomplished photographer, having had his cutting-edge work appear in almost every top publication including Dutch, Vogue, IT, and Jalouse. He’s shot campaigns for brands from American Express to W Hotels and exhibited his work worldwide—from the Photo Museum at The Hague to the Louis Vuitton Gallery in Tokyo.

In 1991, van der Vlugt forayed into film where he successfully translated his eye-catching style to commercials. He continues to seamlessly move between the two disciplines enjoying a symbiotic relationship. He’s been awarded the ADCN Lamp for Best Photography and a Gold Lion for a PSA in Cannes.

Though unsettling, Marcel’s work is undeniably beautiful. He reveals a side rarely seen in glamour; the dark, slightly gross, creepy element that lurks beneath the gloss, veneer and photoshop of the beauty industry and its slick editorials.

This incredible photographic talent continues to deliver captivating work and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

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