Living between the Netherlands and South Africa has inspired photographer Dennis Swiatkowski’s work no end. Swiatkowski grew up in Holland, the weather and the landscapes of which left much to be desired – “the polar opposite of what I deem to be beautiful and tolerable” – but his access to Europe offered him countless opportunities for travel with his family and his first taste of discovery. A trip to South Africa as an adult helped him find both his dream home and vocation. “I fell in love with the nation, its people, its landscapes, its beauty, its opportunity, everything,” Swiatkowski explains from Holland. “Here I first got in touch with photography and filmmaking. I have always been a dreamer and a hippy of some sorts and I felt I could really pursue that there.”
A new tome out in April, Chasing Dreams, charts the wonder and beauty his newer home encouraged him to capture. A medley of personal and professional fashion imagery, this compilation of sun-filled shots was taken over the span of six years and flits easily between figurative and landscape pictures. “A lot of my inspiration comes from the universe,” he says. “I do’'t mean this in a vague spiritual sense, but simply in an appreciative manner. I am astonished by what I see when I look up at the sky on a clear night and I am amazed by the beauty surrounding us on planet earth.”
And they are dreamy: roadtrips taken with friends; tennis played in the nude; Mediterranean island churches; palm leaves; sandy bodies. They read like the hazy vignettes of a distant holiday memory – or perhaps, rather, of those holidays better left imagined. In the same way that our personal snaps can work as a perfected memory of a trip, removed of all the tangible trappings of travel – baggage, transport, delays – Swiatkowski manipulates the photographic medium to play on our desires. “I suppose it’s chasing dreams of worlds which don’t really exist,” the photographer confirms. “I mean, everything you see in the book exists, but it’s a little too good, too beautiful to be true. As so many things in life, I capture a fragment of a larger sequence of events and that moment itself is real, but it’s directed, it’s framed and it’s captured with the intention to be beautiful.”
Swiatkowski treats nudes and landscapes with the same reverence – both examples of the universe’s self-made natural beauty. “To me the human body is at its most beautiful and vulnerable in the nude and the nude to me is as ethereal as nature itself.”
Chasing Dreams is published by Prestel, out on April 9, 2018.