Bianca + Brenda Hofman

Writing is like eating. I need to do it to feel good.   ̴- Bianca Hofman

Picture it. Something you really want is contingent upon someone else's positive reply. You think and plan. You prepare what you will say and how you will say it. Finally, the day arrives and you make your move.

This was the experience of Bianca Hofman. The day arrived. She took a couple of works, walked into her neighbourhood gallery, and pitched an exhibition. The gallery owner agreed. 

Bianca and Brenda are sisters from The Netherlands. Brenda is a photographer and Bianca, an ultrashort story writer. They are expats living in Barcelona who have combined their artistic skills to create works that are visually engaging while delving into the human condition. In May of last year, the Hofman Project premiered 36 ultrashort flash fiction stories. Over cookies and cupcakes at a local cafe, I learned how the collaboration began.

Three years ago, Brenda moved to Barcelona. Like many people who relocate, she immediately began exploring her new city. A key part of this exploration involved photographing her surroundings. Yet, when one views the images, the sites and scenes a visitor associates with Barcelona are not clearly evident.

While walking the streets and alleyways of her new home, she was drawn to shapes, patterns, and light. She has a discerning eye. If something catches her attention, no matter how minuscule, the shutter is activated.

After amassing quite a collection of photographs during the first year, she was anxious to do something with them. Already 'in love' with Bianca's stories, Brenda thought her photographs could serve as additional inspiration for her sister's writing. They each shared works, talked, planned, and the ultrashort flash fiction stories were born.

"Everything inspires me; life inspires me", Brenda says and her sister concurs. Yet there are specific aspects of life that they gravitate toward in their art mediums. While the works are distinctly Barcelona, Bianca says, "we can show the other side of a city... We show our fears in our work." A testament to their symbiotic relationship and "similar vision" is that at times, Bianca shares one of her stories and Brenda says, "I have a picture for that."

Their work is raw, poignant, honest, and dignified. It is without pretense. As Brenda comments, there are things that are "not so pretty about you and the people around you....life is a struggle."

Photographing and writing stories about missing pieces, broken things, loneliness, and depression is a commentary on life. Yet the ways in which these topics are handled is worthy of note and calls to mind the I Give Everything Away series by French American artist Louise Bourgeois. In their work, the viewer is positioned as a close friend and confidant, privy to the artists' innermost thoughts and feelings. An intersubjectivity exists and through this, the realization that you are not alone.