How can one not be charmed by the beautiful work of Yvette Leur ? She is a wonderful lady, an animated, super motivated, enthusiastic artist photographer. She loves to create little concepts and stories in her images. She has a special eye to detect that little something special about a person and tries to capture it in her portraits. Let us put her in the spotlights this week to discover more about her and the warm personality behind her photographs.
Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs.
I live in Amersfoort, in the middle of The Netherlands.
Photography is still in hobby mode. I work at a software company 32 hours a week.
I love music, visiting museums, traveling, nature, reading and of course I love art and photography.
Making things like clothes and hairpieces for photo shoots, hair and make-up are also on my favorite things to do list.
How have your history and life experiences affected your photography?
I am mostly driven by showing/sharing the beauty of life, of people.
The world can be such a cruel, cold, harsh and career driven place. There is so much negativity and fear present right now. I like to show a softer side. Show positivity, show possibilities and show creativity.
I guess what I see in my photographs is a hint of melancholy, maybe sometimes a little loneliness. And that's OK. To me that's beauty. People are never alone with their own thoughts anymore. If I can give someone a little smile, a little calm by looking at my pictures, than I am happy.
Which are your most important experiences that have influenced your art?
Looking at the work of artists and photographers. Learning about their passion and creativity.
I did a lot of exploring before I started photographing myself.
Interacting with my models, working together with other photographers and make-up artist gave me so many wonderful moments. I sometime say, if I wouldn't have a photo to remind me of this day, I guess that will be fine. I have the memories of a great day!
You can learn so much by watching and listening to other artist with similar passions.
Seeing and reading about how other photographers and artist approach their art/photography influenced my own work a lot.
What first attracted you to photography?
Honestly? The books of Make Up Artist Kevyn Aucoin. His artistry was so special to me. He was a painter and his canvas was the human face. After that the books of Serge Normand a Hairstylist. That resulted into collecting coffee table books with great photographs, books of photographers and then I wanted to try taking pictures myself.
When a dear friend of mine who was experimenting with portrait photography handed me her DSRL camera and asked me to photograph her, I guess the seed was planted. I loved her work and loved figuring out features, poses and angles.
After that experience I borrowed a camera, than I bought one for myself. Because I knew, I really liked what I was experimenting with.
I guess I first thought I wanted to be a beauty photographer. But I became a photographer I really can't label well. I always say I make creative portrait photographs. And I love showing the beauty of life and nature with portraits.
Describe your overall photographic vision.
Slightly change reality, make it a little prettier, nicer. Trying to make my models in to characters, mostly out of fairy tale scenes. Beautifying my subject a bit. Change it for the better. Because styling and photography allow me to do that.
If I could draw or paint, I probably would do that too. Bringing images and ideas that are now living in my mind onto paper.
Why are you so drawn by Portrait Photography?
Faces, eyes! The eyes can tell a story.
Showing innocence, youth, beauty, the ability to change reality a bit by using hair, make-up, flowers, materials of nature.
The never ending possibilities of make-up and hairstyling.
I love doing hair, make-up and styling myself. Figuring out how to create the result I pictured in my mind. And sometimes with the help from a hairstylist and make-up artist. Together bringing a story to life.
What is more important for you, the mood,story behind your images or the technical perfection?
Definitely not the technical aspects. It's all about the mood and the building of a character for me. Technical issues I figure out as I photograph. Everything by eye. What feels right is better than how it is described in a manual for me.
What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
If you are referring to subject matter as my model, it has to be very good if I want to capture a certain emotion.
Most of the time I do hair, make-up and styling on my own. One on one with the model. That gives me a great chance to get to know the model before we start the photo shoot. This to me is a big advantage.
The model has had the chance to get to know me a little bit and that works great when directing the model during the shoot. There has to be a connection.
Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?
I plan the character, the way she has to look. I go out into the forest or the sand fields near my hometown to find good spots to place the model. Or use Google maps to find the perfect place to work from. I also make my own backdrops, using unbleached cotton and textile dye.
I find inspiration in so many things. I write everything down in journals. Locations too.
Believe me, I have a lot of journals to go through if I ever feel uninspired.
What gear do you use (camera, lenses, bag)?
Nikon D300s with a 35mm and 50mm Nikkor lens.
Two Lumopro flashes and a white umbrella.
I recently bought a beauty dish so I can use the two flashes together and a sender/receiver.
What software do you use to process your images?
Can you tell us something more about your work flow?
Photoshop. I am still trying to figure out the amazing never ending possibilities.
I love to mute the colors by using duotone.
I usually start by cleaning up the skin, make the eyes sparkle a little more.
Than duotone. And to make the picture my own, I have created kind of a signature style were I use overlays of paintings, old paper or just different colors to give the photograph a more seasoned/old vintage look.
What is your most important advice to a beginner in Portrait Photography and how do you get started?
Never copy a photograph or a photographers style. Try to find you own story.
Have fun, try, experiment, Don't be afraid to fail, just try again.
Learn from everybody you work with. Models, MUAH, photographers. They all have something amazing to bring to the table and help complete the end result.
Who are your favorite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
So, so, so many names come to mind.
Ashley Lebedev, for teaching me about telling a story and being so open and honest about life.
Jennifer B Hudson Thoreson for her whole work process. The styling, the coaching of the models, the poses, working with materials from nature, the softness of the final image.
John F. Cooper for his project photographing models with plants and flowers.
Alexia Sinclair, Kirsty Mitchell and Brooke Shaden for their amazing storytelling skills.
Zhang Jinga and Ekaterina Belinskaya for the styled to perfection photograph and lighting skills.
Russel James, for his understanding of the female body.
Katerina Plotnikova for her sublime work with animals.
Sue Bryce and Lara Jade for being so honest and inspiring about the business side of photography and of course also their great portrait work.
In the past couple of years I have been struggling with my health.
The honest blogs, vlogs and interviews of Ashley Lebedev, Brooks Shaden and other female photographers made me realize that I'm not the only one trying to balance work, photography and health.
The helpful photography tips and life lessons were a real eye opener for me.
When I started with photography I did a lot of my photo shoots outside in nature. When my energy was too low for big walks with all the camera equipment, I was afraid I couldn't do shoots anymore. Because of their stories and their ways of handling things, sharing their process, I started figuring out other ideas for photographs, like using my living room as my studio by using backdrops.
Is there any specific photo taken by another photographer that has inspired you a great deal and why?
I find inspiration in so many things, photographs, paintings, drawings. I change my mind often.
So to go with only one picture, would be kind of impossible.
Ashley Lebedev: "Lith"
My definition of a perfect portrait! Ashley was my biggest inspiration starting photography. The softness and storytelling all captured into one shot just spoke so loudly to me. The use of light, styling and post-processing still amaze me.
Kirsty Mitchell Wonderland: Moondial
Storytelling with location, style and light! The building of the set. Also a photographer who's back story still inspires me.
I guess I could link the work of all the artist I mentioned before.
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
I would like to do more location/in nature story telling shoots with levitation, working with animals, bigger prep shoots.
Also I love to keep making portraits.
I would like some portraits, using lots of plant and flower materials for styling. Making forest creatures.
In the future I would like to spend more time photographing. Maybe give workshops. Write tutorials. Work with other artists like photographers, MUAH etc.
Always full of plans and ideas...
Describe your favorite photographs taken by you and why they are special to you?
“Portrait of Macy”
This portrait was taken in the studio of a fellow photographer and friend Roderique Arisiaman -Dracorubio.
It was the first time in a long while that I worked with studio lighting.
Roderique and I both photographed the same model under the same light source, settings, make-up styling and everything. But the pictures, the results were so different.
It was such a great day learning from a great photographer with a whole different style. And amazing to see that two people with the same tools can come to such different, great results!
The Model is Miss Macy. She's a model I worked with lots of times and I just love her look, little freckles and personality.
I have made the wool felt cape shown in this picture by hand with help of wool felt designer Carry Doorn.
When I started photography I saw a picture from a wool felt designer Barbara Keal who make hoodies, hats and capes from wool that were animal inspired. I searched the internet but couldn't find anything like it.
When I met Carry I asked her if she could make one. She had bigger plans for me and invited me into her studio so I could make one (with lots of her help) by myself.
I was over the moon with this chance and the end result.
Miss Poeka is another favorite model. She is really versatile in styling and facial expressions and has a great personality. She was the best model I could ask for modeling my wool felt deer cape.
My pretty little Teddy Bear friend Yunah. It is always so much fun working with this girl. This was the first time I worked with her and the first time she was modeling for a photographer. (other than school pictures).
Inspiration came from Disney's little Rescuers. The kidnapped girl Penny with her teddy bear. And Vintage Photographs. I like to mix up different ideas into a new one.
I did the hair/make-up and made the clothes for this shoot.
I was so happy with the end result I immediately printed the image for the mom to see. When I showed her mom this picture, she got a little emotional. It was and still is an amazing capture of a special moment.
Is there anything else you wish to add? And what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
1x was one of the first platforms that gave me a chance to get published. I had a tutorial in Photographic Visions and one in a Swedish edition called Foto inspiration. That to me was a big gift.
I also think the feedback on my photographs is just awesome. There are so many talented photographers out there with a diverse and unique style that it keeps me inspired and in total awe of the possibilities of Photography.
A big thank you to Yvette and Ralf for the support and help.