Book of the Month: Out of Place

Bas Losekoot

March 29, 2021

Unveiling scenes from the theatre of life on the streets of the big city: a new photo book freezes moments of everyday life in emotional mini dramas.
The pictures are not very old. Taken in recent years, they make rather strange references to a past that is still very present, yet seems frighteningly distant from today's experience. The Dutch photographer, Bas Losekoot, presents people on the streets of the big city as isolated, lost and alone, amid the flow of the masses. However, no one here need wear nose and mouth coverings; the photographer applies the word “mask” in a figurative sense. His images underlines the rupture the pandemic has caused to the visual appearance of big cities. Speaking of the work, he explains: “I always consider the street a stage where we, the actors, are performing in the decor of the city. In daily life, we are performing social roles, and we wear the appropriate mask for that. While commuting in the city, we drop this mask and replace another one -- the mask of self-protection.” How, as viewers, we would love to once again be able to concentrate only on these emotional and social masks. It will certainly be fascinating to see how these motifs will be interpreted in a few years time.

Out of Place focusses on randomly chosen passers-by in Mexico City, New York, São Paulo, London, Lagos, Istanbul, Mumbai, Hong Kong, and Seoul: a total of nine metropolises, where the Dutch photographer has worked during the past ten years. In the series, he looks for images that reflect the ambivalent feelings of alienation and the simultaneous desire for togetherness that arise on the busy streets of a big city. “Because of the capacity of photography to freeze motion, I am able to show moments of everyday life that normally remain unseen,” the photographer says. He plans the settings for his pictures very precisely; however, each individual image preserves a moment that has arisen by chance. “I carefully observe behaviour at a location, before I start photographing. I often return to the same place,” Losekoot states, explaining his approach. “I install flash-lights on tripods and onto anything that I can find on the street, in order to create a mixture of natural and artificial lighting. I shoot hand-held. I position the light, and then wait for people to walk into the frame. I don’t like to be noticed, so I try to blend in as much as possible. I want to catch people unaware of being photographed. I never talk to people. I avoid eye contact, before the shutter is released. Afterwards, I nod and give the ‘actors’ a friendly smile.”

The close-ups in the series are particularly striking, imbuing the situation and the characters with a sense of extreme drama, reminiscent of film stills. This idea is reflected in the elaborate design of the book, which is structured with a diversity of page formats. As a result, the overlays give rise to new connections that aim to symbolise life and the atmosphere on the streets. The film-like quality of the series is complemented with three mini screenplays, depicting short scenes involving the passers-by, imagined by film producer and author Kasper van Beek. The epilogue that closes the book captures a conversation with sociologist and film-maker Paul Halliday; and deals with subjects such as alienation, loneliness, closeness and mobility in the big city.

Financed thanks to a crowdfunding campaign, the photo book is the result of a year-long production that was overtaken by the current pandemic experience. This is an exciting project that offers further food for thought about the tragedies, comedies, beauty and horrors of urban life.

Bas Losekoot: Out of Place
With texts by Kasper van Beek, Paul Halliday, Hugo Macdonald
Designed by Teun van der Heijden/Heijdens Karwei.
144 pages, 59 colour pictures. English, 24 x 29 cm,
Ulrich Rüter

Bas Losekoot+-

Bas Portret - LL19©JitskeSchols-101
© Jitske Schols

...was born in Amsterdam in 1979. He has a BA in Fine Art Photography from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, and an MA in Photography and Urban Cultures from Goldsmiths, University of London. In addition to his work as a portrait and documentary photographer, he develops long-term projects dealing with socio-economic issues. His work has been exhibited at numerous galleries, museums and festivals. Out of Place is the first photo book where he combines his interest in cinema with street photography. More


Book of the Month: Out of Place

Bas Losekoot