by Yvette Depaepe
Published the 20st of June 2022
Nico Pakvis 's portraiture work is amazing and excellent. He quotes: “As a photographer you have to be able to 'read' someone quickly, nearly at first sight. To make outstanding portraits you have to pick up details characteristics of that person. You have to watch how someone looks, moves and talks. You have to be able to get along with someone you've only just met.” Outsiders and friends all agree that Nico is pretty good at this. Learn more about Nico and the man behind his Art.
First of all, I would like to thank you for inviting me to this interview, I feel very honoured.
I am 64 years old, married, and a father of 4 children and 4 grandchildren. Besides my job as a teacher I’ve been working as a professional bass and double bass player in several bands throughout the years. My home-town is Leeuwarden, located in the northern parts of The Netherlands.
My photographic journey started in 2005 when I bought a Nikon D50. I started to take pictures at parties and other celebrations and as a result, I was invited to be the photographer at a few weddings. Later, a communications company hired me to do their photography. With the money I earned from this I bought new equipment and within 5 years photography became a very important part of my life. On my trips to Sri Lanka I discovered that having a camera was the way to make contact with the local people. Making portraits became my main activity.
In 2014 I lost my job as a teacher due to a severe depression which lasted until 2017. I lost my interest in making music and quit playing the bass. Finding the right medicine took a long time. The only activity that kept me ‘happy’ during this time was making portraits. Then in 2018 I hired a small space to start as a studio photographer. This was probably the most important step in my development as a photographer.
Making portraits in my own studio became something I had never expected to like so much. Online I read about the fundamentals of lenses, diaphragm, shutter speed, lighting and soft boxes and watched many of Gavin Hoey’s YouTube tutorials. I visited a few workshops about lighting techniques and I started buying books from photographers whose work I liked. This is how I gradually developed my photographic skills and style throughout the years.
I’m not sure if I have a clear photographic vision, I just want to make beautiful images. For me a beautiful image is one you want to look at for a long time. Because of the face expression, because of the lighting, because of the pose. I always tell my models that recognizing a good picture is something that is not easily put in words, but something you can see immediately.
A friend of mine once wrote about my pictures: ‘The great quality of a portrait photographer is that he can make his model forget that they are being photographed, and that he can wait for the transformation of the viewed object into the real me. Photography is psychology.’
I invite my models via social media, most of them have no prior experience. Working with them is great because they don’t know the tricks of posing. I collect example pictures from the internet and the models choose how they want to be photographed. I use their choice as a starting point and while making pictures I try to adjust the example pose to a pose which I think suits them just a bit better. To achieve this, I give my models exact instructions of where to look, where to put their hands, how much to raise their chin, and so forth.
It is difficult to talk about my success features, but in reviews I hear that models like to work with me because I am relaxed, patient and polite. They feel at ease and comfortable. I listen to their stories and they sometimes talk about their skin or hair insecurities. Several times during a shoot I show the photos on a bigger monitor. I show them how I can smoothen their skin or how I can remove their eyebags. Just to make them feel comfortable with themselves.
I always start with small talk over coffee and tea to get to know each other a little bit. The models bring their own clothes so we spend some time to decide what to use. I always start with head-shots to get used to each other. After about twenty pictures we review them on a monitor and delete the ones we don’t like. After a few rounds of this we have a collection of pictures we both like. These I send to the model and they can in their own time choose which ones they definitely want to receive after retouching.
My retouching skills I learned from the internet. There are a lot of tutorials going around and it took a while to find the ones I had a certain connection with. I bought some lessons from Joel Grimes whose work I still enjoy. I have retouched a few thousands photos by now, but still I have the feeling I can improve. This is probably saying more about me than my skills.
Nowadays, I still use Nikon. Two years ago I bought a Z6 and two prime lenses; the 85/1.8 S and the 50/1.8 S. My lighting is from Elinchrom and the sizes of my round soft boxes are 100 and 175 cm. Sometimes I also use two strip boxes which are 100 by 35 cm. My tripod is a Gitzo and normally I use a grey paper background. For retouching I use Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Photoshop. My computer is a brand-new Mac Studio and my monitor is from BenQ.
Good gear makes me feel comfortable and when I feel comfortable I use the gear for a very long time.
My best photo is probably the one that I am going to take the next shoot. Though I am very happy with what I am doing now: meeting new people, working with models, retouching at home, I always feel that it is possible to improve my work. My two wishes for the future are getting a bigger studio and working with a medium format camera. But hey, who doesn’t!
Photographers whose work I like are Yousuf Karsh and Gregory Heisler. I bought their books and the stories how the pictures were taken inspires me a lot. I also like the work of Nadav Kander. Watching his work inspires me to constantly improve and do things differently than I did before.
I started uploading photos on 1x in November 2020. I was surprised my photos got published and even awarded. It helped me to overcome my incertitude and doubts: if strangers like my photos there must be something good about them. I like 1x because of its simplicity; no annoying banners, no screaming advertisements and no pop-ups every 10 seconds. Besides Facebook, Instagram and my website, I use 1x to show my work.
A good portrait gives a sense of intimacy
Very beautiful and creative work, thanks to Nico, and of course thanks a lot Ivette!
Thank you very much!
complimenti, meravigliosa galleria, molto originale, ancora congratulazioni.
Grazie per questa splendida intervista. Una galleria di immagini spettacolari. È stato bello leggere la tua esperienza e ricerca di imparare sempre mettendoti in gioco. Complimenti Yvette e Nico
Vladimir Funtak PRO
Congratulations, Nico! Way to go...
Wonderful gallery of portraits that are very poetic and expressive! Every one tells a story which is full of emotion and grace!
Great gallery and fantastic art! Congratulations!
Arnon Orbach CREW
Wonderful portraits gallery, the way you collaborate with your models is shown in the final image. Intriguing life story Dear Nico, thanks, for sharing it all with us and thank you Yvette for making it possible. My compliments.
Md. Arifuzzaman PRO
Dear Nico, I just stunt and speechless to see your beautiful portraits. They are not merely portraits, they are more than that.........
Piet Haaksma PRO
Wonderful images and interview, congratulations.
Waarvoor hartelijk dank.
Nining Perintis PRO
great portrait, very nice pic, congratulations
Beautiful work. Congratulations and inspiration!
Congratulations, Nico! It was a real pleasure to interview you and to put you in the spotlights in the magazine. Cheers, Yvette
Heel graag gedaan
Ruth Franke PRO
great portrait, very fine work of photographer Nico and models and quite great performance in the report from Yvette! Thank you! All the best! Ruth