by Editor Yvette Leur
Peete van Spankeren is one of my most cherished teachers. Even though I was never in one of his classes, there have been plenty of times I went to him for advice in search of becoming a photographer. He learned me about effective lighting, exhibitions and the true business side of being a photographer.
He is super motivated, passionate, sometimes strict but always willing to share his expertise and knowledge. This Pro has been in business for over 30 years and still manages to stay current, inspiring and innovative.
Peete is a creating, not so much registry photographer. Some of his work can be found in an exhibit at the Dutch Museum Flehite in the city of Amersfoort The Netherlands. I really admire the series he has made over the last couple of years. And this is only one of the reasons I wanted to introduce his work with you, the followers of 1x.com.
Who is Peete van Spankeren?
Peete van Spankeren is a seasoned professional photographer with lots of experience in commercial, food and one of a kind autonomic series. He likes to collaborate with his clients to create and grow something special out of every assignment he gets. The final result has to materialize on set. He is always very aware of his surroundings and likes to work closely with a team of stylists and clients. Customer satisfaction is key. Food and Culinary photography are among his favourite subjects.
When did he start?
He started his photographic journey on a real early aged. When he was 12 years old, he already knew he wanted to become a photographer. His first job as an assistant photographer was with a well know Dutch-American FHV/BBDO advertising agency. This job has helped his career over the years because it was a trademark for quality. He still put in the extra work by following written classes and attending photography school.
This all rounded photographer has always shared his knowledge with younger generations. He has been a teacher at the Dutch School of Photography and always had interns studying at his studio. In his opinion: "A photograph has to be right, You have to know, no need to check afterwards." Composition is key. Just by doing, trying, making mistakes, falling flat on your face and getting back up and keep on going, getting compliments, making progress, Peete kept learning and developing his skills and unique own style.
He started photographing with a more creative view and the end of the 1990's. Before that he was mainly executing within the boundaries of the assignments. But when clients like Reebok came and gave him more of a creative range, he started to work out some new ideas and possibilities for showing of the products. Peete describes this as a wonderful experience with excellent results.
Peete van Spankeren' Series
I asked Peete to tell us something about his series.
"In het licht van de crisis" (a light of the crisis)
The beginning of the Worldwide Credit Crisis started around 2008. My stylist and I wanted to make a Happy New Years card for both of our client groups. "Brood op de plank" was the first photograph. The idea was to portrait, "Lots of luck and may you have bread on your table" in one image. We were both so impressed by the final result, that the tone was set for a whole series. "In het licht van de crisis" (A light on the crisis) was the name I came up with because I specifically choose to manipulate studio light like the Old Dutch Master Painters. Just using one main light source and using reflective materials to add were needed. This made a series of atmospheric pleasant still life photographs come to life.
Mr. Onno Maurer (head director of Museum Flehite in Amersfoort, The Netherlands) was interested in the series and exhibited all 12 images of the series in the Van Campen hall at the museum. This hall is where many of the priced possessions of the museum can be found. The images I created in these Modern times fit really well with the existing historical collection of the museum. A part of the collection even made it to the permanent collection of this Dutch museum and is still very popular among the visitors. In spite of being based on the crisis and the images being named after Dutch expressions these series had had international attention and is currently at an agency in Barcelona Spain.
Ever tried to come up with a new follow up idea when your latest project turned out to be so successful? I got inspired again when my first granddaughter was born. I was so blown away by this little miracle that I wanted to portray it in a way that I could express myself fully.
Lady Manonna is a reference to the Italian word ‘nonna’ which means Grandma. It turned out to be a series with grandmas and their grandchildren. Inspiration for execution for this series came from 17th century Russian Icons, wooden panels of Madonna's with child. I am not a religious person at all, but I see this whole series as an ode to life.
Again with my stylist I started building an idea of background with a blue and en red and later brown as well. Using gold leave for the middle part. You can see a video about the on my website: www.studiovanspankeren.nl/info/ladymanonna
When My granddaughter was a year and a half old, I photographed her in the arms of my wife. This was used as a reference for the ages for the other grandchildren in the series. During photographing I noticed that grandma's nowadays still look very young and smooth. No wrinkles and worn out faces. So sometimes I just decided to use great grandma's instead. We even photographed a grandma who had lost her grandchild and a black Manonna.
The only thing I did with Photoshop was intensify the sunlight in the background. Some 20th century elements like disposable diapers I purposely left in the Manonna series. That was also the case in the first Still life series.
For an exhibition the print were made on big scale 1,5 x 1 meters. This exhibition was held at de Onze Lieve Vrouwen Tower in Amersfoort, The Netherlands. Some people were moved to tears. That was for me the ultimate proof I've succeeded with my follow up series. Another series that mattered and told a story.
"Foodzoekers" (Food searchers)
I am constantly looking for diversity and do not want to repeat myself when making new series. The next idea came from culinary photography. For this type of photography, a lot of food goes through your hands. When you really take the time to look at it more closely, you see the beauty and perfection of it. You have to be able to notice. It's in the small stuff. You don't need any digital manipulation. It is what it is. For example, look at the packaging of a simple bean. The young bean is packed so nothing can harm it. That's the work of Mother Nature. I decided that this would be an ongoing project. There are so many additions possible. And I am still full of ideas to add to this latest project. By changing the photographs in this series on exhibitions, It just does not get boring.
Food Zoekers (food searchers) is like a creative search for creative foods. I even photographed in a restaurant simply by placing a fish near a window to create the perfect light source. We are so used to our food that we forget to look at it and see the beauty it contains. With simply the use of good equipment I have build this series. In my honest opinion, you can better have less but good gear than a lot of junk. Sometimes I added some coloured light to made the food look even more attractive or intensify the image.
The passion and inspiration came from good cooking and nice meals. If you have no special interest in cooking, it's very hard to become a good food photographer, you simply miss the passion.
How important is the professional side?
What's important to Peete is that he can work a profession he choose carefully. Something he feels connected with and makes him happy. Maybe that can be a messages to the readers as well.
Peete also talked about the more difficult side of being a photographer. When starting out it was and for today's photographers still is difficult to make a name for yourself. Especially in ad/commercial photography. There are always people who are better than you, or with better networks. Your work will be always be criticized. It can easily take years and years before recognition comes. You really need self confidence to be able to present yourself.
The series is something Peete only started about ten years ago. Before that it was a lot of ad and food photography. The way food was photographed in the past was done totally different.
A test polaroid that was send to the client for approval and one to photograph the final image. Then that picture had to be send to the lab for development, that process took hours. Nowadays the client can watch either in the studio or online. In a way, the thrill of those days are gone. What you see on-screen is what you get. The real art of photography seems a little lost. Peete bought his first digital camera in 1995. He always wanted to go with the progress of times.
When I asked about his influences or even mentors Peete says full heartedly , Henri Cartier Bresson. Bresson was like a red thread trough out his youth. He also mentioned the work of Erwin Olaf and David LaChapelle. Freaky images of every day scenes. As a food photographer he likes the work of Belgian Tony le Duc. Creating photography, that's key with all of these photographers. The Images of Henri always tell a story, that is what needs to happen in my photographs as well. I still use this in every shoot, in ad campaigns and my autonomic work.
Because of my experiences with Peete as a teacher, I asked him about his experiences.
A colleague recommended me. She said, you are gonna be good at it. Do it. So eventually I teached at the Dutch Photography School from 2007 till 2012. I always likes working with young people. It is nice to share your experiences as a photographer and teach practical lessons they can immediately put to use. Most of the time the first day ends up in a blind state of panic because the camera has to lose the automatic settings. But when you see the change after the students learn how to translate what they have in mind by using the camera as their tool was always priceless to see.
That's another great tip for the readers as well. Use your camera as a tool, not as the thing that makes the picture. You decide and control the surroundings, not the camera.
What would you like to say to the readers? Tip/Quote?
When exhibiting photographs, make sure your presentation is professional. No little back alley venues. Make sure to invest in framing, glass and print.
Peete van Spankeren's website: www.studiovanspankeren.nl
Today’s exhibitions: ChampÁubert at Driebergen, The Netherlands