Outwardly by nature, curious and ready to experiment, Boris Lutters grew up and is currently based in Amsterdam where his photography is influenced by his intuition. Working at Czar Amsterdam, he continues to develop his own unique style, while mastering the technique that helps to convey his message.
Boris spent his childhood playing the piano, improvising and composing pieces of his own. Experimental from early on, he says, “I didn't like the regular stuff, I’d rather experiment.” This desire to create something unique stems from what he describes as being an ‘aesthete’, also created by taking the time to dance, play in the park and avoid being ‘by the book.’ He says, “I loved dancing. Every Saturday we had four hours of dance lessons from breakdance to classical and from modern to choreography, at the Art Academy (ArtEZ). As an 11-year-old I already felt at home. That is perhaps my earliest memory that I knew I wanted to get into the art space.”
With parents that also appreciated the arts, Boris was often immersed by being dragged to museums, something that he’d come to find as an invaluable experience. “At a later age, I realised how it contributed to my appreciation for museums. My father always said: ‘First walk quickly through the museum and see what appeals to you. Then, walk another round, stop at just one piece of work, and try to dive into the imaginative world, letting go of everything else.’ That's something I still do when I walk into a museum.”
Initially studying at a graphic design school, Boris decided to stop in his third year and transferred to the Utrecht School of the Arts (HKU). “I started to search for my own style and vision. Style was a major challenge for me because I did not want to limit myself to one visual language. In the end, I accepted that I did not have to choose one obvious ‘framework’ but rather, a subject.” The more he created, the more Boris realised that his style developed the approach to the subject matter that he took on: “My way of working is always being in dialogue with my environment.”
Throughout the learning process, Boris honed in on his intuition, which is what he trusts above all when it comes to capturing his subject. “I sometimes feel chaotic but that seems to be the consequence of my openness and spontaneity.” He continues, “I would describe myself as someone with outwardly, somewhat conflicting thoughts and emotions – shy by nature but also curious, ambitious but always at my own pace.” Part and parcel of being a creative, Boris tends to be critical of himself, “I am sensitive but not insecure. I am quick to say ‘yes’ to something new, although the moment of assessment can be somewhat scary.” Boris’ self reflection is perhaps shaped by his life experiences, particularly during his formative years, when his mother became seriously ill. “It made me aware at a young age of the transience of life. Life and death were close to each other. It also taught me how to deal with situations by myself. Fortunately, it has never stopped me from just being young, having fun, playing around.”
Completing his studies, Boris immediately began working within both graphic design and photography, taking on projects from friends and acquaintances he had made along the way – which is exactly how he planned for it to go. “This slowly grew out, till what I am doing right now. Bit by bit, at my own pace, like I always have done.” Boris has confidence in himself and his passion was always placed within the creative industry, where he knew he was meant to be.
Early on, Boris learnt valuable lessons which have continued to guide him through the industry. “Two things. Firstly, it was trusting my intuition. I'm an intuitive maker. I think it is important that there is always room for chance. I try to be sensitive to things that are not predictable. Secondly, I learned quite early that before you start with an assignment, you must think carefully about what you want to get out of it. Free work and commercial work don’t have to be opposites. Good planning and openness to what comes along can go together. Life is full of paradoxes.” He also shares his motto, “Make sure that you make the subject something of your own. There is always room to do it your way.”
“Fleeting Shadows was the first project that felt like something of my own,” says Boris, when asked about a particular moment where he felt that he had made his mark. The series featured two boys in an urban environment, “I tried to find a kind of tension between the two, I tried to visualise that their relationship to each other is not entirely clear.” This work resonated and ended up featuring in a publication: “Eventually, this was picked up and appeared in the publication MOAM - Contemporary Fashion and Arts in Amsterdam (published by Mendo).”
Part of what makes Boris passionate about his craft is when he’s shooting and everything seamlessly falls into place. As he prepares as part of his ritual, it often means that things tend to go well on the day. “I have done my preliminary work well, know the framework and feel free to spontaneously choose a different direction in the moment.” His intuition then comes into play, “I love the moment when coincidences arise and I can react to them, rather than being tied to a previously written concept.” However, sharing his work is where Boris can struggle, with his critical eye, he knows good work but always holds himself to high standards.
Boris has a clear idea of what he’d like to achieve throughout his career: “To build my own practice in which I work in different disciplines with different visual languages, always staying true to myself.” Fulfilling his goal is the ultimate plan, however, there are other things that he’d like to achieve, but this is never to the detriment of his work or his sense of achievement. “Of course, I also have goals I would like to achieve and publications and awards that I would aspire to get, but I try not to let my own qualities and happiness depend on those things.” Publications and creative spaces are still where Boris seeks out his creative inspiration – not to mention museums.
Looking into the industry, Boris reflects on the mix between art and commerce, particularly the tricky nature of their intersection. “I like to see how these boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred, whilst also being wary and watching out for these boundaries.” Finding the balance between the two is one of the ways in which he believes the industry could be benefited, alongside a few other areas. With many friends within the industry, it’s no surprise that Boris exchanges thoughts and ideas with them, as well as discussing future plans. “It would be interesting to have a meeting place. An open space where different makers can come together to talk openly about free and commercial work.”
While Boris finds inspiration all around him, there are many individuals he looks up to and admires for their consistent authenticity, which reflects in their work. “Industry photographers like Daniel Shea, Mark Peckmezian and Jamie Hawkesworth, for example.” Boris continues, “Time after time, they show the same quality: in photographing a random object, a fashion model, or a building, no matter what. Their commercial work has the same quality as their autonomous work. That is what I like.”
Aside from his day job, Boris has a hobby that he sticks to regularly, “I go to the movies every week; I just love the cinema. I have loved movies from a young age and there is nothing better than to lose myself in a movie and step into another world, especially ‘slow movies’ where space and time tell a story.” While there’s no doubt that every move isn’t exactly to his taste, Boris uses the time to internalise and self reflect within himself. “Whenever a film doesn't appeal to me, I prefer to lean backwards and take my time to think about other projects. A moment to be, in silence, alone with my thoughts, without a phone for a while.”
Though he’s now establishing his career, Boris hasn’t forgotten his days spent composing music on the piano, reflecting, “I must do it more often.” His childhood instrument lies waiting at his parent’s home, where he’s the first person to jump behind the piano, sit on the stool and start to play. With a busy life, Boris considers why he’s had more time for some of his hobbies than others: “Music and movies are the two main media forms from which I get both distraction and inspiration. They are two super accessible art forms that you don't have to think much to feel deeply.”
Finally, Boris reflects on the future, “I don't yet dare say what my motivation is and why I do things the way I do them. I do think about it a lot. For now, my curiosity motivates me and the desire to master the technique I need to be able to tell what I want to say. What the story is, is yet to come.”