Interview with Joop the Crystalman

by Skip Stone



Martin Trip and I recently had the pleasure of meeting Joop the Crystalman, whose incredible macro-photographs of cannabis THC tricomes adorn many a wall in the Cannabis College, grow shops, headshops and coffeeshops in Amsterdam. His work has also appeared in many cannabis magazines. Joop is a very engaging fellow, who approaches his advocation with great enthusiasm.

To view more of his wonderful work, please visit his website at http://www.crystalman.nl
MT: What made you interested in taking pictures of marijuana so close up and tiny?

Joop: In 1983 I was a roadie with musicians, making a 6 week tour through Holland. One of the boys, he smoked pot. I was 35 years old and that was my first time. I had a good night's sleep. Then I buy a small packet of marijuana. There were 30-35 seeds in there. So I put it in the ground. And it was good marijuana. And I made pictures of the seeds as they grew. I can show you the first photo I took...

(Joop proceeds to find the photo of his first seeds sprouting in 1983)

And when the plant grows and makes flowers, I take some more photos. I take a loupe, and I look at the crystals and I wonder, what is that? I don't know what it is. It was so pretty, that I want to LIVE in the crystals! It's a different world.



So that's how I started the photos.

Skip: Were you a photographer before you took these photos?

Joop: No, I only took photos of my wife and children.

(he shows us more close-up photos of the inside of the female flower with resin just beginning to form.)

MT: So you have fun playing with colored filters?

Joop: I play with colors, with mirrors.

Skip: Are you developing these yourself?

Joop: No, it's too much for me.

MT: Do you shoot slide film?

Joop: Yes, I shoot slides, then I take an inter-negative. Then you can make prints from that.

Skip: So you have a microscope that you're using? Your camera fits on the microscope or you have a special lens that fits on the camera?

Joop: No, I have a projection microscope. (he shows us an amazing device that is part microscope, part projector.) It has a 250 watt bulb. The image comes out onto the screen.

Skip: So you take a picture of the projection?

Joop: Yes.

Skip: This is very sophisticated. Can I take a picture of this? Unless you don't want to give up your secrets. After all you're probably the only person doing this! The projector must be old, about 30 years or so, no?

Joop: I don't know how old it is.

(Joop shows us his website, which has his close up photos, but also some very colorful abstract paintings)

See I make paintings using oil paint. I make a little painting, then I take a photo with the microscope.

Skip: So you're taking a photo, then you're painting over it?

MT: No he's painting on the slide! Then he takes a close-up picture of the paint itself!

Joop: It's as big as a pinprick! It's magnified 1200xs.

Skip: And when you take a picture it looks like an abstract painting.

Joop: Yes.

MT: Fabulous.

Skip: So at that magnification, just what are you looking at?

MT: Just the chips of color suspended in the paint.

Skip: So those are the pigments of color in the paint. That IS amazing. It takes a bit of explaining to understand!

(Joop shows us a big blowup of one of his photos on canvas)

Skip: So where have your photos appeared?

Joop: They are published in Germany, in High life and Blast magazines in the Netherlands, and last year in High Times magazine in the August 2000 issue. (Soon it will be in Jorge Cervantes' Marijuana Indoor Horticulture, the bible of marijuana growing).

MT: You can also see his photos in the Cannabis College.

Joop: Also Canamo magazine from Spain will soon be publishing more pictures of mine.

Skip: Can I take a picture of you?

Joop: With my pipe!

Skip: Oh, I see you smoke it pure! I have some hashish here...

Joop: I make my own! (Joop proceeds to unwrap a small but very sticky piece of black hash). It's not hard, it's soft. It's isolator hash. It's made with the screen in the bag and then you add ice.

Skip: Oh, we call that bubble hash.

Skip: Do you think there is an intimate relationship between humans and cannabis? Isn't it like an antidote to the stress of society? It slows us down, and helps us get back in touch with nature, and keep us from killing each other. It's impossible to be violent while stoned on cannabis.

Joop: My first joint made me understand what is happening around me with my family. It expanded my awareness, and helped me understand what happened to me growing up in my big family with 14 children! When I listened to music I heard EVERYTHING!

Skip: It's like opening your inner eye for the first time. In our society we don't have a way of opening it. In primitive societies it was part of a shamanic ritual.

(we all toke up here!).


We are viewing some of Joop's photos. We start seeing all sorts of objects in the microscopic images.

Skip: That looks like an egg!

MT: It looks like an ovum.

Joop: Can you see the dodo?

Skip: Yes, a Dodo bird with long legs.

Joop: Yes, and you're looking at pure crystals of THC. Look at this one.

Skip: Is that Jesus in the crystals?

Joop: Jesus? Yes, that's possible. I see a woman.

Skip: Oh, I see the tits. But I was looking at this and saw long hair and a mustache!

Joop: I'm only thinking about females...

Skip: And I'm not even Christian, so I'm surprised I came up with that.

Joop: If you want to see Jesus, you've got to smoke these crystals!

Skip: Yeah, then you'll see Jesus everywhere! (I'm looking at some great photos of individual tricomes) I love these photos. They're so clear, you can see right through them, they're still in their natural state, they haven't fallen off yet. Their so shiny and alive!

(Joop shows us some more of his microscopic paintings)

Joop: When I make these paintings, I don't even know what I'm making! I must search under the microscope to see what I've made.

Skip: You're blowing my mind Joop! Are you doing any image manipulation on computer yet?

Joop: No

Skip: Oh you're missing out on a lot of fun!

Joop: I have this computer from last year. I'm an old man. I use it only for email and browsing the web, and I made my own website. I don't understand the language used in the graphic programs.

(we're looking at more photos now)

Skip: These look like another world. I can see why you'd like to live on this level!

Joop: It's amazing to live in that world.

Skip: I think it would be very sticky! (we laugh). I think these are the alien worlds. They're what we can't see because they're too small. Yet we interact with them. We affect them, they affect us. Are you taking picture of other things?

Joop: Yes, I have taken such pictures. Would you like to see some?

Skip: You've just whetted my appetite to see what else there is in this world that is just beyond our vision.

Joop: Here's a close-up of bread and here's my blood. Here is some pure hashish.

Skip: This one is flower pollen! Oh, I hate this shit, it looks like diamonds. They're sharp! No wonder they bother me.

Joop: Here's a metal screen from a pipe.

Skip: It looks like a cyclone fence! Hey Joop, how about a taste of that isolator hash? (Joop provides a piece and a pipe I inhale). Oh wow! It bubbles. That's amazing. So pure. (Joop shows me another microphoto). That looks like a bug! Stuck on something.

Joop: On the crystal.

MT: It's a fly.

Joop: A very small fly!

MT: He's stoned!

Joop shows us more photos.

Skip: This photo looks like something out of Hieronymous Bosch!

MT: This looks like crystal balls, and that looks like little people walking around! (we all laugh).

Joop: This one looks like a storm.

MT: This looks like Jupiter. Here's monumental building of some sort.

Skip: I see a face in this one.

MT: I see a face in the clouds, is it Abraham Lincoln?

Skip: Joop is still seeing girls in these!

MT: He sees chicks everywhere!

Skip: I see one lying down.

Joop: Another person said he sees a uterus. I said maybe this is a baby here.

Skip: Yes, well you ARE taking pictures of female plant parts.

MT: This looks like a bird flying, or the Loch Ness monster.

Joop: I see a gypsy woman here. Here's a family. This one's an alien encounter. These pictures are part of an exhibition in the Princenhof, a museum here in town. Next I will have an exhibition in a coffeeshop.

Skip: Your stuff should be hanging in a gallery.

MT: You seem to be having fun with your artwork.

Skip: And success!

Joop: It's like candy for me.

Skip: It's good to see an artist at work.

MT: Yes you are an artist!

Joop: I don't see it. When I was a little boy 2 or 3 years old, I played with blocks. Now I play with color, with mirrors, with crystals, with a camera and projector. I have a lot fun. I usually work in the night, starting at 8pm, finishing at 4am. There's not so much noise around.

MT: What about your kids don't they make noise?

Joop: Grand kids!

Skip: Oh you have grandchildren! Congratulations! Did you have a career before you started this photography?

Joop: When I was 15, I became a sailor and went all around the world, South America, Denmark and Sweden, Morocco, the Mediterranean.

Skip: When did you go to Morocco?

Joop: In 1963. I also worked as a truck driver, as a welder, for the post office in Delft for 10 years. I think different and feel different from the other people who work there. The same with my family. I'm the only one who thinks different, feels different, and wants different. What I want is not in my ass, but in my brain, and I do it. Some day I'll make my own book with crystal pictures.

MT: I think you'd make a beautiful book with your pictures.

Joop: I'm saving now for that.


Note: Discover the mesmerizing alien landscapes that appear in microphotography of THC tricomes. Joop the Crystalman captures the wonders of marijuana up close.



Interview with Joop the Crystalman
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