Amsterdam-based photographer Caspar Claasen is a people watcher. “I am fascinated by extraordinary interactions between individuals and their everyday surroundings,” he notes. Believing that ordinary moments have the power to become short stories when photographed, Claasen’s exceptionally clever photo series Musea explores the world of museums, placing the spotlight onto the weird and wonderful ways in which we look at art.
More than just pictures of spectators, Claasen’s candid shots of people at various Dutch museums, including the Stedelijk Museum and Museum Ludwig, have an endearing quality, depicting something honest and unrehearsed that all exhibition visitors can relate to. “A non-scripted moment can appear so surreal, meaningful, aesthetic or humorous that it looks scripted,” says Claasen, who is thrilled when he is in the right place at the right time, and able to make a seemingly unassuming scene appear orchestrated and amusing.
It’s difficult not to get lost in the body language of the observers Claasen captures. He catches one viewer sitting asleep on a chair, and documents another reading a book, playfully mirroring the woman in the painting before her. “I feel that we, as visitors of a museum or gallery, are all a part of the exhibition, unwittingly or not,” he explains. Demonstrating that there is something unique about the relationship between viewer and artwork, Musea brings a levity to a typically serious environment. It also confirms something we all already know: that observing others (even when they themselves are observing) is a deeply satisfying thing to do.