There’s something overwhelmingly surreal about Ruud van Empel’s digital collages of children. The Amsterdam-based artist’s subjects are always impeccably dressed, centered in magic realist settings of forests, lakes, and gardens. They look directly into the viewer with eyes wide open in a strangely eerie, puppet-like fashion.
The Dutch artist uses cibachrome, an analog developing technique, to give an aura of surrealism to his photographs. Childhood, innocence and race are among his central themes. Sinister and dark moods lie beneath the otherwise impossibly perfect compositions, down to the finest details. To create his unhinged version of life, Van Empel first shoots young models in his studio, looks for the perfect natural elements in Dutch forests, and then takes everything apart and reconstructs his unique photo-realist look. See his unsettling portraits below.