For Amsterdam based artist, photographer and writer Jan Hoek collaboration is key. Enthralled by the beauty of strangers, Hoek follows his curiosity to create with excluded or overlooked individuals to form a new narrative together.
His work has shown at Foam (Amsterdam), Photoville (New York), Fomu (Antwerp) and more, but it was the photo assignment for The New York Times article ‘What It Means to Dress in Lagos’ which launched the working relationship between Hoek and his co-collaborator, stylist and photographer Stephen Tayo. Alongside Tayo, Hoek brings a multidisciplinary mindset to interpreting the Multi-Local trend.
“I always try to find new and equal collaborations with other people, most of the time from other cultures,” Hoek says. “I was born in Utrecht, but I’ve lived in Amsterdam since I was 12. And right now, the creative industry in the Netherlands is one of the whitest that I know. We try to be diverse and open, but in the end, we are not, and it feels like Dutch people are not really open to share their position of power.”
For Hoek, this became increasingly obvious the more he worked outside the Netherlands. “I see the difference in other big cities. But also because when people of colour criticized my work, it was very good. It made me change my way of working.”
Not only did Hoek reflect on his way of creating, but whose stories he told. “When I had a talk with The New York Times about doing a series in Nigeria, I immediately felt that doing that alone was morally not OK,” he explains.
“I know Lagos because I exhibited my work at Lagos Photo, one of the most important photo festivals on the African continent. It’s where I met Stephen Tayo, a young Nigerian photographer: we immediately had a connection. There are so many great photographers in Nigeria and each time a big Western media brand wants to portray something there, they fly in a Western photographer. The New York Times still flew me in, but I shared my fee with Stephen and now next time, they can ask him directly.”
For Heimtextil 2020, Hoek and Tayo have curated a selection of imagery representing the Multi-Local trend. Their work reveals a trend which embraces exchange, creative integrity and diverse identities to celebrate inclusivity over appropriation. So does Hoek see lifestyle and identity playing a bigger role in interiors in the future?
“I think it would be nice if more people in the world go as wild with their houses as they do in Lagos, but I don’t know if and when that will happen”.