Paul Blanca (1954/58), official name Paul Vlaswinkel, is a Dutch artist (art photographer) who had a breakthrough in the early 80s of the last century with his confrontational violent self-portraits influenced by the American photographers Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) and Andres Serrano (1950). The self-taught Blanca came into touch with the artscene when he met Eva Veldhoen, the daughter of the well-known Dutch painter Aat Veldhoen (1934). The acquaintance with this artistic environment was a real eye-opener for Blanca and shortly after he started photographing, first in color with a small screen camera but very soon after shooting in B&W using a Hasselblad camera (6 X 6 cm).
In 1980 he was introduced to the world-famous choreographer Hans van Manen (1932), who is a meritorious photographer himself and had a photo studio. Besides their mutual interest in photography, Van Manen also used Blanca in one of his dance choreographies called Pose in which Blanca performed as a kick-boxer, he was a practitioner of this full-contact sport from the age of 16, surrounded by ballerina’s.
Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) who was a close friend of Van Manen was very impressed by Blanca’s self-portraits and later introduced him to New York’s high society (like Keith Haring, Willem de Kooning, Japser Johns, Grace Jones…etc.) stating ‘Paul Blanca is my only competitor’. The art collector Bill Katz says in Anthony Haden Guest’s True Colors – The Real Life of the Art World on Blanca: “…he reaches a kind of poetry few artists have”.
Most of Blanca’s self-portraits deal with strong emotions and violent themes like fear, sadness, pain, agression and sexuality exploring his inner demons. Diametrically against this harsh work, there are the sensitive and gentle pictures like the one called Mother and Son (Mapplethorpe’s favourite) depicting himself in a tender embrace with his mother, both fully naked, or the portrait holding his newborn son in the air called Father and Son.
In 1986 Blanca worked on a book called Timing (edition of 1000) which featured the upcoming Dutch artists of the eighties and his photographs were accompanied by poems of Koos Dalstra (1950). For his touching series Par la Pluie des Femmes (1989) he asked his female models to think of their most traumatic experiences. Together with Hans Gieles and Francis Boeske of the gallery Vous Etes Ici he produced the magnificent Sangre de Toro series in 1991 (see ‘Blood of the Bull’ below).
During this time Blanca also started as a research-journalist for the Amsterdam weekly, Nieuwe Revu and the newspaper Het Parool. He wrote about crack and again exploring his own boundaries he started to use it himself, resulting in an addiction. His article for Nieuwe Revu on weapons was the starting point of a downward spiral with him being a suspect in the assault on Rob Scholte in 1995 because of his “knowledge” of grenades. There was a long silence but in 2008 Blanca returned with a project called Mi Mattes in which he photographed gangmembers hanging around his studio.