Joost Vandebrug is a Dutch photographer and filmmaker. He was born in 1982 and along with his most famous photo project, Lost Boys, Vandebrug has also shot music videos for the likes of Petshop Boys and shot for Nike. He is currently wrapping up his newest film, Bruce Lee and the Lost Boys.
Your works convey a cinematic feel (perhaps because you are a filmmaker as well), particularly one shot from "Lost boys" that is very reminiscent of La Haine--would you say that your photographic process is similar to that of a movie's? Do you have any particular films that you draw inspiration from?
In photography I am able to work intuitively which as a film director is a lot harder, particularly at the post production stage we are in now with the film "Bruce Lee and the Outlaw'. Generally, if you want people to understand the story you are telling them in your film, you will have to build your plot, characters and explain the locations etc throughout the 3 acts of the film (if this is the structure you choose). It’s a much more pragmatic process. Though while shooting I connect with my subject in a very similar way, I work on similar (small) camera's on either film and photography and always try to be on my own as much as possible (with documentary projects).
Your works for TWIN Magazine seem to be the most cohesive project between your commissioned and personal work, do you find it difficult to do or would you prefer for the two to be separate (both in subject matter and aesthetically)?
I quite like it when people can't distinguish between my commissioned work and personal work, I like both to go hand in hand. In the case of Twin magazine I had been documenting this Roma Gypsy village for at least 2 years so by then I knew some families quite well. When Becky (from Twin) and I decided to do a project there, there wasn't any ice to break and I knew what I could get out of it without taking advantage of the young kids and families. The story for Twin just became part of the larger project in a whole.
Can you tell us more about Bruce Lee and the Lost Boys and how it came to be?
It started with a small gesture about six years ago, at the North train station in Bucharest. I met Costel (then 14 y/o) huffing from his bag of drugs. I tried to have a small conversation with him and asked to take his picture. The next day I went to the same spot to find Costel again, this time so I could give him back that picture I had shot of him. For almost a week I repeated this sequence of taking a photo and giving it back, when Costel asked me to see where he lived. This was my introduction to the tunnels under the streets of Bucharest.
I was then introduced to other boys just like Costel: Nicu, Safta, Liviu, Stefan and of course the Boss of Bosses, the uncrowned King of the Tunnels: Bruce Lee.
I have been documenting the world of Bruce Lee and the 'Lost Boys' since early 2011. I first published a book in 2013 with DUST magazine called Cinci Lei and from there I got to know people to help me build the documentary. I was very lucky for Grain media in London to embrace the story and put the initial funds in to get it off the ground. They also introduced me to the best editor this project could wish for, Katie Bryer, who pretty much dedicated two years of her life to this project.
Images courtesy of Joost Vandebrug
words PERWANA NAZIF
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