The visual mind of Josef van Galen

It’s clearly the COVID-19 pandemic has a huge impact on the music industry and all people that are part of it. A lot of musicians are dealing with it in their own way. Josef van Galen (50% Pin Up Club) dove back into his first love; photography.

Interview by Brendan Reterink
Photography by Josef van Galen

I found it very hard to make music – I don’t have a studio at home and I had to go to my studio to make music. I was making music with Pin Up Club of course, but Jelle (50% of Pin Up Club) became dad for the second time and time is quite scares. I’ve noticed I didn’t like to make music on my own and I’m a sound designer too, so I’d like to do other stuff as well when I got some time off. What I did a lot was taking walks, being outside. I brought my camera with me and that was my way of being creative – when I can’t do anything creative things will go downhill. I really need to do something to keep my creativity going, I can have these creative blocks that lasts a year. My first love was photography – I studied photography back in the 90’s. I was good at it, but you couldn’t make any money with it – like everything I do in my life haha.

With both music and photography, I have a preference for gritty stuff. I’m not into shooting beautiful portraits or something, just like I never make beautiful polished music. It must be punk; it has to be underground – and that’s what I search for in both music and photography. That’s why I like analog photography more – I shoot digital also, but when I shoot digital I have to work hard to get the grittiness back. Mostly the stuff I capture is raw – it can be stuff that isn’t finished yet or probably things most other people won’t capture. Or people that normally aren’t photographed. I’m working on a series “Bird of Paradise” here in Amsterdam, no one takes pictures of those kind of people. That’s what I find interesting. But yes, I just like dirty places haha. Weird corners, light fall, shadows – not the stuff you would be able to sell.

Analog photography is a risky thing – you can’t delete a photo or try a shake on your camera without losing a frame you know. But that’s analog stuff, when we’re making music with Pin Up Club we’re using analog synthesizers too and we get a one take file. And of course, you can edit, but we try to stay away from that as much as we can, because you want to keep the rawness of it.

But luckily, we have Instagram now to share our own work, right?

I’m a fanatic Instagrammer, but I don’t have any followers. What I like about Instagram is that you consult who you want to be as photographer. I discovered that I had to do black & white photography, because I don’t think in colours, but more in compositions. I had the feeling that, like in music also, it has to fit together but you should also allow yourself to take pictures of buildings and faces for example, and when I did that in colour, two completely different worlds arose – I don’t like that. When I do something, it need to have cohesion. Visual cohesion in this case. And with music it’s audio cohesion – but with music you do have a bit more freedom. You can use certain distortion pedals or ways to make things gritty and overkilled, and sometimes even ugly and that’s something I also wanted to do with photography. Black and white photography seemed to suite that well. It has to be punk, and that’s something that’s inside of me. I do have a gritty background. In my memories everything was a bit dirty in my youth and I try to bring that back in what I want to contribute to the world.

“I have a preference for gritty stuff. I’m not into shooting beautiful portraits or something, just like I never make beautiful polished music.”

If you’d like to see more of Josef’s work, you can follow him here.

White Album © Josef van Galen