10 minutes with Rene van der Hulst

Interviews with Photographers January 3, 2014 1:35 pm

Rene van der Hulst

When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer?

For me the first time I knew I wanted to become a photographer was during my first year at Art Academy and more specifically during a trip of a week with a friend in May 1988 (god that sounds a long time ago) in Paris. We spent our days walking across town watching and shooting (very Henri Cartier Bresson like in retrospect), all in B&W, and I produced, for the first time, a series of photographs with consistency and vision. And not to mention the sheer joy it gave me working this way!

Who were the first photographers that inspired you?

I discovered several photographers in my first year at Art Academy, before that my knowledge was pretty much non-existent regarding photography… During my first year my teacher of photography was a big fan of Magnum and Henri Cartier Bresson and that was a first inspiration. During that year I also learnt about the book ‘Cape Light’ by Joel Meyerowitz which I think is still great and the work by Elliott Erwitt, especially his photos of dogs. Later that year I also learnt about Garry Winogrand, Diane Arbus and the still life photography by Czech photographer Josef Sudek. The latter became a great inspiration during the rest of my study time, I eventually graduated with (among other series) a still life series of glasses and bottles.

Can you tell me about your project, Paperdress? How did you come up with the concept?

Regarding the Paperdress concept, I came up with the concept because I was inspired by my printer profiling prints to color calibrate the printer. These prints are about a A4 size and I wondered how they would look like much bigger and maybe could be of use for a background in a stills shot. In order to do this I scanned several prints and turned them into a pattern measuring 60 x 120 cm. In the meanwhile during another shoot, I showed the pattern to one of my stylists I work regularly with : Isabel Croon. I had the idea to produce fabrics in some sort of way to do something with the pattern. During the shoot we brainstormed what we could do with the print and the easiest way to produce 10 to 20 meters was to print it myself. Isabel had just begun with a couture workshop and we already had talked in an earlier stage about doing a special fashion-shoot together. We decided then to combine all of these elements together in one shoot : A modern couture take on the Marie Antoinette theme, with the dresses made out of different kinds of paper and that the dress would consist out of several layers just like in the 18th century. Isabel designed the dress and the making took several weeks to complete and in the end about 30 meters of ‘fabric’ was used which I produced on my own printer. We wanted the look of the images to be very clean to emphasize the colour and patterns, the set was build in my studio for another shoot which we could use again for this personal shoot. We had to reschedule the shoot for the availability of the model Sharon two times but she was really great to work with! For example it took about an hour to put on the complete dress on set and when on she could hardly move because the whole dress was really fragile. Make-up and hair was done by Rosemary van Liempt whom I have worked with a lot and has a lot of experience doing fashion shoots.


Is it important that you always have a personal project going on?

Personal work is a big part of my work and portfolio. Sometimes it’s planned and takes months to complete (like the paper dress project), sometimes it’s additional work you can shoot alongside a commercial or editorial assignment and sometimes it’s something which strikes me when I’m driving the car, on the bike or walking and I feel it needs to be photographed. For me ‘seeing things’ is never off, that’s why I carry most of the times a point and shoot to shoot these ‘things’. And the personal stuff can be a basis for an assignment which has happened a lot in the past. Or the inspiration for a client to work with during concepting. I have seen a lot of my personal stuff on mood-boards of designers and art-directors I work regularly with.

If you could go back ten years, what advice would you give yourself?

Surprisingly, maybe  I should have become a dad earlier! Becoming a dad 10.5 years ago made me a much more focused photographer, both practically and ambition-wise. With the birth of our first son (we have two sons and a daughter now) I realized that you don’t have all the time of the world anymore for your work if you want to spend regular quality time with your family. This became even more apparent after the birth of our second son 19 months later. I became much more to the point during shoots (also because of better planning) and also started focussing more on the field I’m currently shooting a lot in : design, interior, art, architecture etc.

Any words of wisdom for the up and comers?

I think the most important thing in our business is to follow your passion, heart and dreams… and be nice!
Also remember that it is business not personal especially after doing dozens of calls and you can’t get the right persons on the line, or doing portfolio viewings which you think didn’t go that well or making quotes which have to be revised ten times… Overnight success is very rare indeed. In day to day contacts: be nice and really interested in the people you work with, not only your direct clients but also stylist, make-up artists, models, assistants etc. After being in business for more than twenty years, I’m still amazed about the way jobs come to me and how important your network is – I got a long term editorial job after emaling an art-director for 1,5 years. Did portfolio viewings which went great (I thought) and got me nowhere. Did portfolio viewings which went not that great (I thought) and got me great jobs. Got a small job from a client after ten revisions of the quote and the next time got a big job from the same client with hardly quoting at all.. Talent is great but perseverance, social skills, a thick skin (in a good way) are equally important and did I mention it’s most important to be nice?

(Rene is based in Amsterdam. See more of his work, here)

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