Having been behind the camera since 1987 with varying intensity, photography has been close to my heart ever since. It has been a journey with a lot of discovery and experimenting. From having my first exhibition in Zwolle in 1990 and a little photography business, to happy snapper and hardly touching a camera at all when we were living in Northampton. The last 8 years with a studio in Heino, close to my hometown in Zwolle, the photography was a head on commercial business, specialising in corporate and advertising photography, product and interiors. I also did some editorial work and to a certain extend, those images were more liberating. As a commercial photographer with a marketing background I have always had the communication goal of the client in the back of my mind when creating an image.
That commercial drive was good for my clients and subsequently for my business, but made it hard or even impossible to switch off and do my own thing. Not that you can't be creative in commercial assignments, but that is more related to creating the right look and feel of an image in order to make an impact. Of course some commercial images clearly have my signature, whatever that means, but it is not free work.
A number of times I have come up with ideas of starting various projects and discussed these with friends. I have envisaged some images in my head and still like some of them if I think about it, but I have never actually done it. Running a little photography business 7 days a week leaves little time to reflect and switch of to think about the next step to grow the business. The commercial impact of some of the images I have drawn up in my head were influencing the execution of it and some of the project ideas I had were in hindsight just there to make the business grow. So I was exploring a dead end road.
Now having moved back to the UK with main professional emphasis on marketing and with photography only being a part of it, opportunities for free projects are more within reach. And when I learned of the Portrait of Britain public art competition back in June 2016, I have followed the project with great interest.
Portrait of Britain, public art competition 2017
The Portrait of Britain public art competition is an award-winning annual exhibition that shows the diversity of people in modern Britain. It is organised by the British Journal of Photography in partnership with the outdoor advertising company JCDecaux. Although I don't particularly like photography competitions and don't necessarily need national exposure, I thought it was a good opportunity to start a little project. With the deadline approaching, it would give me a clear goal.
EU nationals in the UK
With winding down STUDIOVHF in The Netherlands, selling the Dutch property and moving the family back over to Britain again, I have followed the Brexit discussions with great interest. It is fair to say that the political climate here in Britain has changed tremendously from the years that we were living in Northampton. Without willing to turn my photography project into a political statement, for me it was an obvious subject to cover.
Drawn up a list of people that I knew of or have met the last year that fitted the category, I set of that morning to take my first portrait for this new series.
In the 10 minute drive to the location of the first image, I have again been deliberating with myself about the style of photography, what techniques to use, landscape frame or portrait frame etc? I concluded that it was not a commercial assignment so all those thoughts could be skipped and that I didn't have to win the competition either. How liberating!
I did set myself some guidelines though, to ensure that not just the subject is the connecting factor, but also the style:
Images taken in my beloved Black and White
The subjects to be photographed facing camera, in an environment of their choice and where they feel comfortable
No directing of posture and scene and no controlling of styling and environment, just take it as it comes
Landscape mode to connect the surroundings to the individual and to complete the story visually
Keep photographic techniques as basic as possible
Limit myself to the geographical area of the Country of Scotland
The project has now 6 images and they have entered the competition. However, the project will not stop here, as the Portrait of Britain competition was just a tool for me to get it of the ground. So I will keep on adding portraits on the basis of 'who I bump into'. We will then see where this leads us..
The full series of portraits of EU nationals in Scotland can be viewed here:
Ian is an Irish farmer living in Bridge of Allan and running his farm south of Falkirk. A couple of years ago he sold most of his cattle to branch out into the tourist industry as his farm is located near the Falkirk Wheel. The Wheel Caravan Park opened to the public in the summer of 2015 and is establishing itself as a meeting place for tourists from all over the country and the continent. Ian is an enthusiastic communicator and enjoys meeting a diverse variety of people and making them connect. The Ceilidh house is a small building where he holds gatherings where people can come and play or listen to Scottish and Irish folk music or share stories. Ian himself plays the Irish bagpipes. In addition to this he has taken on the art of painting.
Aileen is a primary school teacher in Doune, Perthshire and from Dutch origin. She moved with her parents to Callander at the age of 16 and that is where she met her architect husband. It was a joy to hear the story of how their eyes crossed in the local pub and how they have been together ever since. She talks about it with a twinkle in her eyes. I came into contact with Aileen through her husband Andrew who is thinking about designing his own home and he was introduced to me by Incognito Underfloor Heating as he was interested in ergonomics in the workplace as well. It was a nice experience talking to a fellow Dutch national, talking English with each our own specific accent. We will certainly meet again when my wife Dorien is over, as she is from 't Gooi' as well!
Uli is a German business administrator who recently moved from Stirling to Falkirk. I have met Uli last summer at one of those inspiring evenings at the The Ceilidh house on the Wheel Caravan Park, where she was staying for a while when she was moving house. Uli is a true global citizen as she has lived in many countries due to the work of her Swiss husband, a diplomat. From Switzerland to South Africa and Canada. She talks highly of the quality of family live and culture that she experienced when the family was living in Manchester. But Scotland has apparently stolen her heart as she has been here for over 12 years now.
MARJAN VAN DE WEG
I will never forget the great entrance the Dutch Marjan made when she got onto the Easyjet flight from Edinburgh to Amsterdam. I was sitting on the isle seat on the 2nd row when she rushed into the plane, hit her knee badly against the chair in front of me and let the world know in unmistakingly Dutch swearwords that she didn't like it! I obviously laughed my head of! It happened to be that her seat was next to mine and the hour and twenty minutes flight-time were gone in no time. Marjan studied plant physiology at the University of Edinburgh and never left. She currently works as a data consultant for energy and environment. The portrait was taken at the pier in Leith where she recently has cleaned the beach with a group of volunteers.
ANA MARIA ZAMORA
For more than 5 Months I have been visiting a site in Edinburgh where Amos Beech has been working on an office interior design and fit out project. I installed a timelapse camera there in December 2016 to cover the whole project and it needed regular TLC. Most of the time I visited the site in the weekend, but when I was there during the week, I was welcomed by the warm and friendly Spanish Ana Maria. Ana Maria came to Scotland 8 years ago, just to stay for a few Months and to learn the language. She never left.
Dariusz is the archetypical bloke who is full of positive energy and has the ability to learn from experiences. After staying in Belfast for 2,5 years, the Polish Dariusz moved to Edinburgh 10 years ago. Currently living in Bo'ness where he moved to be closer to the job he had there at the time. He started his own business 3 years ago in quality designer lighting called Modelight. I have met him a couple of times on a local networking event where he presented himself and his company. We met for the portrait in a pub in Edinburgh where he spent quite a few hours when he lived there.
And today 05/01/2018 i learned that Julian Love in London had the same idea: Europeans living in London.