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Erik van der Weijde, from Dazed’s June 2013 issue
Photography Erik van der Weijde

Exploring what goes on behind closed doors

Photographer Erik van der Weijde finds sexuality somewhere between kidnapping and 70s porn mags – and shares the story behind this image

Taken from the June 2013 issue of Dazed, as part of the Last Shot archive series

In the mid-00s, Dutch-born photographer Erik van der Weijde turned his lens away from his usual subject of family intimacy and towards the thornier issues of sex, disguise and modern identity. Working mainly on monochrome film, van der Weijde has lived and worked in Brazil for the past decade, documenting everything from the country’s religious architecture to its cities’ prostitutes. He is also the founder of publishing house 4478zine, which believes that “questioning social phenomena is a healthy habit.” We couldn’t agree more. For this issue’s Last Shot, he rifled through his archive and found this striking image from 2005’s foto. zine nr.1, one of the dozens of books and zines that he has issued on the imprint.

“The subject of this image is named Marcílio, and he used to go to university with my wife here in Natal. Every year at Easter, he would dress up as the Easter bunny at the local mall, and she was the Easter elf. That kind of costuming made me think that he would be suitable. He has this huge body he’s really proud of: he always talks about it, and he never talks about losing weight. He’s quite an exhibitionist.

There’s a sexual side to the picture. I had images in mind from 70s and 80s porn mags, where people placed advertisements with a black rectangle superimposed over their eyes. They weren’t escorts, just people looking for casual sex. It makes for a dark image, like a picture of an anonymous body sculpture. People looking for sex in a sculpture.

“There’s a sexual side to the picture. I had images in mind from 70s and 80s porn mags, where people placed advertisements with a black rectangle superimposed over their eyes” – Erik van der Weijde

I was also looking at images of people who had been kidnapped and held in a bedroom with only a mattress on the floor and nothing else. That’s another thing that I wanted to explore. The image was shot in our old apartment. We were moving at the time, so the apartment was empty. It’s a homely image, stripped. Like décor for a theatre.

My friend Marcílio is so outgoing – he’s always smiling, and in the pictures he always had a smile on his face that totally didn’t work for me, so that’s why I started covering up his face – to hide the smile! There are a few other shoots where I literally used masks, but when I used a cloth the picture grew its own life. I aim for images that could be taken anywhere and of anyone, and that’s why I love to use masks – to give the image an iconic value. It can get spooky in a way, a bit horror-movie.

I look for places in architecture where something happens that you don’t see from the outside, places you pass by on your way to work or school. Places where people could have actually been kidnapped. For this shoot I wanted to go inside one of these places and actually feel and show what could happen inside.”

Below, van der Weijde shares unseen images from the shoot with us: