Interview with photographer Joost van Manen (Netherlands)

Tell us a little about yourself and what precipitated the shift from business to photography.

I was born and raised in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.  After school, I went to university to study business economics & management, but I spent more time studying magazines with the work of Herb Ritts, Mario Testino and Sante D’Orazio than books about management.  After finishing my studies, I entered corporate life, but at the same time, in the evening hours, took classes at the Academy for Photography in Amsterdam.  Luckily, I began to work for Canon cameras, so I was dealing with the latest technologies in the field of photography every day.  At a certain moment, I decided that I really wanted to express my creativity, left the company, and became a full-time photographer.  It was a completely different ball game, but now that my photography is going well, it feels like the best decision ever!

You do an array of photography types from celebrity to lingerie to fashion and beauty.  Is there a certain subject type that excites you the most and why?

I started out in portrait photography for magazines, and have been fortunate to meet and capture so many different and interesting people.  Lately, I have worked mostly in the field of fashion, as this has always been my main interest.  However, I love diversity: the precision of beauty, the freedom of fashion and the intensity of portraits.

Working with people, and especially those who are comfortable in front of a camera, gives me the chance to express my creativity, looking for that one iconic image.  And of course, working with a great team behind the lens is just as important.

There seems to be a strain of “naturalism” in even your most creative, theatrical work.  Why is this important and how do achieve that sense of reality in each image?

Although fashion photography is a world of “make believe” and I can play with light, shapes and colors, I always strive for a certain purity in my images.  For me this is essential because, whether a photo is intense, dreamy or sensual, I want to create elegance in my images, and I achieve this best when I can relate to a certain reality in the image.  Most importantly, to achieve this is a balance in the photo: light, colors, styling, hair, make-up, subject and location.  A model in a Gucci dress on a dumping ground is just not my style.

How does working in Amsterdam affect your way of working, your style?

On the one hand, Amsterdam is a world capital in touch with the latest trends and developments in fashion, design and art.  On the other hand, it is a very small town of around one million people.  The advantage of such a compact sized city is that is relatively easy to stay in contact and connect with many people in the business.  Face-to-face contact is something I really appreciate–just as I like the unconstrained way of living here.  In which other city is it possible that the city mayor comes on his bicycle to a shoot with me?  That happened here in Amsterdam!

The open mindedness of the Netherlands is quite well known, I think. There are no boundaries in what you can do or make.  That is why Amsterdam is a very creative playground, and I am very lucky that I live and work in this city.

What’s next for you?

There is so much to do!  I would like to continue shooting more high fashion and beauty series as well as styled portraits, and working with creative and talented people.  Productions for appealing magazines or brands, both in the Netherlands and abroad, is something that I aspire to, though a small artistic shoot can be just as awesome! Last year I had my first exhibition, and possibly that is something to I’ll do again one day.

Though photography will stay my main focus, at the moment I have started to study motion picture too, so maybe that is something that could lead to new adventures in the near future!

To view more of Joost van Manen’s work, visit his site.  See his most recent editorial for See.7, Kiss Up.

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