Porsche Paparazzo: A Chat With 911 Photographer Bart Kuykens
Photography by Mike Crawat
The Porsche 911 is one of the major culprits responsible for starting millions of love affairs with the automobile. It is depicted in countless publications, it has worn almost every hat in the catalog when it comes to motorsport ventures, and to each person the 911 represents something slightly different—it all depends on your frame of reference and tastes. Bart Kuykens is one of many that have fallen for these unique cars with flat-six engines mounted “in the trunk,” and his 1970 911T was featured in one of the brand’s promotional campaigns surrounding the recently-unveiled 992 generation of the longstanding sports car. His story goes back much further than that, though.
Bart is a guy who’s loved Porsche since he was a child, and he’s mixed together his passion for analog Leicas and vintage Porsches to make a seven-volume book series called A Flat 6 Love Affair in which he hunts and captures the essence of the relationships between owner and car in a beautiful book of black and white imagery. I recently spent some time with Bart and sat down with him to ask a few questions about how he got here.
Alvaro Pinzón: What is your background with photography? How did you you get into analog side?
Bart Kuykens: I worked in fashion for years and still have my own casting agencies. I am involved in photography and film on a daily basis anyway, so the step to taking pictures myself wasn’t that big. Analog photography, especially in black and white, always touched me. I just don’t feel the passion when I shoot digital compared to film. I do what I do because I feel confident in my abilities and get a lot of positive feedback on my artistic work. I also like to inspire and get inspired by others, it gives me energy and a positive drive to keep going out there.
AP: How do work? What is the scene like behind the scenes in your pictures?
BK: I always shoot analog, mostly on a Leica M7 for my Porsche project, and Hasselblad for my portraits and other work. I shoot fast and unprepared. I like this flow. When I plan things up front, too much can and usually will go wrong, and that gives me stress I don’t want or need. There’s a value in spontaneity apart from this aspect too.
AP: What has been one of your best experiences as a photographer and a car enthusiast?
BK: One of my most interesting shoots was probably with Paloma Picasso because of her contribution in fashion and art obviously. I also very much liked Thomas Seydoux because he’s such an interesting and humble person and his knowledge of art in general is fascinatingly deep. in terms of shooting Porsche legends, I think Norbert singer and Hans Mezger made the deepest impact on me so far—these were the guys responsible for some of the marques best successes, and they’re still around to talk about it!
AP: It seems like you’ve had some good company along the way—what’s your favorite piece of work you’ve done up to this point?
BK: That’s a difficult one. I think the completion of the four books so far, even though that’s not really a completed piece yet. I see it as one mission, one goal, and one final result. The series, containing seven books, will be “the work” in this case, and until then it’s just a work in progress.
AP: Can you tell me more about the idea behind making the Flat 6 Love Affair collection? What are some of the biggest challenges inherent in producing a book like this each year?
BK: One book for one year might seem like a relaxing pace, but don’t get it wrong, it is a lot of work behind the paper. A lot of traveling, a lot of planning ahead, many hours spent emailing. Knowing that I have a book release every year in December, I know I cannot slow down and get complacent. Each volume contains 30-35 people, and their stories must all be wrapped up in advance, given the fact that I don’t shoot in November and December—I need this time to select all the images, prepare the layout with my graphic designer, and get into the actual printing of the book. This means I have to shoot three to four people with their cars each month, which is almost one every week; add to that the fact that I must go find these people to begin with. I spend a lot of time on the road and in hotels!
AP: What is your favorite book in the series so far, and why?
BK: Many people ask me this. the first one was the easiest one because I had no idea what to expect, the second one was exciting because I had no clue if people would buy Volume Two after the first one. But they did, so this was the confirmation for me that I was on the right track. Therefore I’d say the third book was the most rewarding because I knew I had built myself a loyal audience, and not wanting to let them down pushed me to seek out the best content I could. The fourth volume, which just released, is also important as it is my last book in Europe—I’m not saying I won’t shoot some people from Europe in the future for other work, but my focus will be on the USA next year.
AP: Getting to back to your own Porsche story, what cars do you have in your garage?
BK: I own a 1970 911, the “rad” car as most people know it by now, which just featured in the latest Porsche commercial for the 992 launch—very stoked about that by the way! I also drive a 1989 Guards Red 964. The best of both air-cooled worlds in my opinion.
AP: Speaking of these two worlds, which one do you prefer?
BK: You know, it depends on the journey. If I let my heart decide I will always take the ’70, but sometimes a little bit of comfort doesn’t hurt, and then the 964 becomes the perfect machine for trips where that’s more of a priority. the ’70 is my car of choice when I have time and good weather on my side, the best car to take out and empty my mind in.
AP: And if you had to add one more to the garage?
BK: I really have no idea what my next car will be, but I really like the Boxster Spyder, the 991 GTS, and the new Targa. The dream car for me at this moment would have to be the Targa GTS in GT Silver with an Alcantara interior—that would balance well with the two others I think.
AP: What are the plans in the future for your work with Porsche?
BK: 2019 will be set in the USA for the fifth volume of the Love Affair, and I’m already booked for Los Angeles and Chicago to start. I am also working on an exhibition for 2019 which is another step in my creative process. I think it will be very exciting to see my favorite works in one place and listen to the reactions of people who visit.
AP: We’ll be looking forward to whatever comes next if your old work is any indication of what to expect. Thank you for taking some time to chat Bart.
BK: Happy to do it!