Elza Jo van Reenen: Glitter, Felt and Cats

The trendsetting Dutch photographic artist talks about her unique and eclectic style... and about being attacked by psycho cats

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Elza Jo initially studied graphic design at The Hague, before switching her major to photography. “I began doing graphic design but I really didn’t like it," she says. "They have quite a good graphic design program there. But it is mostly designing fonts, which is kind of nerdy work. During that year, I began imagining myself in an ergonomic chair, so I thought it was better for me to grab a camera and be outside.”

Graduating in 2004, she has already built a cult following. Her photos are appealing on  many different levels, and veer from her recent series, which recreated scenes of horror, to doing a series on her cat. “My cat was always attacking me. We are now in therapy," she laughs. "I am laughing now but it was actually quite scary. Every time I bumped my foot on something he would attack me. One time he even went for my throat and scratched it like he wanted to kill me. So then I shot a whole series of photos with him.” Luckily, the therapy seems to be working.

People first began to take notice of Elza Jo’s work with her final project for graduation, which investigated the world of strippers. “It started when I went to a strip club with a friend of mine and I was impressed by the skills the dancers had," she explains. "They had to practice everyday to become a really good pole dancer, yet they couldn’t brag to their parents or friends. It was something you really had to do on your own and couldn’t really share your success. I am very focused on what my parents think or grandparents think, so I wanted to investigate this idea of what it is like to go out on your own and do something by yourself. I wanted to take photos and keep a diary of my thoughts and place them over the top of the pictures of the strippers.”

Besides being an artist she also does commercial work in Holland. “I feel like my work is still very much experimental," she says. "I am kind of seen as ‘hip’ in Holland because everything is still very one-dimensional, so when I am asked to do a project for a company they say, ‘Yeah, do your thing on our advertisement and it will be hip!'” Whether she's doing shows or commercial work, whatever Elza Jo van Reenen creates seems bound to set new trends. 
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