Marga Rotteveel – Docking Station

The interview with Marga Rotteveel was realised by Federica Cavazzuti during Unseen Photo Fair 2016, Amsterdam.


FC: Marga, can you tell me something about how did Docking Station start and how did you develop the ideas behind the project?

MR: It started actually at the dinner table – as always the best ideas start with a good glass of wine and having a lovely dinner. I sat there with Anais Lopez and we found out that we had the same ideas about sharing and loving to help photographers, and that we are both interested in socially engaged photography. We also found out that we already are doing that in our own practices – Anais as a photographer, me as a curator and lecturer. So we decided to make this more official, to create an organization under the name ‘Docking Station’. The name means exactly that you ‘dock’, that you charge yourself with knowledge; in order to do this, we share a creative network of curators, editors, etc, but also beyond – towards science or philosophy, or anything that the stories might need to push it further. Every year we ask eight international photographers to come over to Amsterdam, to ‘dock’ in a little 100% sustainable house, where the photographer can work and stay. There is where we connect our network to the story. You could also think of it as a kind of a reflection place: the artists are photographing around the globe – so they’re not actually making new photos there – but Docking Station is where they can share the content of the story, meet new people, think about their project, work on it, and bring it further.

Is there a specific focus or topic you look for when selecting the artists?

We are focusing on socially engaged photography and we work with the Docking Ambassadors, people from around the world who work with photography. They are mainly from Europe at the present moment, but in the future we want to expand much more towards countries like Japan, Australia, and all the globe. The Docking Ambassadors are the ones who tell us, ‘This is an interesting story and they need Docking Station to push it further!’. After they propose us several names, Anais and myself have a series of Skype meetings with the photographers they suggested, in order to see if their stories could connect with what we can offer. The process takes time, we usually don’t have an immediate answer, and sometimes we have to say ‘no’ because the content of the projects is out of our scope. But we take all the proposals from our Ambassadors very seriously. Also, their proposals can go beyond national boundaries, and are not always connected to the Ambassador’s own country: it could happen that someone from the United States suggests an artist from Africa, for instance. Anais and myself are also ambassadors when we bring Dutch photographers abroad, as we did last summer in Slovenia, but in Amsterdam we only dock international photographers.

How can a photographer be considered to take part in the residency? Does it happen only thanks to the Docking Ambassadors?

Yes, it happens only through a Docking Ambassador. We receive all kinds of proposals and emails from photographers, but what people who want to participate in the residency can do is to look at our website and find an Ambassador who can connect them to us. Or even propose someone, who is important and interesting for photography, as a potential Ambassador: then, if he’s interesting enough, we can add him/her to our network. Always be inventive!

How many Dockers have participated so far, and how many are expected in the next months?

So far, six, and there are still two to come for this year, while for the next year we’re nearly full. Every year we work with eight Dockers.

I’d like to know more about how is the month of a Docker organised during the residency – what kind of meetings he/she is encouraged to attend?

The Docker must be very active during the month here and willing to open up his own network. We offer every Docker four meetings, of which the first one is with us, at the beginning of the residency. We talked with him/her already through Skype, so of course we saw his/her work and know everything about it, but still the first meeting is going to be with us. We have already arranged the three others, which can be with an editor, a curator, or another expert the story needs. But all the Dockers until now actually had many more meeting than these, since they are all very active and, as we love what we do, we try to offer much more. For instance, I believe our last Docker, Claudius Schulze, had roughly fifteen meetings, maybe even more – that’s fantastic.

Can the Docker exhibit his work?

We do some pop-up exhibitions, for example for the work of Jana Romanova, the Docker we had before Claudius Schulze, we had an exhibition in a outside space, near a park. We think that each story needs a new public, a public that is also outside the photography world: in order to do so, it’s useful to put the works in a public space. What we also started to do a few days ago, is making videos about our Dockers, with interviews on their work and on their time at Docking Station, and posting them on our website.

How can the public be involved in the community of Docking Station?

We always share the experience of every Docker with the public of The Netherlands – after all we make use of the public money from our country and the choice of having only international photographers can be a bit controversial. But what we do is not only for Dockers, we always want to return something to the Dutch public. Also, since the experience of these artists can be interesting for other photographers, we map what each Docker does during the three weeks of residency and post it online, in order for everyone to see it and share it more easily with different audiences.

Marga Rotteveel

Marga Rotteveel is the co-founder and director of the photography organisation Docking Station. She studied photography at AKV|St.Joost in Breda. After graduating she got involved in the fields of curation, advising and project initiation. She began her career as a curator at Photofestival Naarden and went on to become the creative director in a later edition of the festival. In 2010 Rotteveel started her own independent business, Photorevolt, where she curated and organized shows in the Netherlands and abroad. Rotteveel has lectured in the Bachelor’s and Master’s photography programmes at AKV|St.Joost for many years. She strongly believes in collaboration and sharing her network and expertise; her aim is to connect, inspire and support visual storytellers so that they are able to take their work to diverse audiences. For this reason, she founded the new photography organization Docking Station with photographer Anais Lopez.


Image: The Hub at Docking Station.

Courtesy: Docking Station 2016.


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