Huib Limberg is a self-taught and achieved artist – analogue as well as digital - photographing the surroundings. He works thematically and his absolute preference goes for aesthetics and creativity, expressing reality and emotions in his own and unique way. Thanks to Yvette Depaepe for conducting the interview. You will find more photos by the end of the article.
Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs.
I was born in 1944 in Hilvarenbeek, a small village in the South of the Netherlands. In 1964 I moved to Soest in the center of the country, about 20 km from Utrecht, where I still reside together with my wife Marjan. Until my retirement I worked as a manager in the field for a large national insurance company. Apart from my photography I also like walking my dog, cycling and going to the theater and museums. One of my passions used to be jogging but due to a bad knee I reluctantly had to give that up.
How have your history and life experiences affected your photography?
I didn’t care about photography until we received an invitation from an uncle to see the slides of his trip to what used to be Yugoslavia. The slides were made with a Yashica and they were very sharp, with beautiful colors. I was mesmerized! A couple of months later my wife surprised me with the same camera and the message to go and take such wonderful images myself! I started hesitantly but soon enough we were also showing slide presentations in our own living room. They were made on AGFA CT 18. A few months later I was introduced to the wonders of the darkroom and that decided my fate: a hobby was born!
What first attracted you to photography?
I was and still am a keen nature lover and birdwatcher and now I could take my camera and hunt for birds, deer etc. I changed the Yashica for an Exacta, my first SLR. I used a 400mm and a convertor and could come very close to my subjects. After several years of this type of photography I joined a photo club and this was the real start of becoming an ambitious amateur photographer. I also bought a “real” camera, the Olympus OM1; actually two, one for color and one for black and white. A large cupboard in our home became the darkroom and I bought a Durst M605. I have always considered working in the dark room as a necessary evil for it was not really a pleasure to be working in the dark.
Describe your overall photographic vision.
I like contemplative photos: images that make you stop and think. Nothing too obvious and predictable.
Your work is diversified: Abstract, Architecture and Conceptual. Why are you so drawn by these specific styles?
After my first contacts with other amateur photographers in the photo club I started looking for my own style, my own way of showing my imagination. I started to give myself assignments and with an absolute preference for creative and esthetic photography, I went very far in getting the most out of these assignments. These assignments to myself could take a few months but also a few years. During this time I was open to different disciplines. I have noticed that it works to improve the quality of your work because you get deeper and deeper into a subject and you try to get the most out of it.
On your account I even saw an album with a great series of macros.
Yes, that’s right. A few years ago I had to have a knee operation and the recovery period would be quite long so I bought a macro lens so that I could still take photographs in my immediate environment, my front and backyard. It was hard in the beginning but I got very enthusiastic and at one point my macro lens was kind of cemented to my camera. I find bokeh a very attractive part of a photo and by now this has become a very important part of my images, sometimes even a subject on its own.
On your visiting card you have BMK/MFIAP written behind your name. Can you tell us what that means?
Yes, I am proud of this. BMK is the abbreviation of Bonds Meester Klasse and MFIAP the abbreviation of Maître de la Fédération Internationale de l’Art Photographique. The Dutch Photo Association (Nederlandse Fotobond) yearly invites photographers to submit 20 photos to a committee consisting of 3-5 experts. In 1984 I sent in 20 black and white photos with the theme: Wall landscapes. I had been working about 3 years on this series and was honored to receive the BMK title.
FIAP is the worldwide Organisation for photography of which national photo organizations can become a member. You can receive several titles at FIAP, like A(artiste)FIAP , E(excellence)FIAP and M(Maître)FIAP. AFIAP and EFIAP are obtained by being accepted at a certain number of international photo expos and MFIAP is obtained by submitting about 20 photos, which will be judged by the board of FIAP. It’s a coincidence that my first published photo on 1x belonged to that series. It is number 11.
I worked on that series during an entire year. The assignment was Nature (flowers and plants in this case) from early spring until late fall. The results I bundled in its own creative package and I called the series Mo(nu)ments of Rest. If you are interested you can see the complete series here.
What is more important to you? The mood/story behind your images or the technical perfection?
That is of course very dependent on the subject.
Sometimes it’s OK to have a totally blurred photo because it was meant to be but other times sharpness is important and lack of it can make a photo less interesting. I think that a good photographer should be able to learn the technique and should always apply it. Having said that I still feel that the emotion and the story are the most important aspects.
What is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
Before physically getting involved photographing a certain subject I have been playing with it in my head. I make outlines and note ideas in my sketchbook. My sketchbook is usually quite filled up so I am never without inspiration.
Do you carefully prepare the locations where you are intending to photograph?
My preparation depends on the theme that I am photographing at that moment. This may be an event that I am planning to visit or an interesting city not too far from where I live. Google supplies me with the necessary information. During my analogue period I would return to the location if I wasn’t happy with the negative but in the digital era I can of course just look at my screen and adjust accordingly.
What gear do you take with you and which software do you use to process your images?
My equipment consists of a Nikon D700 with various lenses from 14mm to 300mm and a macro lens of 105mm which I not only use for macro but also for portraits. A while ago I also bought a small camera to always carry with me: a Nikon Coolpix P7700. This camera has of course some limitations: I won’t use it to make macros. But because it’s always on me I take photos I otherwise would not have taken. About 35 of my published photos on 1x have been taken by this P7700! A proof that it’s not the camera that takes the photos but the man/woman who is behind it.
Can you tell us something more about your workflow?
Nothing is better than a printed photo; compared to that every virtual image is surrogate. I process my photos with Photoshop CS3 and I have an Epson R2400. I use original Epson ink and print photos up to A3 format. I do use quality paper: Epson Archival Matte or Hahnemühle Photo Rag or White Etching.
What is your most important advice to a beginner in these different styles of photography and how do you get started?
I am an autodidact. I would recommend that, if you’re not already, you should become a member of a photo club: it will give you more insight and help you with solutions that you might not have come up with on your own. For the rest: stay yourself and don’t imitate. Let yourself be inspired by visiting photo expos and studying other art movements. Take a subscription on a good photo magazine.
I also recommend working on themes, don’t just do “everything” but concentrate on a certain project or theme. Browse the internet for more inspiration and don’t forget 1x where you can see beautiful photos in almost all categories. When I go for a walk in nature I always take a notebook with me and pen down whatever inspires me. And most of all: believe in your photos and enjoy them even when they don’t appear on the Front Page. Don’t let yourself be frustrated by that but rather use the occasion to look at the photo again objectively. Don’t blame the curators; they are neutral and fair.
Who are your favorite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected the approach to your own photography?
Photographers who inspire me are: Paul den Hollander, Paul de Nooyer, Bruce Gilden, Carl de Keyzer, Erwin Olaf, Duane Michals and most Magnum photographers. What I admire most in some of these photographers is the controlled creativity. And even though I don’t consider myself a street photography I can enjoy good street photography tremendously. Those split seconds are the basis of photography. A good example of this on 1x is Ricky Siegers who is able to anticipate to freeze that one supreme, decisive moment!
Describe your favorite photograph and why it is so special to you?
A favorite out of my own selection is: “A bit closer 2_13".
I still feel the atmosphere of the moment when I took that photo. I had only recently bought my macro lens. A beautiful sunny morning made me get up early and go on a macro hunt. It had been a cold and humid night and the sun warmed the cold ground. While biking to the place I had thought of going I noticed the moisture rising up from the ground. The sun was just coming up and provided beautiful backlighting: perfect! I immediately got busy and was able to take three photos and then the sun disappeared. I would have liked to go on but was very happy with the 3 photos I took. Once I heard a street photographer say that landscape photographers had it easy: their subject never walks away but I found this a rather strange remark, as we are so dependent on the light, which is in constant movement.
Are there any specific directions in which you would like to take your photography or do you have any specific goals?
When I started photographing about 40 years ago I could have never suspected that it would give me so much pleasure and recognition. I have the BMK/MFIAP awards and have also exhibited in the Royal Palace De Dam in Amsterdam and have discussed my photos with then Queen Beatrix and her son Willem-Alexander. I have regularly won prizes in International Photo Salons. In 2014 my submission to Photosalon Kumanova in Slovenia and to the Ecological Truth photo expo in Sofia were both awarded the FIAP badge for best photo. Another highlight was my participation in the 13th China Photographic Art Exhibition in 2009: 8395 people participated and 70566 photos were submitted. Of these 444 photos were accepted, 3 of them were mine. I was awarded 1 FIAP-gold and 2 FIAP-bronze medals. Another great experience.
What are my photographic goals? Just relax and live/work towards the next image… Meanwhile hoping that I won’t encounter more physical problems. A few years ago I had both my eyes lasered. The right eye recovered relatively well: 70% but the left eye, even after 4 more treatments, has gone from bad to worse and now that I am getting older it’s even getting worse. Not ideal for a photographer, but I try looking as much with my right eye as possible and AF is my best friend. It is frustrating though that because of this visual handicap I am no longer able to sit in jury’s. Recently I have had to decline invitations for jury duties in Ireland, France and The Netherlands. It hurts but that’s life.
Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think of 1x as the home base for your work?Everyone is able to take photographs and everyone does. That’s why a painting has much more value as an art form than photography. It’s up to us passionate photographers to prove the art world wrong. Not all photography is the same.
I do feel that every serious and passionate photographer will be satisfied with the 1x site; all categories are represented and the photos are of a high level. I visit the site regularly and am always curious to see the works on the front page. Often I am amazed at the quality of the accepted (and the unaccepted) works. I am naming a few of my favorites (not every favorite is on this list because the list would get too long): DDiarte, Adrian Donoghue, Ben Goossens. It is always a pleasure to look at their creations.
I would like to conclude with a quote of Chris Marker, which is hanging above my computer:
“The photo is the hunt. It’s the instinct of hunting without the desire to kill. It’s the hunt of angels. You trail, you aim, you fire and click! Instead of a dead man, you make him everlasting.”