Basically, what inspires me is always the element of time. Through my work I always strive to capture a slice of time that will inspire, or add impact to the message the client wants to express. Even more so if it is a slice of a gesture that otherwise might even seem ordinary or boring.
I am very conscious about the fact that the mystery of the «how» might be completely ruined when the motion or action in the image is created in post-production. Therefore I work consistently on set towards the perfection of the gestures in the image. This way I hope that it stays true to reality, but looks as if it is impossible. When a client lays out a briefing or idea, the process starts with a brainstorm around how I can make something «different» out of it within the concept. Actually, most of the time the client leaves a lot of open spaces in their conception of the final result, and leave it largely up to me how to interpret the briefing.
I work for instance a lot on decoration projects, where I am asked to create artwork for hotels, offices, private homes or public facilities. In that case, I am most often presented with a single word like «Eagle», «Weather», or «Sea», and am left completely free to create a series of art within that theme that gives the venue the little extra it needs to stand out. This is really demanding, but also a great privilege to be able to collaborate with the architects and designers of the venue to work towards a truly tailored feeling throughout the entire concept.
My interest in photography only really started when I was 18, and from that point on my greatest inspirators have been Lois Greenfield and Tim Flach. Their work is just so far beyond perfection…
The moment I saw the work of Lois Greenfield, a New York based dance photographer who has created some of the most breath-taking still-lives of airborne human bodies. That moment, I knew that this was what I wanted to be doing. Her work is just so much more than photography.. Maybe the camera and technical aspect is even the least important in her work, even though it is performed beyond perfection in all manners. Her work is all about the collaboration between her creative mind and the passion of her models. The camera just is there.
Also, the moment I moved from Holland to Norway when I was sixteen marked some kind of radical change, and maybe even emptiness within me. I suddenly felt like I had no identity other then The Dutchmen, and I started looking for something that defined me as a person. Photography just fell in place without thinking about it, and I started looking for ways to make it my own, maybe even define me. I loved doing gymnastics in Holland, which I wasn’t able to continue doing in Norway. Maybe that was the factor that made me focus on the dynamics that I ended up specializing in.
I consider myself to be very «lucky» to always have known very clearly what I want to do with my life. Not everyone has such a defined passion. On the other hand, it might also be a curse in some way. My work is me, and I am what I do. I am never satisfied, and I am very aware that this is both a strength and a weakness. Good enough just doesn’t do it for me, and that makes me go way too far sometimes to reach where I want to go.
I don’t have the illusion that I will ever achieve the «goal» you are talking about. There is no goal other then the road towards it, and I truly believe that no artist should ever be driven by the desire to achieve something. Achievements are much rather the result of a driven soul doing what it does best.
I have never really tried to establish a look or brand, it has merely just turned out to be this way. Because of that, I neither have had the problem that I would like to try a different approach when it wouldn’t feel genuine. And then again; the moment such different approach feels genuine, it wouldn’t ever conflict with your style. You know, sometimes the artist gets in the way of his or her art. Don’t try to create the art, let the art create itself. Something that does limit me, if it even can be called a limitation, is that I simply suck at doing what I can not do, such as portrait or product photography. And because of that, I have been very consistent in rejecting projects that involve work that I know someone else can do better and cheaper. I am very clear about that towards my clients, and I know for a fact that such honesty is appreciated.
One of my biggest challenges, and I believe that I’m not the only one in this field of work, is that I think too much about the art, and too little about that it also should enable me to pay the bills. I tend to put way more time and effort in jobs that only pay that much, and that makes the financial side of my passion a real challenge. I have luckily come to realize that even if I «feel guilty» to charge for my product, I need to do so if I want to continue delivering that product and make a living out of it. Some say that the only thing you need in life is love and air, but unfortunately that’s a bubble that bursts pretty quickly when you start your own business. The best thing is to hand over the business side of my work to a person who’s competence is exactly that, but I’m still looking for someone who I really trust to represent my work in a truthful way.
I have the tendency to say that I don’t really know what I’m doing. I just know where I want to end up, and I know that very well. I strongly believe that it works the best for me to go into the production as open-minded as possible, where I yet do not know the way toward the end result. Off course it is a carefully planned process, but not when it comes to the technical aspect. It just happens. To be able to illuminate and freeze the motion in my signature way also under water, I had a custom underwater housing built for my Hasselblad, which enables me to control the strobes that are set up above the surface. From that point on it is simply a matter of starting to shoot, and change the settings bit by bit until the technical aspect becomes just a superficial factor whose only function is to be there when the magic happens.
It might seem like a really strange choice to start shooting with Hasselblad that always has been know for basically everything but being fast, when looking for a system that would enable me to freeze extreme highspeed motion. But I also knew that the central shutter system of the Hasselblad would allow me to synchronize with flash at all shutter speeds. I wasn’t sure since there where no examples of this technique at the time, but I knew that it in theory would enable me to freeze motion with the effective flash duration rather then the exposure time. The ultimate test was probably a shoot where I wanted to capture a biathlon athlete while jumping through a cloud of snow, and I wanted the .22 bullet to show while leaving the barrel of the rifle at 320 meters/second.
Beside that sheer technical aspect, I simply wanted to use a system that would eliminate all technical boundaries in my line of work, putting all responsibility for a succeeded shoot in my hands rather then exterior factors. Hasselblad for me has always been a brand that is, and always has been, genuinely interested in the users of the system. A brand that knows that it is not up to them or their product to create amazing photography, but when put in the right hands will enable the user to do exactly what they do best. And also since Hasselblad is a relatively small company, they are truly involved in the industry and listen to what their customers need to keep persuading their visual passion.
In the end, the camera is just a tool.
It makes me sad to see commercials all over the globe that could have been so powerful, if only they had taken the effort and competence to shoot it in-camera instead of putting the whole thing together with stock-looking photography. Even really high-quality photographers tend to attempt to create impossible-looking shots by using post production, and it is just so easy to dismantle when you’re looking at it.
Once I turned down a really high-end agency, only because they demanded that I would start photoshopping. I do realize that this is «necessary» in today’s society, but that doesn’t mean that I agree. I am sick and tired of boys and girls all around the globe feeling the pressure to obtain some kind of «ideal», that has never existed in the first place. Well, if my client demands me to create something «photoshopped”, they can go and find themselves another photographer. Birthmarks, scars, imperfections, fat, body shape: these are all things that we all are born with, and in my eyes all of these «imperfections» make us who we are. The bodily ideal that the media and commercial world present to us makes us long for something that does not exist, and I do not wish to be a part of that «pushing machine».
I don’t really think about what I do too much, and it’s hard for me to «analyze» why I do what I do that way. Neither can I truly say that it is something that I look for, it is just the way it always turns out to be. So maybe yes, it is something that lays me naturally for some reason. Basically I just know what I like, and I work until I get the shot that I am looking for without compromise. If I want to put energy in creating an image that I truly and proudly can call my own, I always start looking for a way to make the situation my own. I want to rip it out of context, and manipulate the truth to visualize something that I believe shows an unseen side of the situation.
I could put together a complete brief on this. If a client would come to me with this question I would be up all night letting my fantasy flow and put it into a 20-page briefing with benchmarks and drawings with all possibilities as to how I could visualize this. A couple of sentences here is always going to be too little to really do it honor. Or maybe we could also drop the brief, and just get my hands on my camera and start shooting.
I’ll try to explain anyway.
Love is something that binds people together, and makes people look past the flaws and imperfections of others. For me it means tolerance, understanding, and putting yourself second to others. It is a huge theme, almost ungraspable.
If I’d be to work with models on this, I’d want to be working with talented dancers. People who know how to be airborne. I’d be working with two models, regardless of gender, age, color or nationality, and I would want to create a weightless moment where they are emotionally interconnected while airborne. Being jumping around is basically a pretty stressful and demanding thing, but the result would look like they where almost asleep and at ease in each other’s presence, floating in an endless universe of weightlessness and ambiance. I would like to use scarfs and colors or liquids that would wrap around them while being airborne, to underline the «truthfulness» of the moment itself, taking away all doubt regarding it being photoshopped or not.
When I hold lectures, demos or presentations, I often meet people who come to me and say that they envy me and the things I have achieved. They tend to say that in a way that makes me believe that they are convinced that they will never be good enough to achieve such a thing. This makes me sad, because the only thing I believe in is the strength of your own decisiveness, and the power that everyone has to pursue their dreams. If you already beforehand believe, and convince yourself, that you will not get the job done; it will not get done. In Holland we have an expression that says «No you have, Yes you can get.». No goal is out of reach, if you truly go for it you can at least get further then where you started. Try it, go for your dream. You will surprise yourself.
And this regards much more than photography. It regards basically everything in life.
– Go with the decision that will make for a good story.
– Luck favors the prepared.
– Do whatever you want to do in life, but be the best at it.
– Go for something that you perceive to be «out of your league». You’ll surprise yourself.
It would without a doubt be living side-to-side with King Arthur during the 4th-century. The book that Marlon Bradly wrote about his legend; «The Mists of Avalon», has inspired me greatly, and to live in such an era with no complexity to life other than our basic instinct and understanding of life really appeals to me. Plus I have a great passion for the art of forging steel.
Well, the most important thing in my work is that actually the lighting creates the image. Not the camera. It is also the lighting that freezes the moment. Technically, if you would set your camera to underexpose so much that the image would turn out black, the only thing the camera actually sees is the time and scene the the lighting illuminates. So even if the exposure time would be 1 second, if the camera settings and amount of light would allow the image to turn out black, it would still turn out to be crystal-sharp if the flash duration is as short as 1/8000 sec.
I hope this makes sense, it is pretty boring and technical talk about something that really doesn’t matter that much, it’s in the end all about your own personal vision and what you want to achieve.
The dolphins are shot on my Hasselblad H4D-50 with 28mm HCD lens. I had the camera in my H4D underwater housing, connected to 3 studio strobes firing at 1/7500 sec. I feel that the result is ok, but I really am not satisfied with the result at all. I still want to do a remake of this shot when I get the chance. It turned out simply just not good enough. There was too much distance between me and the dolphins, and I got the focus to be 1 meter behind the actual focus plane. This annoys me so much!! I feel that I should have done better to illustrate such graceful animals, and for the next time I want to be much much closer to the action, maybe even within it. Especially when I use my 28mm lens, I find it really important to get into the action, so that it creates as much depth and impact as possible.
Sports photography should be about sports. I get so annoyed when I see athletes being taken pictures of while half naked, or complete out of their element. It just does not make any sense. Doing sports photography is actually very satisfying, because I wish to just be a spectator and let the athletes do what they do best. But then when I see a moment that intrigues me, I ask the athlete to repeat it over and over again, and I start to set up and optimize the lighting to get the shot that I am looking for.
But the utmost best situation is whenever I am allowed to be there during an athletic performance where I can anticipate on gestures that are predictable, and be there with my studio lighting and camera. Because then, the athlete doesn’t think about being photographed, the only thing on their mind right there and then is to do what they do best. And that turns into the purest photographic result; no manipulation, no desire to look good, and no photographer telling the athlete what to do.
I would really like to wake up one day and experience that people all over the world would respect, or disrespect, one another for what each individual represents instead of the «group» they are expected to belong to.
There is no such thing as being black, white, blue, yellow, photographer, Dutch, American, Italian, buss driver or fuckup. There just is no such thing. Each person is who he or she is.
Do you behave or act in a way that I respect? Then I will spend energy on you. Do you behave or act in a way that offends me? Then I will stop spending energy on you.
I would like to see the day when everyone looks past the etiquette, and would start to get out of their comfort-zone and listen to the person who thinks opposite of themselves. I don’t matter how you dress, look, vote, smell or make love. I will judge you by the things you do to other people. Be good to one another. No matter what.
– «You can tell the size of a man by the size of things that bother him.».
Very simple: You can learn it. But the moment you need to ask yourself why you are doing it, you have lost. Go for what makes you feel good. That’s all you need to know; whatever you do for a living.
Also, I have not studied to learn anything about photography. I believe that one can learn absolutely anything if you really want to. To underline this, I would like to quote Sir Ken Robinson:
«Kids: when they don’t know, they’ll have a go. They’re not frightened of being wrong. Now, I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same as being creative, but what I do mean to say is that if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. If you are not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. They have gone through an educational system where being wrong or making a mistake is the worst thing that might happen, and in most cases, it is even stigmatized. The result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.