Based in London, UK
Mieke is an award-winning photographer whose work is a love letter to light. Her photos are known for their surreal, dramatic atmosphere and playing with perspective and composition
A: Please, tell us a bit more about yourself. What brought you into photography?
M: I am a Canadian/Dutch photographic artist living in London, UK. I found my passion for photography later in life, after careers in law, business and raising a family.
I had been taking a lot of pictures of my children with a small point and shoot camera and I decided to invest in something better but had absolutely no idea how to operate it. So, I enrolled in a photography course at a local art school and from the moment I walked in, the creative energy of this place was just palpable. I felt like a part of my brain which had been dormant for so many years had been awakened. It all just flowed on from there.
A: What inspires you the most?
M: Light. Early in the morning when no one is around and the sun is low and soft is the best. It can transform the most ordinary scene into something extraordinary. I don’t think I have ever made a successful image in the middle of the day, unless I was in the studio where I could control the light. But that’s not where I feel most comfortable or creative.
A: Do you have any specific rituals while working (creating)?
M: For me, photography is a quiet and solitary pursuit. I work in hyper-focused bursts which come on unpredictably. I rarely start a project with a preconceived notion of what it will be about. I just walk. A lot. If something catches my eye, I explore it. Sometimes, if I am lucky, it just leads me into this zone where I completely lose track of time, place or my surroundings. It can last 5 minutes or 5 hours. Nothing exists outside of my camera and subject. It’s hard to explain. It’s like a meditation. This is the magic for me and when I produce my best work.
A: What would you recommend to someone new to photography, what to begin with?
M: Just keep shooting and looking. Shoot whatever is around you and in whatever short or long time you have available to you.
Immerse yourself in the wonderful world of art. Go to exhibitions, take a course, read books, join groups. Dive in.
Be kind to yourself. Let it happen slowly, organically. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure. Don’t go out to take an award-winning image, or to do anything in photography to be taken seriously. Not everyone will like your work. Most people may not like your work. Make work what YOU love.
Get out of your comfort zone. This is where the great things might happen.
A: Top 3 components for great photography?
M: Look at the quality and direction of light. Watch how light and shadow give depth, dimension and life to your subject.
Play with perspective. Move around your subject, shoot from above, lie on the floor, get closer.
Learn about composition. This is how you tell your story
Nothing earthshattering here, but learning how to see and manipulate these three things will enable you to develop and express your unique vision.
A: I’ve never taken pictures of ..., but would love to.
M: Portraits of my children. They won’t let me!
A: Must-read books to understand the art of photography?
M: You can and must learn basic technical skills from books or courses or YouTube videos. Resources are abundant.
But to really learn about the art of photography I think there is no substitute for just seeking out inspiring images themselves and observing and learning. I like to look at images I am drawn to and think about: What makes me linger on a particular one? What is it that speaks to me and why? How has it been created?
I am constantly inspired by the work of so many photographers, iconic and unknown, in galleries, books, exhibitions, social media, anywhere really.
My work is probably more influenced by the world of painting than photography. I am endlessly fascinated by the work of the Dutch Golden Age painters of the 17th century. I have learned so much by studying their use of light and composition to direct the eye of the viewer.
One book I AM desperate to get my hands at the moment, is the new The Story of Art Without Men by Katy Hessel.
A: If you could change one thing in the world of photography - what would it be?
M: The obsession with having all latest gear and creating technically perfect, over-Photoshopped, over-sharpened images devoid of any soul or artistic expression. Technical skill alone does not make a powerful image. In my opinion.
The great photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Julia Margaret Cameron, Irving Penn, Robert Doisneau, etc… didn’t spend their weekends in Photoshop or a fortune on the latest gear. They knew where and how to point their cameras to show us what they were seeing and tell their unique stories.
A: Please, share your favorite quote (not necessarily related to the photography)
M: I just love a quote from the late poet and novelist Charles Bukowski. This is what I feel when my art and life are at their finest:
“If you are going to try, go all the way. Otherwise don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives or even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery-isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. and it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”
Ok, maybe not prison… but you get the idea!