Confronting the Unknown: “The Ocean Keeps Calling” by Max Kraanen

Dutch visual artist Max Kraanen is interested in how fear and threat affect us and make us react. His work frequently explores dark, unrecognisable landscapes. Max often roams the world with his large format film camera to document the tension between the now and the forever, the finite and the infinite, the ephemeral and the permanent. His journeys, he asserts, always culminate at the ocean at night, where the identifiable and measurable smoothly spills into that which seems unlimited and everlasting.

In his series “The Ocean Keeps Calling”, Max arranges views of the sea rendered in blues and blacks. Many of us would probably have one or two of such photos on our smartphones but Max’s professionally captured images, when engaged with closely one after the other, obviously have a deeper impact on the viewer than some random click.



The subject is beyond our immediate sense of safety and comprehension yet remains strangely inviting. We are invited to confront “the unknown”. There is risk here, and danger. And with that, the alluring promise of surprise, the possibility of exhilaration attained after discovering something unexpected.

The photographer writes: “My series started in 2013 and has evolved into something never-ending. I’ve worked on several other projects in the meantime, but every year I keep adding a few oceans to the series. Whenever I’m in a new country, with new light, I try to capture an image that had been missing from the series until then. I’ve traveled all across Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Morocco. The large format camera is I believe quite essential to the process because it provides the necessary slowness I need for my images. All images are taken in the dark and the shutter speed ranges from 2 to 20 minutes. The colours are as they were at the moment although they might not have been visible to the naked eye, this is how the camera perceives them.

“One inspiration for the series is the Old Greek idea of two different types of time: Chronos and Kairos. Chronos being the time as we usually use it, the chronological, quantitative, linear time. Kairos is a more subjective form of time. It’s the right moment, the qualitative time. Since it doesn’t have a specified length, a moment can last for an indefinite amount of time. I see it as a way to slow down. In my images, I try to use this time. I try to make an image where the user can get lost in where it’s not possible to see where and when the photo was taken.”

Max is represented by Galerie Fontana in Amsterdam.

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