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The dark, post-apocalyptic worlds of Dutch photographer Sander Steins often place seemingly omniscient women in the calm eye of disaster. Steins' combination of disturbing visions, masterful digital retouching, unique fashions and haunting lighting have created a netherworld he predicts we have earned as a human race. We spoke with Steins about art, hope and humanity.

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Eros Zine: Your images seat your models in another world altogether, one that's dark, foggy and almost stormy. Where does this world come from in your mind?

Sander Steins: It's a reflection of how I see the world in the x-amount of years ahead. Everything is about producing and consuming. The dark worlds are my future visions. We are bad guests and are over-cropping this planet. Besides, in most cases it's men who still dominate this world, and unfortunately everything is still about power.

Involving more emotion in decisions should be so much more important right now, if we still want to be able to turn the tide. That's why I think women should have more influence on important matters. That's also the reason I always want to portray strong women as a contrast in my worlds. They represent the only survivors in the worlds destroyed by men.

Eros Zine: You say your art offers not only fantasy, but also a "strong analytic view of society." Do you think people are inherently good? Does society nurture or destroy us? Are we all just "lonely sinners," as you quote on your website?

Sander Steins: In life, everybody starts "blank." In the beginning, you surrender to the circumstances and the environment where you grow up in. From there you can make choices. Some people are not capable of making their choices because of their bad financial situation, and they have a hard time in this society of consumption.

The amount of choices you have to make in the West can be compared to a huge labyrinth. You can easily lose track. Many people don't have the capacity to find the right path and get lost in society.

I don't know if everybody is a lonely sinner. You see a lot of mental poverty because of the overload of information we consume daily. And I doubt if there are many people that even know what they can or want to do with their life.

From the Feel the Buzz series.
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Eros Zine: You grew up in the Netherlands. Do you still live there and how do you think your art reflects your environment?

Sander Steins: My home base right now is still the Netherlands. I don't think you should identify with just one country. Within four hours I can be in any major city in Europe... So I feel more of a European than a Dutchman. I always find it difficult to decide if European influences are reflected in my work. They probably are, but I can't really pin down what's typically European. Maybe people from other continents can see that more clearly.

Eros Zine: You did one digital photo collection called Feel the Buzz. What's its connection with Absinthe?

Sander Steins: This alt.fashion series was inspired by the song "Feel the Buzz" by electro act Faderhead. I tried to create a trip-like effect. Unfortunately, on small format it's less clear, but when you see it larger, the motion effect makes you feel quite dizzy. By the way, I never drink alcohol and I don't do drugs, so it was a challenge to create the atmosphere.

Eros Zine: Your collection Dark Green Forest is exquisite, provocative and mysterious. Can you walk me through the process of its creation? How much planning do you do beforehand, what's the shooting environment like, and how long do you spend digitally altering the images?

Sander Steins: Because I was in Sweden for the shoot, I wanted to create a dark mystical mood. The colours also had to fit in with the designer's wishes. With creative shoots like this, I actually don't plan ahead too much. I have a basic idea in my head, I know what models I'm going to work with, and I just start there. I also like to leave a lot of room for improvisation.

On the day of the shoot it was 28 degrees Celsius, the sky was clear blue and the sun was shining, so it was necessary to edit a lot afterwards. The editing -- depending on the picture and the concept -- takes about five hours per image. But when creating totally new worlds it can also take up to 50 hours per image.

From the Dark Green Forest series.
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Eros Zine: You have captured some very beautiful and creative runway pieces at fashion shows. What's your view on fashion as an art form, and how strong is its role in your own art?

Sander Steins: In my opinion, fashion is art. A designer is also an artist, but uses other materials to show his or her creative vision to others. One goal of fashion -- besides being seen -- is also to be used. In my art, fashion is very important, because it can determine the attitude of a model, just like an expression does.

Eros Zine: Where do you find your models, how well do you know them, and do you have any muses?

Sander Steins: For fashion shoots, the first place to find a good model is, of course, an agency. But I don't use them for my art photography.

In the beginning I found my models mainly through the internet, but by now models also know how to find me. Thanks to this ideal situation, it's now a lot easier for me to find a good model, and I can be pickier.

For me it's not necessary to know my models really well. In fact, I don't like to photograph people I know too well. There are models I've worked with more often, but I can't say I really have a muse.

Eros Zine: What's next for you?

Sander Steins: At the moment I'm working on a series of 20 images for my exhibition in Les Furieux in Paris in April 2007. But right now I don't want to look too far ahead and only concentrate on these works. Too much planning can also make you feel lost...

To learn more about Sander Steins, visit www.VisualClash.com.

Sander Steins - by Sez G.