Getting older as a photographer has some real advantages. Photography is like good wine. It gets better with age. Occasionally somebody contacts me using the web form to ask if they can use a picture I made 20, 30 or even 40 years ago. Which is what happened last week.
And again it was one of the photographs I made for a series called Rockers in the late Seventies. A portrait of Bill Haley taken in a dressing room for a really low budget magazine in 1979. I forgot the title of the magazine and I remember working for free, which was not as common in the 1970s as it is today. Nowadays if you produce a two or four page spread for a high end glossy magazine, you will no doubt get a snotty editor on the phone who will explain that it is good publicity for your work if you do it for free.
Publishing today is a wonderful world inhabited by a surplus of creepy marketing/sales people, yet very few people who can actually create content.
In this particular case I was approached by Pleasekillme.com and they actually asked for a license, instead of just stealing the picture. Asking for permission to use copyright protected material today is as rare as the sighting of an albino lion in the midst of the Swiss Alps.
So I immediately felt sympathy for them and I sent the picture for free. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Yes!
I really loved their site. I saw some old pictures of people I photographed in the past like Al Goldstein and Charlie Cracie. I immediately felt at home. Great articles too!
Sometimes you get lucky. For years I tried inviting Drag Kings to my studio. Somehow it never happened and then one day I ran into Di Luca.
For those of you who have no clue what Drag King stands for, let me explain. A Drag King is the opposite of a Drag Queen, a performance artist who dresses in women’s clothing and often acts with exaggerated femininity. So, Di Luca is a female artist dressing up as a man.
The beard is not done with make-up. This is her actual top hair, collected after cutting, glued to her cheeks.
I have not updated my site since June 2018 and there is a reason for that. In June 2018 my mother, age 87 fell ill and I decided to take care of her for at least two days a week. So, I had a hard time getting my actual work done and there was little or no time left for promotion.
This picture is part of series of six for the Dutch Drag House #AbsolutelyDrag. They will be competing with other Drag Houses in May at Superball 2019 in Paradiso Amsterdam.
As a young photographer, I was pretty confused. I guess most young people are confused in one way or another. My mother was a war victim, my father a loving but somewhat depressed alcoholic, and as far as I know I was doing pretty good until a horse accident at age twelve crippled me. It was not so much the handicap that bothered me. It was the way other people dealt with my handicap that nearly drove me insane. I won’t go into detail about my adventures with medical doctors, nurses, teachers etc. but all these experiences resulted in a profound disgust of authority and what is or was to be considered normal.
Looking back on it all and awaiting two new operations indirectly resulting from that same accident in 1967, it seems so obvious why I chose to become a studio photographer instead of traveling around the globe as most young ambitious photographers would do. I had enough problems walking straight, so carrying equipment around was not really an option for me.
This hatred of everything that is to be considered normal also guided me towards the subjects I photographed. People who were all but middle of the road. People like me, although I did not yet understand that at the time. Like most people suffering from psychological problems I thought I was sane while the rest of the world was insane. John Lennon once wrote a beautiful line: One thing you can’t hide / Is when you’re crippled inside.
It took me decades to come to terms with who I am and once I finally got to that point in my life my photographs started to change dramatically. Color was introduced in abundance. And I became fascinated with people who could dance or play soccer. All these things I had wanted to ignore because I could not participate.
Some time ago I was doing a video on the Amsterdam School of Burlesque and while setting up my camera a dancer was practicing on stage. I looked at her movements and I was fascinated. These were the precise and elegant moves of a professional ballerina and as I found out later she was in fact just that.
Of course, I had to photograph her in the studio and to my surprise, she said yes and we did a photo shoot with the top hat and the black tutu. After she left I looked at the stick I use on days that I cannot walk at all and regretted not having that stick in the picture because it fitted in perfectly. So we redid the shoot and this is the result.
At times, I have to remind myself that it is not completely true when I say I am a portrait photographer at heart. I may have started out as a portrait photographer, but by directing the models I photograph, I distance myself from what a real portrait should be – an objective image of the person portrayed. Of course, I am very much aware that there is no such thing as pure objectivity in photography, but asking people to make specific dramatic gestures does not fit in what we call portrait photography.
So what is my role in photography, I often ask myself. Is this glamour photography? Not really although I do my best to make people look good in a picture. Glamour is all about trying to reach broad audiences through creating larger than life images. In many directories I am listed as a fine art photographer, but I have changed over the last few years. I am slowly going back to where I started out with the Rockers series. An art critic called me an amateur anthropologist as that series first came out. Maybe that is true or maybe I just like the idea. I guess once there are no questions left I will stop doing what I do.
People often tell me I am obsessed with sexuality. I do not think that is true, although I must admit I am intensely fascinated by people who are not middle of the road.
The photograph above, taken in 1971 when I was only sixteen may lead the viewer to think I was a depressed adolescent, but the opposite was true. I was happy. I spent my time chasing girls who were into hockey and who dressed in mohair sweaters, plaid skirts and penny shoes. I had the time of my life.
But of course I knew very well how contemporary photography should look like. So, with my first camera, a Russian Zenith-E I tried to copy the works of photographers I admired.
Come to think of it, I always seem to post my oldest works in the news section. Maybe I should create a page for these older works.
I am still working on the Third Gender series, and I will probably be working on this project for the rest of the year. Not because it is hard to find the right models, but I am no expert at socializing on networks, and I am quite strict when it comes to making appointments.
Call me old-fashioned, but I expect people to show up when I make an appointment. The queens I work with are often real diva’s. At least half of those who are offered a free shoot to participate in the book will at least cancel the shoot once. I experienced this before in photographing drag queens, so I have learned to refuse rescheduling shoots. An attitude that slows down production quite dramatically, but accepting endless rescheduling is not workable either.
But the upside of working with diva’s is that they are often very creative and fun to work with. Scheduling models for the 21st Century Madonnas series involving nudity was quite time-consuming too. There are currently enough horror stories about photographers on the web to demotivate most people to pose.
Angelina, however, is one of those people who will always keep appointments and I absolutely love working with her.
I am a studio photographer at heart. I like to control the lights, I love neutral backgrounds because there is no distraction of the person photographed. Of course, it also has a timeless quality to it that I like. Seeing a photograph of a model photographed in an empty factory or an abandoned building automatically dates the photograph back to somewhere between 1995 and 2010. The older photographers and collectors will always recognize a 1970s photograph by the doom and gloom clouds above the subject and the excessive use of wide-angle lenses.
Working on the book ‘The Third Gender’ I realize I cannot get away with the use of studio portraits only, so there will be a lot of behind the scenes photography to illustrate how the project evolved. Also – and here comes the hard part for me – I will have to go out to do stage and event photography. I have very little experience with that, but I noticed it has become a lot easier with digital cameras, thanks to the high ISO values one can work with.
There are already some previews on my Facebook profile and this site. It is probably the largest project I ever embarked on. It is my aim to photograph at least a hundred persons who express themselves with a total lack of conventions when it comes to gender stereotypes.
In a way this project is the continuation of a series I started in 1978 with photographs of drag queens, transvestites and transgenders. The old material paired with the recent photographs will form the framework for a book to be published in 2019.
For this project I will be teaming up with my son Max van der Kamp who has always been a great supporter of my work. He is an art director at heart and he will be doing the design of this publication. Please check out his website for more information.
If you would like to be photographed for this publication, please do not hesitate to contact me!
This new site is a make-over of the old one dating back to 2016. Although the previous one was responsive, this one is even better for use on phones and tablets. I am no fan of smartphones, but I do like to adjust to people visiting my site.
Also, this site is way easier for me to update and I sincerely hope I will have more updates in 2018. You will find four new sections in the portfolio: