Vivian Camphuijsen – Photographer at Eyeforce
Photographer and art director Vivian Camphuijsen does not follow the rules of photography, but his work is very calculated, always taking pictures with artistic intent. She doesn’t consider herself a typical fashion photographer. In fact, Vivian searches for human imperfection in the often perfect world of fashion. Her photos evoke a fashion sensation, while creatively embodying a person’s eccentricity, femininity and raw emotions. She reveals why establishing a symbiotic relationship between herself and her model is essential, as well as why she chose to become an editorial photographer rather than a war photographer.
Q> What are your signature telltale signs that will reveal “Vivian’s photography”?
Vivian> Strong composition, involvement in graphics, elegance and dynamic pose. You will see my models with their feet up, their arms bent, twisting or the fabric moving. The pose should be dynamic, offbeat and never static. I want to portray the idea that I’m shooting a story, and the viewer sees a snippet of it. The model should be looking through me, not at the camera, breaking the fourth wall if you will. The image on the left gives the impression that the model is talking to me, as if we were having a conversation. I like to create photos where you can see that I put in the effort; it can never seem simple.
Coming from a family that doesn’t work in the creative industry, how did you forge your own path to becoming a photographer?
My parents instilled in me to strive for financial stability and achieve some level of structure in my life. Because of their influence, I first studied law, but the idea of being stuck in an office didn’t sit well with me. One day I told my mother that I wanted to pursue something creative. I studied photography alongside my law studies, knowing that establishing myself in the creative industry might not be without challenges. But the values my parents instilled in me are reflected in what I do to this day. If I slip up, my diligence, structure, and determination get me back on track. Ultimately, photography reminds me why I got into this industry in the first place. It makes me happy and fulfilled.
Q> To what extent is your work influenced by contemporary art?
Vivian> In art, I strive for careful composition and symmetry, which is also reflected in my photography. In terms of actual photographic inspiration, I admire the work of Viviane Sassen, and her audacity to let the composition lead the story, rather than the model. She executes the shots with particular poses and experiments with various color schemes and elements. It does not go unnoticed that she was a great inspiration to me when I studied photography. Although I have evolved into my own style, its influence can be seen in my similar perception of photography in terms of movement and use of color.
Q> Your artistic career is very eclectic. What drew you to fashion and editorial photography in the first place?
Vivian> At first, I was determined to join the army as a legal adviser because I was studying humanitarian law. I didn’t get into it, so I pursued photography instead, because I’ve always been fascinated by people. Initially, I thought of becoming a war photographer or documentary photographer to merge my interests. Yet this type of photography can be quite intimidating as you expose people’s vulnerability by interfering with their space. So there is a chance that someone will get mad at you for taking their picture. I prefer to choose an environment where I control the narrative and where the subject is on the same wavelength as me. Fashion photography favors this type of controlled environment; it allows you to implement different artistic elements, while capturing the stories through the eyes of the beholder. It’s powerful in its own way.
Q> Symmetry and composition is one of the fundamental elements of your photography. Does it come naturally to you or do you compose your frame according to the rules of photography?
Vivian> This comes naturally to me. In fact, my images are created with intention and control. I admire photographers who choose to take blurry photos or when they choose to crop the model’s body out of frame because it’s bold. However, that’s not my style. I like crisp, sharp photos with a focus point. Clean composition, guidelines, etc. However, following the rules of photography, such as the 2/3 rule, can be quite old-fashioned. Even if you compose the photo perfectly and the model doesn’t show the “correct” expression, you will never be able to tell the story. Your story depends on how you envision the narrative.
Q> How does light change the dynamics of your photos?
Vivian> When working in natural light, shooting on cloudy days keeps you in your comfort zone. Direct sunlight, however, makes photos less flat. It challenges you to position the model so that the light works for you. Work with an intention. Think about how the shadows fall on the face and body and what kind of depth they create. Direct sunlight should never be an obstacle. Never overexpose. Curiously, not everything can be created with intention.
When I was in the studio the other day, my colleague Omar R. Rosalina asked me, “So, let me guess… you want the light positioned on the right side of the model? (as he laughed) “I stared at him, only to realize that I had a tendency to subconsciously move my models so that the light hits their faces from the right side (pictured below). I guess that many choices come instinctively.
Q> How do you establish intimacy in commercial shoots to convey the concept?
Vivian> The obvious answer is that I talk to my models beforehand and give them positive feedback and reinforcement to establish a connection where the model feels safe. On top of that, I aim for them to get lost in the moment, to become unconscious. For example, I purposely give them confusing instructions or tell them to make particular expressions to distract them from their conscious behavior and body. When this happens I am able to take pictures of their core, the reality of being human and the intimacy that I am trying to capture.
Q> Some of your projects are really intimate. For example, some portraits are taken up close or involve a level of nudity. How do you establish a comfortable connection with your models to take these photos?
In my opinion, if you take nude photos, you can represent nudity without being naked. If you show one leg while the rest of the body is fully clothed, I consider it naked. You don’t have to push for the nude concept just for fun. For example, Helmut Newton used nudity as a form of power dynamics. My photos, on the contrary, should evoke the essence of femininity, softness and reality, and this can be achieved through style, pose and different facial expressions. I always ask the model if she is comfortable with certain clothes. It also helps that I’m looking for an all-female team. Overall, I try to feel what the model feels.
Q> Your work often incorporates props, from mirrors to metal parts. What role do these accessories play in your work?
Vivian> Props enhance the photo by bringing out the model and the story. If you’re shooting a model in front of a white wall and nothing else, I’ll struggle to create an in-depth story. I once waited for a duck to fly near the frame for 40 minutes in front of my model (right). This other time (in the middle), I used a red sheet in front of my lens to represent the complexity of human communication between people. I want my images to look like they have gone through many thought processes. Subsequently, the accessories help me achieve this goal by fulfilling the symbolic and artistic character.
Q> How do you use different focal lengths to tell a story?
Vivian> It has to do with how I pose my models. For example, the photo below (left) was taken three meters away. I took this shot of her mouth with a telephoto lens, as she thought I was capturing her whole body. In the photo on the right, I used a fisheye lens, while I was very close to the model’s face. The model probably thought I was only taking a photo of her face, when the result shows a distorted image of her whole body. I like to experiment with different lenses to try and catch the models off guard. You can capture moments “between the lines”, capturing the uninhibited moments unfathomable to the eye.
Q> What is your favorite song that motivates you before or throughout a project?
Vivian > And life is easy! By the guts