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Marco Bastmeijer about the Willem Wernsen-touch

Marco Bastmeyer, December 2010
Marco Bastmeyer – Delta F member – about the special touch of his friend and collegue photographer.

Willem Wernsen, man amongst men
Many people take pictures to keep beautiful memories; places they have been, moments they have experienced, or to photograph family members for future purposes.
Maybe this is the way things started for Willem Wernsen long ago, too, but to him photography means so much more. His photography is all about communication, connecting to his fellowmen. Both in taking pictures and in showing them, there is an exchange between him and the people around him.

Willem is always hunting for images, for people to appear in his photographs. It is amazing to see him when walking the streets, or when he is seated on a terrace with you in the middle of a conversation, aiming his camera to someone and taking a picture of someone. Almost in all instances this is proceeded by seeking casual eye contact with the one who is about to be photographed. A friendly nod, a quick glance at the camera to let the other one know what is about to happen, followed by pressing the shutter button.
This all happens in a matter of seconds. I have to admit that I always seem to underestimate what has just happened. My amazement and admiration come to life when I see the pictures after printing, beautifully produced in black and white.

Willem’s hunting is not aggressive. Despite his imposing figure and body length Willem always seems to blend in with the people in a natural fashion. His power is in always getting people to feel at ease before taking a picture. I have seen Willem at work in China, where he towered over people and yet was ableo go about at leisure and inconspicuously.

It is a fascinating ritual to witness.
The moment Willem sees his image he walks ever so slowly towards his target. He then puts his cane carefully against a wall and makes contact with a nod or by putting his hand to his chest. People have already been able to see him coming and to take a good look at him.
Then he greets them with a short and friendly hello, he looks into the viewfinder from the top and tells them in English or Dutch that he wants to take a picture. With some subtle gestures he shows them that he would like to include them in the picture frame. The other person almost always agrees.
Willem adjusts some settings, there is hardly any directing and the picture is taken. Sometimes a second one follows and then it is finished. Willem expresses his thanks, sometimes he shows his picture or a short and friendly conversation ensues. Then Willem heads back to his seat or he proceeds to his next image.

In this way we have traveled far and wide, but it does not matter where you are. Willem can take his pictures the same way in his hometown Amersfoort, or in Istanbul, or New York. If you head out with Willem for five days you will be amazed about how many images he can pick up from daily life. Pictures that show people and their environment, but all radiating that very Wernsen touch.

It is always amazing to see this photographer being uncertain about his own work. He needs some else just now, he cannot do without them. I am proud to be one of the people forming his sounding board. Among the many photo friends that Willem has and relates to, Delta F represent a very special group.
Five friends who are very different from one another, but who have one thing in common, an unequalled passion for photography. John Seegers, Frank Detrixhe, Ben Ros and yours truly have for over twenty years been getting together each month to review each other’s photographs intently.
This is done in an open and fair way. It keeps all of us sharp to continuously improve our images. Of course we all know that our best picture is yet to be taken!

Timeless has given us once again a beautiful picture book to look at and enjoy. This is a book that will inspire us all when taking our next pictures. Willem, we are deeply grateful.
On behalf of your friends of Delta F,