Blogging for photographers: pro’s and con’s and tips and tricks

Someone on Reddit asked if blogging was a good idea for photographers. They got all sorts of advice. Most of the input was negative, which I suppose is not surprising, as photography is a visual skill, where as writing is a linguistic skill. I responded with the following. I am posting it here for any photographers who ask Google ‘should a photographer blog?’ See what I did there? I literally included the whole question someone might ask Google in the text! 🙂

I am a professional photographer and I blog quite a bit. You can check out my website and blog on I live in the Netherlands and so the main language on my website is Dutch, but there are also a few English posts on there.

I blog for a number of reasons. I write …

  • To showcase my work. I put love, passion and energy into my photography, and it frustrates me that some of my best photo’s only every appear on a small brochure or calendar, as that is all the client needs. Blogging allows me to show a wider circle my work.
  • To attract new clients. Yes, I have a portfolio, but sometimes a client looks at your portfolio, but they don’t see exactly what they need/want. For instance: I do a lot of industrial photography. As such I frequently find myself in large warehouses. Admittedly not the most inspiring of environments. But when a client is looking for a photographer who can do ‘warehouse photography’, I want them to see on my site (blog) that I have lots and lots of experience with just that. For this reason I write my texts with all the search terms a client might want to use. And I am careful to name all my images with the relevant search terms. Blogging simply allows me to appear in more search results (also because Google likes it when a site’s content is updates regularly).
  • To inform my clients on important topics. For instance, I have a lot of articles on copyright and infringement. When someone asks me a question on this subject, I can simply send them the link. A different example: I am often asked by clients if I can send them images AGAIN. Sometimes as many as four or five times. I don’t mind doing that, but it can cost me quite a bit of time. So I charge for that. And I have a blog post about that. When someone asks me ‘can you re-send me the images’, I write a short email, with the cost and a link to my blogpost ‘in case they want to know more’.
  • To build report. A lot of photographers are almost anonymous behind their website. Blogging allows people to get to know me. My blog is not read widely, but I often discover clients have read my blog to get to know me. ‘Oh, I see you want on holiday to Tuscany. Great photo’s! Did you enjoy Tuscany?’
  • To challenge my fellow professional photographer’s. I like professional photographer’s, but sometimes they can suffer from group-thinking. For instance about the state of the industry, or how badly they are treated by (some) clients. Sometimes I just want to irritate them a bit… 🙂
  • To keep my mind agile. Writing is a stimulating exercise. It forces you to think systematically and communicate coherently. I once read: writing is for the mind what going to the gym is for your body.

I suppose those are the pro’s. There are con’s too.

  • It is time consuming. It is not just a matter of writing and posting, but also a matter of SEO and understanding WordPress plugins like Yoast.
  • As photographers go, I think I am a pretty good writer. But most people read a whole bunch of texts in the course of a day, and it soon becomes apparent I may be a professional photographer, but I am an amateur writer…
  • Blogging is definitely less popular than it was a few years ago.
  • Sometimes people ask you about this article you wrote, and you discover it is something you wrote 7 years ago — and you don’t hold that viewpoint anymore. Or the images in the post are not a good reflection of your capabilities now.


  • Make sure you are on a platform that is very SEO friendly. WordPress, with a good wordpress theme on a fast and reliable server is my choice
  • Use the wordpress plugin Yoast. I use the free version.
  • Don’t know what to write about? On Pinterest you can find lots of ‘social media calendar’s’ to inspire you.
  • Always share your posts on the appropriate social networks. For me those are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
  • Short posts are better than long ones. Seth Godin is the King of short blogposts. Mine, on the other hand, tend to run a little long…
  • It’s absolutely no problem if you forget to post for a while and then start back up. Lots of guru’s say you need to do it ‘every week’ or ‘every month’ — but I say ‘do it when you can’.
  • Do not aim for perfection! Doing it is more important than doing it incredibly well! I am not trying to win a prize for my writing: I am trying to inform and entertain and attract people. Of course I spell check everyting, but even then stupid mistakes slip by — and I am OK with that.

Hope this helps. Guess what I am going to do now? I am going to take this post and turn it into a blogpost. 🙂

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Photography of Trade Show Metstrade at Amsterdam RAI

Reportage van de Metstrade beurs 2019 in de RAI in Amsterdam.

Last week I had the privilege of photographing the Marine Equipment Trade Show Metstrade at Amsterdam RAI. This exhibition is all about equipment and systems for boats, ships and yachts. I took a ton of great photo’s, but rather than showing you a lot of photo’s, in this blogpost I just want to show you some specific photo’s.

‘Show me that it’s busy!’

Reportage van de Metstrade beurs 2019 in de RAI in Amsterdam.

The client always wants to see that it’s busy! They want to show that their event attracts lots of relevant visitors. This is not always an easy assignment for the photographer, because Trade Shows are large events, and people scatter. Often times the carpets have a bright color, and so you can clearly see when isles have empty spaces. As a professional trade show photographer, you really need to develop a sense of timing, as well as a bag of tricks to make it look busy! But in this photo, just before the opening of the Trade Show, it looks nice and busy!

‘I want to see my signs!’

Trade Shows are large events, and the organizers use big signs to help people find their way. Good signage is key to a good trade show! But as a photographer it is easy miss how good the signs really look! So clients always ask: I want to see my signs! And when you start paying attention to them, you can see they are actually pieces of art…

‘I want to see people doing business!’

The client always wants to see people doing business. Handshakes, meetings, exchanging business cards, demo’s… So I walk around the trade show like a hunter. With the right lens on my camera, and my light ready to make a beautiful photo of people doing business.

‘Make my trade show look good’

This is perhaps my favorite assignment: when the client gives me artistic freedom to find the beauty. And it’s never far away! There’s the beauty of colors, and of cultural diversity, and of architecture and design, and of light. Here are some of my favourite images from Metstrade!

Reportage van de Metstrade beurs 2019 in de RAI in Amsterdam.
Reportage van de Metstrade beurs 2019 in de RAI in Amsterdam.
Reportage van de Metstrade beurs 2019 in de RAI in Amsterdam.

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Landscape photography on the Isle of Skye

Time for my fourth blog with pictures from our recent vacation. Sophie and I spent a week on the Isle of Skye. I was told it was beautiful, but it certainly surpassed my expectations! It blew me away! What an incredibly peaceful, grand, open and gentle place the Isle of Skye is. I don’t think my pictures do it justice!

We stayed in three different AirBnB’s; in Uig, Fiskavaig and Elgol. One famous place on the Isle of Skye which is missing in this collection is the Faitypools. We did visit them, but it was raining too hard to take any decent photo’s. We also climbed Old man of Storr; those pictures will be in my next post. All photo’s made with Fujifilm X-T3. 

You can click on the pictures to see them larger.



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Unfading beauty

Sophie and I have a fun little tradition going when it comes to our vacation. Sophie brings a long, flowy dress, and when we find a landscape that complements the colors of the dress, we do a photoshoot. The big idea? To shoot beauty in beauty: the never-ending beauty of my love in the beauty of these amazing landscapes.

This year Sophie brought two dresses. And we did 4 different shoots. This is getting out of hand… but it’s so much fun.

Here are the best results from each year. The photo at the top is the best photo from this year. Last year we were in New Foundland and I got Sophie to stand in a lake. The year before that we were in Cornwall on the moors. This is where Sophie grew up. The year before that we were in Canada and we forgot to bring a dress. That didn’t mean I could not take a photo of this female beauty in that scenic beauty. And the year before that we were in the Italian Alps, which is where we started this little tradition. You can click on the photo’s to see them larger.

Some of the other photo’s

Since we had two dresses and did four shoots, I thought I’d show you some of the other ‘best photo’s of this year. You might recognise the viaduct that was the subject of my previous post.

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The Harry Potter Steam Train at the Glenfinnan viaduct in the highlands of Scotland

The steam train and beautiful viaduct in the Scottish highlands at Glenfinnan.

Our first stop in Scotland after leaving the Lake District (see my previous post) was Fort Williams. I wanted to show Sophie Scotland, because even though she is British, she had never been there. But for me it had also been almost 30 years, so where to go? Fort Williams itself is a bit of a dive (though I recommend the restaurant “Garrison West”!). It sits at the foot of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, but the mountain was constantly covered in clouds, so going up did not appeal to us.

The other thing to do is to visit the viaduct at Glenfinnan, and that’s what we decided to do. There is a Steam Train that crosses this viaduct four times a day. The viaduct and steam train were used in the Harry Potter movies. I was never really in to Harry Potter, but that scene is somewhat iconic. And growing up I was into steam trains… so that seemed to be the more interesting option.

No doubt the steam train would have disappeared if it wasn’t for the Harry Potter movies. But as noticed a couple of times on this holiday: when a movie or series features a place, the tourists will flock to it. With regard to this train you have two options: you can be on it, or you can photograph it from the sidelines.

In most things in life it’s more fun to be on the actual thing. But in this case I think spectating from the sidelines is actually the better choice. 🙂 Besides, the train is so popular, you have to book well in advance. Snd then you get to be on a train with a gazillion kids who are all wishing they were Harry Potter and who regard you as muggles. So we decided to drive to Glenfinnan and actually watch the train.

We, and about 300 other people. When the train finally passes the flanks of the hills on either side of the viaduct are covered with people. Parking is a real challenge, so whatever you do, come early.

The Glenfinnan viaduct can be found on the A830 which runs from Fort Williams to Mallaig. About 20 km’s from Fort Williams you will pass through Glenfinnan. You can’t miss it. Come early, and park in the official car parks. Parking elsewhere just means you need to walk for miles.

From the parking lot it’s still a 20 minute hike to the viewing spots. There are signs to these spots, but of course I thought I knew better: I thought if I walked on I would get to a better spot, away from the people. Not true of course. Eventually I ended up right where the signs would have directed me in the first place. Just took the most difficult route to get there. 🙂

Click to see the pictures larger on your screen.

The viaduct at Glenfinnan as you pass under it on the way to the viewing spots. Shot with Fujifilm X-T3 and 16-55mm.

We came an hour early, and already there were quite a few people. The number grew steadily. Of course everyone has a camera. I was worried people would come into my shot, but that wasn’t really a problem. I recommend you wear shoes that can get dirty, because chances are they will.

The surrounding landscape is lovely. You’re in the highlands. Could these hills be any more green? Could it be anymore peaceful?

Scenic shot from the viewing spot. Might as well make a couple of shots, because you’re waiting a while…

The viaduct is impressive by itself. It sits there as an artifact of an industrial age now past. Somehow the viaduct and the surrounding landscape complement each other perfectly.

The viaduct by itself in the Scottish highlands at Glenfinnan. I can understand the enthusiasm the director of the Harry Potter films must have felt when he first came here.

Everybody waits for the train, staring at the same point in the distance. There are a ton of kids, and for them this is all about Harry Potter. There was a cute English family with young kids next to us, and the three kids all held plastic magic wands. So cute. “When is the train coming, mommy?”

Well, you can’t miss it. The train appears exactly where you expect it, and it moves nice and slow. The curve of the viaduct probably means it can’t go very fast to begin with, but the driver knows there will be a ton of viewers, and so he goes extra slow. The train horn whistles in the middle of the viaduct. The whole experience is every bit as wonderful, and rustic, and nostalgic as you expect.

The steam train and beautiful viaduct in the Scottish highlands at Glenfinnan. Fujifilm X-T3 with XF100-400. When the train first appears it does help to have a really long lens.

And it’s over in two minutes. You click your camera like crazy. I had just enough time to change my lens, because the train comes by fairly closely. In situations like this I have to tell myself not just to take photo’s, but also just to enjoy the experience, which is always challenging.

The steam train and beautiful viaduct in the Scottish highlands at Glenfinnan. Fujifilm X-T3 with 50-140mm.
The steam train and beautiful viaduct in the Scottish highlands at Glenfinnan. I posted this photo to my kids back home, and one of them had the nerve to reply: “Thomas the tank engine!”

And just like that it’s over… the train disappears out of site, and everybody climbs down and walks back to their car. Or camper, or coach. By the way, I recommend the flapjack from the gift shop. Best flapjack I ever had!

Most people pile in their cars and drive back to where they came from, which presumably is Fort Williams. But I strongly recommend you follow the road to Millaig. It has absolutely stunning scenery!

The road runs mostly parallel to the train track. So if you time it right, you can still see the train a couple more times. The train dead-ends in Millaig, and then returns to Fort Williams. I got the following shot of her at Morar. Another viaduct, this time with a waterfall in the foreground. Could it be any more Scottish :-)? Only this time the locomotive is turned around as the train is heading back to Fort Williams. You have to be ready for it though, because you only get one chance to get this shot!

The steam train and viaduct in at Morar. Fujifilm X-T3 with 50-140mm (70-200mm eq.)

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Landscapes from the Lake District

Photo’s of the Lake District – Holiday July 2019.

We returned last night from a fantastic three week vacation. We visited the Lake District, Scotland, the Isle of Skye and Cornwall! As I wrote before, I always bring my camera, especially if I am going to a beautiful place. That’s how I keep my passion alive: creating the images I want without a client bossing me around 🙂 ! Over the course of the next few days I intend to bring you the best images from each place.

The real destination for our holiday was Scotland, and then specifically the Isle of Skye. But because we wanted to finish our time in Cornwall with Sophie’s family, we crossed the channel from Dunkirk to Dover (this is the cheapest option to get to England), and then drove up. We broke up the trip with a four day visit to the Lake District.

I was not prepared for how beautiful the Lake District is. It is Majestic! I wish we could have stayed longer!


  • While we would see loads of tourists in Scotland, from lots of different places, we saw hardly any non-British tourists in the Lake District!
  • The British love their dogs! If you have dogs, the Lake District is a great place. There are a ton of dogs, and they seem to be welcome everywhere. At one point Sophie and I sat down for dinner in a restaurant. There were 12 people — and 8 dogs. Great if you love dogs, but for me… not so much.
  • You cannot trust the weather forecast in the Lake District. The forecast was bad for every day we were there — and yet we had some wonderful weather. Even got sunburnt…

Tips for photographers

  • We stayed at the wonderful Hollowfarm in Grange, near Keswick. The drive from Grange to Buttermere is fantastic, especially as you come to Honisterpass.
  • Plan your visits so that you are there early (just after sun rise), or late (a while before sunset). That’s when the light is the most beautiful.
  • Bring a polarizing filter. I have always believed I would ‘create the effect’ in Photoshop, but this time I brought one, and I’m glad I did. Actually I brought a polarizing filter, a Neutral Density filter (32X) and a tripod. Lots of fun with flowing water.

As always, you can click on the photo’s to see them larger!

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Alphabetising your gratitude: an amazing strategy to combat Blue Monday struggles

Tomorrow is Blue Monday. More people struggle with depression, or a sense of feeling depressed on this day than any other day in the year. My observation is the average photographer (on the northern hemisphere) falls prey to this also: the holidays are over; winter is cold and miserable and will be here for a while. For many photographers’ this is the ‘slow season’ — clients generally start thinking about photography when the sun re-appears — in about three months.

Fighting to keep a healthy perspective

Blue Monday:

the holidays are over; you’ve had too much to eat, there’s not much work, winter is grey and cold; there is not much work, and you aren’t feeling very motivated anyway…


Am I the only one who ever feels like this?

Of course, not everybody struggles with ‘Blue Monday’. I wrote a blog about Blue Monday 2 years ago (Dutch), and from the responses I got it was clear not everyone understood why some people get depressed. Life is great! wrote a friend. If you don’t have enough work, pull yourself together and get more work!

I wish it were that easy. I write about Blue Monday because I can sympathise. I have struggled with melancholy for most of my life, and at times it borders on real depression. I find I need to fight to maintain a healthy perspective. If I let myself, I could spiral down like a comet hurling itself into the earth’s atmosphere. Houston, we have a problem…

And so I have developed strategies to maintain a sense of wellbeing. They include finding love and friendship; relaxing an appropriate amount of time; exercise, and setting achievable goals.

Thankful to over a thousand people for your cup of coffee

Today I want to highlight one strategy I am finding both to be a lot of fun and also remarkably effective. The strategy is Gratitude. Just being grateful for the good that comes your way.

You may wonder what is so profound about that. Sounds so simple. I am thankful for my wife and my and my kids. And i guess for my house and car. There, I’m done…

No, wait, there’s a strategy to this. Let me explain. First, you should listen to this podcast: 10 strategies to be happier through gratitude, by AJ Jacobs appearing on the Tim Ferris show. In this podcast, AJ Jacobs shares the story of how he tried to thank all the people who were involved in making his precious cup of coffee. He thanked the waiter, the barista, the coffee-machine maker, the coffee farmer, the guy who designed the coffee cup lid, even the cleaner at the factory where the coffee was made. It turns out there are a lot of people who contribute to his simple cup of coffee that he appreciates so much.

It’s a hilarious podcast. But as tells this story he gives you ten strategies for developing more gratitude in your life — and they are really helpful.

Alphabetizing your gratitude

I’m going to tell you about one. He talks about how something it is difficult for people to fall asleep. A known strategy is to make a gratitude list. As you lie down and put your head on the pillow, start listing all the things that you are grateful for from that day. Well, that part is easy. But then he adds a twist: do it alphabetically. A is for … access to the event when I thought they weren’t going to let me in. B is for … my client Bernard, who gave me a new project. C is for …. Uh, uh …. wait, what could C stand for?

It’s surprisingly hard! It’s also a lot of fun! It really helps you see all the good and forget about all the bad from a given day. And the interesting part is: I haven’t made it past G yet, before falling asleep.

In fact, the other day I fell asleep around D, and then woke up in the middle of the night. I was wide-awake, feeling frustrated. So I continued where I had nodded off, and promptly fell asleep again. And when I woke up the next morning, I was feeling so grateful and positive and excited — it was really interesting!

So, as you face Blue Monday, give the podcast a listen (or buy the book) and then start practicing your gratitude strategies. I think you’ll find they can make a big difference.

PS., please note: if you have been diagnosed with a clinical depression, trust your medical and psychological professionals for how to deal with that. I am not saying that gratitude-lists help in your case. I’m writing for those of us who just have a general sense of ‘yuck’.

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A photographer’s reflections on Photokina 2018

I have just returned from a two-day visit to Photokina 2018. Photokina is the largest trade show in the world of professional photography and it takes place every two years in Cologne, Germany. As a professional photographer living in Holland I  consider myself fortunate that this event happens so close to where I live (a three hour drive), and so I make a point of going every time. Actually, I really enjoy visiting Photokina; it’s kind of like a candy store for professional photographers! 

In this post a number of observations and experiences, as well lots of photo’s. In showing them to you, I hope to give you a bit of an insider’s view of my world. For professional photographer’s who could not go, I hope my blogpost gives you an impression anyway. Disclaimer: the following are my thoughts and no one else’s. I may be totally mistaken or misinformed. 🙂

A couple of surprises

Let me start by listing a couple of things that surprised me as soon as I arrived.

  • Compared to Photokina two years ago, this year’s show was a lot smaller. It was two whole halls smaller. Now, the Koelner Messe where the Photokina is held is really large, so even with two halls less, it is still a huge event. But still…
  • The parking, and especially the signage to the parking at Koelner messe, is atrocious. Every single time I’ve been, they’ve changed it from previous years. Now they have a giant parking garage, which I will grant, is very nice. But the signage to get there is utterly confusing; you need to walk for miles from the garage to the Koelner Messe, and on the way to the Messe, you pass large parking lots, which are totally empty, even though they are a lot closer.
  • I was really surprised by the compagnies that weren’t there. Let me list a few…
    Elinchrom wasn’t there. Elinchrom is a swiss producer of high quality flash lights. I use a lot of Elinchrom. But recently two other major players in the flash light industry went out of business (Bowens and Multiblitz), and it is rumoured Elinchrom is next. T0 not attend Photokina seems like the writing on the wall.
    Adobe wasn’t there. That is really odd. There’s no chance of Adobe going out of business any time soon. To me, it seemed very disrespectful of their client-base. Every photographer in the world uses Adobe products. In the recent past Adobe has switched to a subscription model of their software license. I suspect literally  every Photokina visitor is an Adobe client. For them not to attend, seems not very appreciative of their client-base.
    Sandisk wasn’t there. Nearly every professional photographer uses Sandisk cards
    Westcott wasn’t there. They make some of the finer flash equipment in the world. I don’t understand them not be there.

Enough of the griping, on with some of what I saw!


The photographic industry is always changing. The biggest development in recent years is the arrival of professional photo camera’s without the internal mirror. This year my brand, Nikon, and Canon (the biggest player on the market) came out with professional mirrorless camera’s. I should say ‘finally’, because Fujifilm has been making them for a while now. I invested in Fujifilm camera’s three years ago, and have enjoyed them very much. So while Canon and Nikon have finally got their first mirrorless camera’s out, Fuji brought out the third release of its professional mirrorless camera, the X-T3, and the second edition of the medium format camera. The feeling with many people I spoke to regarding  Nikon and Canon’s mirrorless camera’s was ‘too little, too late’, or as the Dutch say: it’s like bring out the mustard, long after the meal is over.

I’m quite excited by what Fujifilm is producing, and so were lots of other people. The Fujifilm stand was heaving with people!

Looking for new stuff!

I go to Photokina looking for the new developments. Every year there are lots — but not everything is useful to me. But one company I have become enamoured with is SMDV. This is a small Korean company that is making nice, affordable flash equipment. Every time I visit Photokina I see cheap chinese imitations of things European and American companies presented two years ago — but SMDV is making some really interesting new stuff. This year, their parabolic lightshapers were new (see my photo below). A lightshaper fits on your flash light, and shapes your light. Well shaped light makes a great difference in your photo. I’m pretty sure one of these light shapers is going to end up in my studio in the next few months!

Should I go looking for another job?

My industry is always changing. The arrival of the digital camera, and then the dawn on the internet, have thoroughly impacted the world of professional photography. So much so, that people regularly tell me my job is coming to an end. I never believe that ( I think people will always need good images), but I must admit that I was a bit surprised that Nikon had brought two robots who could photograph. Maybe my job will not be to make images, as much as it will be to rent you my photo-taking robots. I guess that would make me a rental company…?

Lots and lots and lots of photo’s

When you go to Photokina, you know you are going to see lots and lots of photo’s. Bt this year it seemed a little crazy, and I am not sure it was very helpful. Fujifilm (yes, the company I just raved about) had committed to showcasing 12 million photo’s at different venues around the world. And one of the venues they choose was Photokina. Now, mind you, these weren’t great photo’s. Many of them were just snaps. But one of there slogans is ‘every photo deserves to be printed’. Here are some photo’s of the endless photo arrays. And in case you observe it seems hardly any one is really looking at them — that struck me too!

Speaking of images, I was disappointed Leica did not put up it’s huge portrait exhibitions like they did in previous editions of Photokina. Instead, Minolta got to use that whole hall for a colour full photo-occassion. Fun, but not the same!

Strange creatures and beautiful displays

Every photokina camera companies bring out models and displays to attract your attention and help you test their latest camera’s and equipment. You could go to Photokina just to see that. Here are some strange creatures I came across.

Actually, my award for the best display goes to Canon. They had a ballet dancer dancing with a peace of cloth that was perpetually moved by a windstage below. I thought it was magical. For that reason, they get the space at the top and the bottom of my blog, even though Canon is not my brand.

Interesting side note though: the Canon host said the display would demonstrate that Canon has the fastest autofocus system. I actually thought Sony’s professional camera’s are faster. And when a Canon rep handed me the Canon camera, and I asked her the question, she whispered the Nikon was faster as well. Which I thought was an interesting little vignette into this industry: all the major companies have new camera’s and say their’s are better then the competition, but it all depends on how you look at it!

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Interior photography of a Studio for AirBnB listing in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

So Sophie and I are currently vacationing in Nova Scotia, Canada. We are staying with my sister in law and her husband. They run a number of AirBnB residences. I photographed two spaces for them. I like doing interior architectural photography. You will see a slightly different editing style between the first and the second set. I’m curious which one you like better: the editing style of the first or the second set?

Funny thing: my sister-in-law posted the images to AirBnB, and the next morning the following month was almost fully booked up! Which just goes to show that good images make ALL the difference!

Here are the images I delivered to them. Why am I showing you ALL the images I gave them? Because anyone can take one or two good images. I like to show you that a professional photographer delivers a full set of images, all good and consistent in style.

And here are the images of the second set. My sister-in-law asked me to go for a softer retouch of these images, as that fits this space more. So you may observe a (subtle) differences between the images above and the ones below.

As always, click on the images to see them larger.

For more architectural photography, please see my architectural photography page.

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A history of race in dance and photography: the Unity Project

Time for the last image of our Unity project. As I explained in this blog last week friday, I recently collaborated with my friend and colleague Sara Westmaas and two amazing dancers. Together we created a series of 8 images in my studio. We have decided to call this project ‘the Unity Project’.

Sara and I have worked together before. Every now and then we get together to do something fun and creative. This time she had arranged for 2 dancers to come to my studio. Both of us were very busy, so we did not have a concept in mind yet. That’s not always a recipe for success… so when they came and introduced themselves, they asked: ‘so: what are we going to do?’ Sara and I looked at each other and wondered ourselves: yes: what ARE we going to do.

And then I noticed something. We had a white and a black dancer. We had a white and a black photographer. And my studio has a large white wall — and a large black wall. And that is when this concept was born.

In the images of this project we want to tell you the story of race. The story of white and black people. Today, we are showing you the first image. The next image will appear in this blog in two days.

Image #1: oppression

OK, let’s take it from the top. Here are the images in succession, each with a brief description. Click on the images to see them larger.

We regret to say it, but the history of race in our world starts with oppression: white people oppressing people of color. Rising above, and using all the force they have, with all the pride and arrogance of religion and technological advantage, and beating into submission people of color. We asked Joe and Daniel to act this out in one dance move. See Giovanni bring down the hammer of white supremacy and Daniel beaten senseless.

Today  (May 5th) is Liberation Day in Holland. We celebrate the end of the war, the demise of fascism, and liberty from German oppression. But the reality is that even now in our world (and even in this country), white people enjoy lots of freedom, while many people with dark skin suffer from oppression: economic oppression, political oppression, sexual oppression.

Image #2: Rising up

White arrogance may have ruled the day for a season, but eventually people of color come to understand there is no valid reason for this. Whether in the townships of Johannesburg, on the bridges of Alabama, or in the streets of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, people of color are rising up, as Daniel is portraying here. Unfortunately, again and again white people have no desire to let go of their privileged position and power, and so they respond to this growing self-awareness with rejection and aggression — as Giovanni illustrates in his move.

I love how how Daniel ’emerges’ here. At some point people of color will need to protest, and this will come out in the next image. But here he is simply saying ‘look at me – accept me’.

Image #3: Protest

By now you are seeing the ‘rhythm’ of these photo’s: the black and white backgrounds keep changing sides — as do the dancers. In this picture Daniel, our black dancer, is rising up in protest. Our white dancer, Giovanni, hasn’t given his plea for consideration the time of day. The oppression continues. There is no choice, but to protest. Not to protest would be an act of self-hatred. Without protest there will be no equality. And so Daniel rises up, lounges forward, and raises his fist (a reference to the Black Lives Matter movement). He lounges forward. For the first time we see Giovanni in retreat. The rejection is still there (the left hand), and Giovanni’s right hand is lifted high, ready to strike Daniel — but he is in retreat.

It appears to us black and white are in a perpetual dance. In these images we are acting out this story — which can be observed over and over again. I love how the two bodies are positioned in a symmetrical fashion.

Image 4: Consideration

This image and the next may be the most controversial of this series. I have called this image ‘consideration’. It is a call to my fellow white people to simply consider what our colored fellow-men are saying to us. To hear their story, to sit still and just to listen.

What I observe so often is that as soon as colored people state their claim, white people are on the defensive. There is immediate rejection. ‘No, it’s not true’, and ‘you overstate’ and ‘well, that was a long time ago’. We can’t seem to stop, sit and listen.

Which is why in this picture Giovanni has adopted the pose of the thinker (ref. Rodin). And Daniel is explaining and showing himself. We made sure Daniel’s pose was not one of humility or weakness. There is strength in his pose. But it also isn’t the protest of the last image.

Image 5: Recognition

This image is about the recognition that needs to happen on the part of white people that evil was perpetrated on people of color — and continues to be perpetrated. In this image Giovanni’s stance acts out remorse — heart-wrenching remorse.

It seems to me this is the part we most miss. We can barely bring ourselves to say sorry. We fear that as soon as we say our behavior was (is) wrong a debt is created. And so we just want to move on. ‘We need to be future-focused, not dwell on the past’.

I do not think it works that way. I have come to believe we cannot move on unless we deal with the past. Unless we learn to condemn our own behaviour, and recognise there is a debt.

I said these images might be controversial… I can only hope that when we recognise the evil of our behaviour, we meet a generous and open stance as the one Daniel is adopting here.

Image# 6: Unity

Sara and I, along with Daniel and Giovanni, believe that we can live together. That a society in which people of different races live together — dance together, even fly together, is possible. But we cannot ignore our history. We have to work through it.

Today, as I write this, it is 130 years ago that Brazil abolished slavery. Sara is from Brazil, and this date is dear to her. Slavery was introduced to Brazil by the Dutch. You will not miss the significance of a Dutch and a Brazilian photographer working together on such a project together.

We hope this series of images speaks to you. That it gives you joy and inspires you. Most of all, we hope it helps us look at each other, embrace our story, work through it, and then dance together.

About the images

We want to thank our two dancers for participating with us. This project was a true team effort. We discussed all the poses together, seeking how to best tell the story we wanted to tell. The images of Giovanni Adriano Princic, our white dancer from Italy, were all shot by Sara. I shot the images of Daniel Robert Silva, our dancer from Brazil. Both dance with the Dutch National Ballet (Het Nationale Ballet). The post-processing was done by Rogier. We selected the images together, so this really was a team-effort.

Our dancers:

The Photographers:

Check out Sara’s photography here. Sara has blogged about this project here.

A history of race in dance and photography: the Unity Project Read More »