Patricia Steur: glamour photographer with a big soul
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Life interview by Marc van Kempen
Patricia Steur is a top Dutch photographer. She started her singing career in the playback group “Groupies Delight”. Started photography in 1974 with a preference for shooting concerts. She was able to get the great musicians of the time in front of her camera. Magazine “Hitkrant”, discovered her. She also worked for “Oor” and “De Nieuwe Revu” (Dutch magazines). From there her photography career developed to a high level. She also loves painting. She is open-minded towards the world and towards people. Her portraits show the real person. That’s why Patricia can’t be called a glamour photographer but a photographer who tries to search for the soul of a person. She takes life as it presents itself. Who is Patricia and what makes her such a charming lady?
Patricia welcomed me in her house which doubles as her studio and showed me around. There was an energy in the house, which puts people immediately at ease. I looked and admired the many photos that were hanging on the walls. One of them especially caught my attention: “Kingi”, a photo of a tattooed Maori man.
She then shows me her photo gallery
This is my great-grandfather with his Irish wife from the Fitzgerald clan.
This is a picture of my father, a Latin-looking man but as Dutch as can be.
We then arrive at a marvellous portrait of Erik, her deceased husband. His name was Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema (jr), the son of the legendary “Soldier of Orange”. Patricia tells me that they had a very happy marriage and that he died at age 62 of cancer.
We arrive at a picture of Patricia’s sister, published in her book “Dutch Beauty”.
And this is a photo of her mother who lived until she was 94. Patricia is a spitting image of her.
Do you come from an artistic family?
It didn’t last too long and one day I asked my father if I could borrow his old Voigtlander and right away I felt “this is it”. I first got a job working for a photographer.
In 1980 I started to work as an independent. I was always ready to attack a difficult assignment like the time when I really wanted to photograph the Beastie Boys. I just had the guts to push through and got 10 minutes to take my photos. A week later this series appeared in “De Nieuwe Revu”. I thought: Yessss….”
It always works like that for me: I never see problems. I have a vision and that’s what I follow. I just have to do it, go there. That’s the clue of my whole life.
I also photographed the Dalai Lama and that photo appeared in several magazines and sold well.
How did you feel when you were a beginning photographer?
Do you see advantages in being a woman photographer?
Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers called me. I didn’t know at first who he was. He asked whether he could use one of my photos for his book “Scar Tissues”. A photo with his back tattoo and nude Ione Skeye. His girlfriend at the time.
During the shoot I asked whether his girlfriend could be in the picture as well. She took her t-shirt off.
I do like fashion photography and take photos of well-known Dutch women in beautiful fashion of famous designers and these photos I combine with fish from the Internet. They are published in a very nice magazine called Vision.
I just knew I would become a famous photographer! At the time you were obliged to put your profession in your passport and I put in: photographer.
“FAKE IT UNTILL YOU MAKE IT”
Willy DeVille called me frequently to ask for another shoot. I have made a book about Willy.
Do people pay you when they ask for a photo shoot?
You have also photographed Andy Warhol.
You go on trips to take photos like the time you went on assignment for the Aids Fund.
Pregnant women with Aids could give birth to healthy babies thanks to a medicine that was provided through the Health Promoters fund. We bought beads and gave them to the local women. They made bracelets out of them. We then sold them in De Bijenkorf (Dutch Department store) and the proceeds were integrally transferred back to these women. I took a lot of photos in those townships of Johannesburg. One of the women was wearing a pink striped jogging suit which I didn’t like very much, so I took a black table cloth from the table and draped it around her. This is the result. By the way this was photographed with natural light.
Do you always get people to do what you want?
People seem to trust you that you will portray them in a favourable way.
I worked for a long time for “De Nieuwe Revu magazine. In this job I travelled the world. One of my trips was to Sicily where I sailed around the island and took photos with “Centerfold” a girls band.
This was a sexy band and De Nieuwe Revu liked it and it sold very well.
I also photographed Hunter S. Thompson at a mercenary convention for De Nieuwe Revu. I got along with him very well. Too bad he committed suicide.
Tell me a bit about the books you have published.
It started by photographing “Straathelden” (street heroes), people I met on the street who looked different. I shot these photos with a technical camera: a Cambo 4x5.
From the Straathelden the book “de Laatste Ridders” (Decorated Heroes) derived, a book about people who had been awarded for acts of bravery during the war called: “Militaire Willemsorde”.
Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema was one of them; the “Soldier of Orange” (de soldaat van Oranje) and I had to go to Hawaii for that, because he was living there. I was introduced to his son who turned out to be the love of my life and became my husband. We returned to the Netherlands and lived for a big part in a small village. When he died after 20 happy years I decided to return to Amsterdam and this house found me.
I never published a book out of my own pocket. Puplishers always asked me if they could make a book of my work.
You have had a lot of luck in your life. Does it just come your way?
Tell me some more about these master classes.
You also travelled a lot in New Zealand?
What is the difference between your portraits and those of Jimmy Nelson?
You have also worked with fashion designer Mart Visser.
Do you see similarities between your work and that of Govert de Roos?
Do you have tips for beginning photographers?
Networking is important. Passion is important. And take care of having a good and trusting relationship with your clients.
New book coming out: from Rosymary de Boer doing the interviews and me taking the pictures: “Opvallende zeventigers” A book about remarkable people of over 70 years.
Some of Patricia Steur’s books
Websites on which to follow Patricia’s work:
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