"An African mask is much more than a simple portrait; it is an intermediary between the divine or other spiritual entities and the secular world of the living.
It certainly can't be seen as a frozen face, but as the image of a living world of rituals and beliefs where each has its own symbols. These symbolic features are unique for each ethnic group and belong to their cultural identity. A mask allows them to express the history of the relationship between the people and their spiritual world: the tradition. This is most actively revealed during the rituals and the dances.Creating a photographical picture of such a mask while trying to connect it with its spiritual meaning is not an easy task.
When I first saw Robby Bolleyn’s photographs at the art show PAN in Amsterdam, where he was exhibiting a group of animal portraits he took during his travels through Tanzania, I immediately sensed his ability to go beyond the subject and show its mystical energy.
It was quite natural for me to invite him to take a look at my collection of African masks with his sensitive eye and to offer him the challenge of creating this exhibition. And so we selected a group of masks and the result is amazing. His images are very intense and full of soul."
Jo De Buck - Gallery owner, freelance expert Sotheby’s, Brussels, Belgium
“In the project “Under a Dark Sky” Robby Bolleyn portrays the wildlife of Africa in a fascinating way, with a real eye for the graphic details.”
Gentleman’s Watch, The Netherlands
“African beauties! France-based Robby Bolleyn creates intense and powerful portraits of the mysterious inhabitants of the Serengeti. By reducing colour and background, the photographs take on an almost painting-like character.”
Roots Magazine, The Netherlands
“Formerly an Office Manager at the World Wide Fund for Nature, Belgian artist Robby Bolleyn gave up the 9-5 to pursue full-time his passion for creating beautiful images of the world’s most fascinating, and sometimes endangered, creatures. Portraying the animal kingdom in an unusual, yet authentic style, Robby’s photographs balance a sense of grace and majesty with the animals’ fundamental wildness. Robby’s wild and wonderful photographs are sure to enthral.”
Inmaculada Cumplido Valverde - Gallery manager, London, UK
“Things can, in a historic sense, disappear and get overtaken by modern times. Belgian photographer Robby Bolleyn understands this. He has traveled in Tanzania for more than 15 years.
In his photography projects primarily within the Serengeti ecosystem he has, during countless safaris and exclusively in the natural environment, depicted the African animal world in an extraordinary and authentic way.
Cheetahs, lions, elephants and zebras are portrayed as mysterious, gracious creatures. To create an atmosphere of serenity the black and white photographs have undergone some graphic modification.”
Tableau Fine Arts Magazine, The Netherlands
“Setting the scene and enhancing the beauty of the subject, which portrait photographers do, is clearly to be seen in Robby’s images of leopards, zebras, elephants and lions. His love and respect for the animals translates into photographs which could almost be called state portraits. Seen through his lens even vultures and hyenas take on their own beauty.”
Newspaper NRC Handelsblad, The Netherlands
“The Belgian photographer Robby Bolleyn has been visiting Africa for 20 years. If his photos were initially a “nice” documentary series like the ones seen in books, then an experience in the Tanzanian national park Manyara signified a transformation. “I was standing on a Land Rover when an enormous bull elephant started moving closer and closer. Eventually its tusks were at the same level as my lens. I couldn’t take a photo at that moment because I had to stay completely still. But that experience really made me want to create intense and moving portraits of animals.” The fruits of this endeavour can be seen in Eduard Planting’s gallery. The imposing lion’s head, taken close-up, where some of the mane has been erased with black to make the portrait even more intriguing; the solitary elephant calf, which Bolleyn fittingly calls “Innocence”; a moving tête-à-tête between a mother cheetah and her cub, which exudes an almost palpable tenderness.
Sometimes Bolleyn has to wait for hours on end in the blazing sun and surrounded by clouds of tsetse flies until the moment he is looking for arrives. And then there was the night a huge hippopotamus rampaged through his camp.
For one image he took between eight and nine thousand photographs of a herd of wildebeest, in order to be able to select exactly the right one “where the tail cracks above the animal’s back like a whip”. Often his photographs are as sharp as the view through a magnifying glass, and at other times, like the wildebeest, more blurred, to suggest movement. Sometimes the image Bolleyn is looking for is already there in his head, as can be seen in his portraits of zebras. It is like papering the walls of your home with a patterned wallpaper: each piece must match up perfectly with the next.”
Newspaper De Telegraaf, The Netherlands
“An office manager who decides to become a full-time photographer and then actually does it, and then goes on to produce such beautiful images: it sounds romantic and perhaps it is, but you have to be prepared to take a chance and you have to have the talent. Robby Bolleyn took the chance and has the talent!”
Felix Meurders - VARA Dutch Radio 1, The Netherlands