Photographer Brenda de Vries was born in Amsterdam the Netherlands. In 1996 she graduated from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute with a degree in technical production and from the FotoAcademie Amsterdam in 2003, after having photography as a hobby for several years. During the academy she worked as traffic manager/art buyer at advertising agency BSUR in Amsterdam, began assisting in 2003 and started as full-time, freelance photographer in 2004. Her portfolio includes work for commercial clients Asics, Adidas, Balmain Hair, Olympus, Oogmerk, Ordina, Prins Bernard Cultuurfonds, Philips, Sony Ericsson, Strellson, Wrangler Europe and editorial work for Ad!dict, Credits, Esquire, FashionCult, La Vie en Rose and Style.
80 Percent Psychology; 20 Percent Skill
If you have a degree in what field is it? My degree is in illustrative photography as they would call it at the FotoAcademie in Amsterdam; it’s a bachelor’s program for creative photography.
What was your strangest assignment? Two people wanted me to photograph them having sex. First I had some second thoughts about it, but in the end I decided I only needed the freedom to “check out” during the process if I couldn’t handle it for some reason. Those lovely people gave me this freedom and in the end it was so much easier than I expected; I was only focused on the right light, the right moment and the right composition. The end result was a collage of various images, lots of close-ups, blue and red light and the client wanted to have a shape of a church window lit from the back. So, that’s what we did. They still look at it and remember it as a special time.
Which photographer would you like to meet? Can I only meet one? I would love to meet Miles Aldridge, Steven Meisel and Guy Bourdin (if he were still alive).
What famous person (living or dead) would you most like to photograph? I would love to meet and photograph Einstein; it would be exhilarating... and I love physics. My somebody still alive is David Lynch; he has this imaginary world in his mind that really inspires me.
Aside from your camera and lighting, what item could you not work without? Next to my light meter, to check contrast, at least six cans of Diet Coke.
Is there anything you would not digitally retouch? Portraits of people where you can see the path of life in their faces.
From where do your best ideas originate? My best ideas come from having conversations with people. For me it’s all about sharing ideas that inspire me—picked up from newspapers, magazines, museums or movies—with whomever gives me the feeling that it could be a good conversation. The best things pop up during the exchange of ideas.
How do you overcome a creative block? First I go to the sauna, then I plan a one-hour massage, then I try to let go and accept the block. A few days later, I start being more social and get inspiration from meeting and chatting with people. Before I know it, the block is gone.
Do you have creative pursuits other than photography? I initially expected that I would be interested in movie making. Now, after my education and experimentation, the only thing that is left for me is to make moving photographs. I don’t have the intention to make movies, just sometimes it’s really nice to add some movement to an image, to create a more surrealistic world in which the storytelling is just a little different.
What music are you listening to right now? Perfume Genius “You Won't B Here.”
What’s your approach to balancing work and life? Good question, my life is my work and my work is my life. Fortunately, I do not interpret my job as “work,” but rather as a means for expressing myself. I guess being a photographer is a lifestyle.
What’s your favorite quote? “The most important thing is to keep on asking questions!” —Einstein
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Educate yourself from different points of view, commercial, editorial, personal works and then make up your mind. Never underestimate the technical part of this job; it’s impossible, with today’s budgets, to fix everything in Photoshop.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? That our job as photographers is 80 percent psychology and expectations management and 20 percent photographic skill.