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About Guy van Grinsven-Photographer

Guy van Grinsven (Maastricht, 1949) has what it takes to be a master photographer: he is always relentlessly optimistic and curious. Starting his career as an aviation photographer working for a national photo agency, he gradually focused on glamour and royalty, selling photos to various daily newspapers and magazines. Eventually, he made it to internationally renowned magazines such as Paris Match and set up numerous photoshoots of the world’s most beautiful women for Playboy Magazine in his giant studio in his hometown Maastricht.

Travelling has always been a way to satisfy his curiosity; initially in the wake of the Dutch royal family visiting many countries around the world, but also following the first official visit of the newly inaugurated Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands to the U.S.A., and later as a reporter on his own. He traveled to the four corners of the world, took photos of local farmers, artisanal blacksmiths and trading Tuareg, dyers in Morocco and knife makers in southern France, went as far as Nizhny Novgorod and Easter Island, to Indian tribes deeply hidden in the Amazon rainforest who had never seen a white man in their life (let alone a specimen such as Guy!), and to earthquake struck Haiti, in support of a group of friends from Maastricht who had set up an aid program for the victims of the 2010 earth tremor.

Living in the south of the Netherlands, he kept feeling great affinity with the landscapes and local people on either side of the border, in Germany and especially Belgium, looking for local traditions, unique craftsmen, industries, and idiosyncratic artists. And wherever he worked, Guy managed to let seemingly ordinary people tell their very special stories.

One extraordinary experience, however, would deeply affect his life: on September 11th, 2001, he had an appointment in Windows on the World, the restaurant on top of one of the New York Twin Towers. Two hours before the planned meeting, the first airplane, hijacked by Islamist terrorists, crashed into one of the towers, another one following soon after. Immediately, Guy grabbed all his equipment and ran towards the smoking and eventually collapsing towers, against the flow of thousands of people running away from the scene of destruction. On his way, he took hundreds of pictures and shot hours of video as the immense tragedy in the streets of New York unfolded right before his eyes and lenses. Only days later, when the adrenaline levels in his body had finally dropped, he was able to reflect on his narrow escape. It turned out to be a life-changing experience: he leafed through his address book and made a new selection of the people he really appreciated. Since then, Guy felt he has lived in extra time, living it more intensely than ever before.

Apart from selling some impressive 9/11 news photos and footage, it would take Guy ten years to rearrange his emotions in such a way that he was able to make a report and book on what he had experienced that ominous day. To that end, he travelled back to New York in 2011 and made fascinating photo and video reports, mixing past and present in a unique way, and produced a photo book, presented at a special 9/11 exhibition.

In the Netherlands, Guy published his own magazine NIVEAU and made several feature reports for Dutch television, both national and local. One of the most impressive reports was a photo story about women who had one or both breasts amputated after having been diagnosed with breast cancer, called Blootgewoon (Ordinary nude). He would take photos of them sitting on a swing, in a merry-go-round and dressed up as water nymphs, gaining national acclaim for his sincere approach and rendering of this delicate subject.

New technical developments always had a great fascination for Guy. In 2012, he celebrated the love of his hometown Maastricht by producing a 200-page photo book, All Around Maastricht, using unique 180 or more-degree photography techniques. A few months later, the book was already a collector’s item. Guy decided against an easy reprint but set out to make an entirely new sequel, which sold just as successfully as the first book.

In 2016, Guy was invited to make a retrospective exhibition of his work in the Museum aan het Vrijthof, on Maastricht’s main square. It took a year and a half to make a selection from over 1 million photos he shot in the course of his career. This exhibition, opened in august 2018, may look like the culmination of Guy’s career, but his friends know better: his relentless optimistic curiosity may well surprise us soon enough with new, inspiring projects.

More artworks from Guy van Grinsven-Photographer