Koen Suidgeest (Amsterdam, 1967) is a documentary filmmaker, photographer and teacher. A 1995 honours graduate of the University of the Creative Arts in England, Koen started his career as a cinematographer. After a short but successful stint in producing and shooting fiction, from 2002 he dedicates his time exclusively to creating documentary film and photography.
Koen’s projects deal with human rights issues with a recurring focus on the rights of women in the developing world. He likes to observe without judging and is known for his ability to get close to his characters. With his documentary Casting (2006) he became the first Dutch filmmaker to be nominated for a Spanish Academy Award (Goya). His multiple award-winning Karla’s Arrival (2011) was selected for more than 45 film festivals, broadcast in 15 countries, and won him widespread international recognition. Koen’s first photo exhibition, Costuras a flor de piel (2014), travelled during four years through five countries.
As a recurring collaborator of the Human Rights in the Picture Foundation, Koen authored two documentaries on LGBTQ rights, Out & About (2016) and m/f/x (2019). Both have travelled extensively as tools for activism and education. Out of the latter came his latest photo exhibition, Preferred Pronouns, a collection of portraits of transgender individuals from different corners of the world.
In January of 2020, Koen published his first photo book, Why I Cry On Airplanes. The book is a personal journey past 15 years of photography from all over the world.
Koen teaches filmmaking at a variety of universities, among which the Institute of Cultural Anthropology at Leiden University, where he is a supervisor and lecturer for its MSc in Visual Ethnography. He is a sought-after tutor for international writing and pitching workshops, serves on the jury of several film festivals, and is currently the president of the board of Leiden Shorts, a film festival in his hometown of Leiden. As a public speaker, Koen gave his first TED talk in 2015.
Recently, Koen was awarded the distinction of City Photographer of Leiden, an annual honorary position that enables him to develop an image-based project which progress is published weekly in popular regional newspaper, Leidsch Dagblad, as well as online.