“Bunitesa de Dekadensia, the ‘Beauty of Decay’ is a recurring theme in my work.”
Monique Harbers was born in 1968 in Dalfsen, a small village near Zwolle in the Netherlands. She studied Latin American Languages & Cultures at the University of Leiden, and for a total of two years at Universidad Carlos III in Madrid. She lived in Spain on and off for 5 years.
In 2009, she moved to Curaҫao, and this where her interest for photography develops into her art. She is inspired by the island’s decaying old buildings and plantation homes, and is fascinated by discovering beauty in these old structures. Nature taking over, and architecture overgrown with weeds is a favorite topic in her photography.
Being inspired by the island, it is not surprising that her first and second solo exhibition bear the name: ‘Beyesa di Korsou’: the Beauty of Curaҫao, in 2010, and ‘Diversidat di Korsou’: the Diversity of Curaҫao, in 2011. These exhibitions show a series of photographs portraying the transitory nature of aesthetics.
Many series and exhibitions have followed since then. The force of nature, the structure of nature, and finding abstract in details, remain a common thread in her work. Monique has also recently shifted her art in a different direction and has taken up painting as well. She is experimenting with overlaying paint onto photographs, changing daylight images into gorgeous nighttime settings.
Monique Harbers loves to work within themes. Preceding an exhibition, she will work on a specific subject for months. She is not the kind of photographer who always takes her camera everywhere. When she visits a place with friends or family and gets inspired, she visually creates a composition in her head. When she returns to that location, she knows exactly what image she wants to capture.
She only takes her photos during the day. She loves the Curaҫao light, especially the bright light of a midday sun in a cloudless sky, and she dislikes working with artificial lights or flash photography. Her work is very natural, and always truthful.
Her favorite lens is the 55-200 zoom lens. This lens allows her to focus on the smallest details. She believes a good eye for composition, color and topic is more important than technique or equipment. “You’ll need a good camera, but that is certainly not the most important thing”, explains Monique. “When I take a photo, I’m totally focused on the theme, it’s a wonderful feeling. I forget about time and my surroundings and I enter a different reality. I hope that when people see my pictures, they also escape to another reality for a little while, or are able to see things from a different perspective. For me, that’s what makes a photograph great.
One of my favorite pictures is ‘Rex’, a photo taken in 2014 and printed on a canvas of 150 x 100 cm. The image is a detail of the bow of shipwreck Rex, a large tanker stranded on the north side of Klein Curaҫao in 1982. This photo was part of my exhibition in Vlissingen for the Zeeuws Maritime MuSEAum. I am fascinated with the beauty of decay, and for this exhibition I allowed the rusty colors of the shipwreck to contrast with the azure tones of the Caribbean Sea. Under the layers of paint, the wood of Shipwreck Rex is partially displayed, and creates very special color combinations with different lines, structures and shapes. I think this fragile beauty creates a beautiful scene.”
Monique’s work ‘Rex’ is privately owned and on display in an office building in Curaҫao.
2017: Text and photographs by Manon Hoefman.