Obituary of Henk van der Geest

Jun 23, 2019

Lighting designer Henk van der Geest passed away on Thursday evening in his hometown Amsterdam. Henk van der Geest (1952) started working in 1973 as a technician at the Netherlands Opera, where he became a designer. He has worked on hundreds of performances and has also been of great importance for the professionalization of light design. In addition to his artistic practice, he developed into an exceptionally active advocate and enthusiastic teacher. 

Henk served an enormously important role for OISTAT International.  Simply put, he was the inaugural leader of the Lighting Design Group.  He did not seek this position but was requested by the Scenography Commission to serve in this capacity, which he did for many years.  He was the voice and image of Lighting Design, having given lectures and workshops around the world and was one of the initiators of Scenofest, the very extensive fringe programme for students at the Prague Quadriennale. In 2007 he was the founder of the Institute for Lighting Design (iLo), which organised workshops, expert meetings and a two-year coaching programme for developing lighting designers.

Van der Geest had a specific view on the professionalization and education of his profession. "It's not about technical courses, but about the substantive language of light. Appearance, experience, a feeling of well-being and safety are important in today's public domain. That's why I base my lighting plans on an aesthetic and psychological vision."

In recent years, he has been researching energy-saving equipment for the theatre. He was critical of the switch to LED light solely for environmental reasons, and together with a number of like-minded members he set up 'Human Lights Watch', a club that protested against the general ban on incandescent lamps and advocated more independent research into light quality.

Henk travelled a lot and was always looking for special light phenomena. Last month he organised an occasional exhibition with photographs he made in the Arctic Circle, the Sahara and the high mountains. He was already seriously ill by then.