Sofie Knijff

1972, Dutch and Belgian, born in Vilvoorde, Belgium
Nominee - Prix Elysée 2017

Sofie Knijff is a Dutch-Belgian photographer based in Amsterdam. As a young adult she lived between Curacao, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg and Paris and developed over the years a strong inner fantasy world fascination for different cultures and identities. She began her artistic parcours studying theatre, receiving her diploma to be a theatre performer in 1998 from the Toneelacademie in Maastricht, the Netherlands. It was only in 2003 that she entered the Fotoacademie Amsterdam to pursue studies in Photography. It is certain this unique background in theatre is reflected in the photographic universe Sofie Knijff invites us to explore; her work is steeped in aspects of the theatrical and owes much to the notions she learned as a performer herself – approaching spaces as scenery and people as characters.
Her work has been published and exhibited internationally in galleries, museums and art fairs. Recently, her artistic projects have received grants from the Mondrian Foundation and shortlisted for the Unseen Photo Fair Dummy Award (2012), Mack Book Award (2013) and Best Photobook Award Kassel (2015) amongst others.




Creating a dialogue between the fictional and real, for the Prix Elysée Sofie Knijff will explore the influence of fairy tales and their meaning in different cultures today. Working in the genre of portraiture, she will work with children, bringing their favorite fairy tales to life. It is her hope with this project to inspire a new vision of how we perceive the “other” in the world today.

“As follow up on my research into children, I now want to propose to the Prix Elysée a series on fairy tales and their meaning and influence in different cultures today.

In our times, in which fear for other people appears to be growing, I want to look into the tales children grow up with. How do they differ culturally? Where do the different stories meet? Fairy tales are from all times, ages and cultural backgrounds. They are stories that generally begin with ‘once upon a time’ and usually end with ‘happily ever after’. They guide us through the world of heroes and heroines and adventures long ago and far away. They also connect us with the subconscious. They provide us with the tools to understand who we are and how to cope with life’s obstacles and dangers. I will analyse a selection of fairy tales originating from different parts of the world. I will concentrate on tales from areas full of turmoil (economically and religiously) in Europe, the US, Africa and Asia. I’d like to interview writers, storytellers and historians, specialists on the matter. I want to collect personal stories from people of different backgrounds and age who tell us how stories have influenced their childhood or still influence their lives today, and compare them. I will focus on archetypes within the tales, e.g.: kings, princesses, bears and witches. Characters that are used in stories universally. In this new series my aim would again be to combine the staged and the real. As in my Translations series, I will ask my subjects to transform into these characters by using their own decors and costumes. Besides, I will go to the areas from where the tales originate and portray their real landscapes and mirror them with the inner landscapes of the stories. I aim for my research to bring about a different vision on how we see ‘The other’ through the world of tales.”