First of all it’s a great title, ‘groetjes, ben porno’. How did you meet Ben?
“I like to get in touch with interesting people so these contact cards in the supermarket always fascinated me. Why do people still use them? One day I bumped into one at the supermarket saying: ‘Latex stockings and lingerie for sale’. It sounded interesting so I called, expecting to speak to a woman. But it turned out to be Ben, a single 60 year old man with a sex addiction. He was really open about it, so during the third visit I brought my camera and eventually I followed him around for two years as my graduation project. His emails were always signed with ‘groetjes, ben porno’.”
What was his story like?
“Searching for men online in order to have sex with them was one of his ways to kill time. He was not afraid to share his fantasies and wishes with me. Ben chatted online, using these really old chat rooms from the nineties to search for his sex partners. But he always joked that if he had enough money he prefered a hooker (I’ve learned men are cheaper than women haha). It felt like a foreign world to me, but we became buddies anyway as he liked talking to me.”
You’ve shot quite some photos of him and his house. Do you have a favourite?
“Ben actually has a great sense of aesthetics. Everything in his house is red, from the curtains to the flowers so decoration is important to him. There is one image with a vase with flowers and a picture that really shows his character well: he has put lots of thought into his interior. My other favourite is the one where his face is covered in pink yoghurt. It visualizes one of his sexual wishes, so that makes it more personal. I did not shoot him having sex or being naked as I experienced him as a friendly and open guy. He was much more to me than a sex addict and I would like other people to see him this way too.”
Diving into another world seems to be a thread throughout your work.
“Yes, I like to observe and experience a world that is different from mine. I have just participated in a project called ‘De kracht van Rotterdam’, where they assigned me the neighbourhood Hoogvliet. It’s a disadvantaged district with flat buildings from the sixties, violence, robberies and mainly Polish inhabitants. A surrounding that is a far cry away from my world, so an interesting challenge. Thanks to this project I have a new idea to create an exhibition in this block that stimulates interaction between the inhabitants so that people get to know their neighbours. They might actually all be very hospitable, they just haven’t met each other yet.”
‘groetjes, ben porno’ is currently on show in two work cabins in Werkplaats. Drop by and have a look! Entrance is free. More info? Check out www.raffaellahuizinga.nl