This week's Sunday special treat is an interview with talented fashion photographer Nancy Schoenmakers. Following her exhibition ..., Love Nancy - until January 25 at the Park Hotel in Amsterdam - I met up with her to talk about her work. Let me take you back to part of that conversation! 

Floor | I am really curious of your work ethics. The photographs I saw at your exhibition are all produced in LA. Do you have a special connection with LA?

Nancy | I just love travelling. It is in my blood. If I stay in Amsterdam for too long, I start to feel restless. I need to break out of my comfort zone in order to get inspired. My LA fascination started years ago after I exchanged houses with someone I met on Cragislist, the American version of Marktplaats so to say. I really wanted to do a desert shoot, but did not know anybody in LA yet. This girl introduced me to stylists and models and told me where I should definitely go for a shoot. We hit it off immediately and so I asked her to produce one of my LA shoots. Since then, we have done lots of cool projects and I have met many creatives in LA.

Floor | But what makes LA so special? What is it that makes you motivated to get so much work done in a short amount of time?

Nancy | I always prepare my travels well. That means that I have already made a range of appointments before I get on the plane. Further more, I live in the moment. If I see a possibility for a great shoot, I just have to do it. I often think “I’ll catch up on my sleep when I am back in Holland”. LA just has so many beautiful places and possibilities, that I am inspired all the time. And when I get inspired, I just have to work. Otherwise I get restless.

Floor | Do you remember feeling restless when you were younger too? And can you image that you would translate that uneasy feeling into something else than photographs?

Nancy | I remember I did, yes. And I have always known that I wanted to do something creative when I grew up. I did not really play with dolls for example, but I designed their clothes or built their houses. I also drew a lot and could really loose myself in studying everyday things, like lampposts. Somewhere at my parent’s house, there probably still is a book in which I have collected images of hundreds of lampposts. I really studied the way they looked. I have always been busy visually studying things I guess, even when I was young.

Besides photography, I also painted for a while. Further more I started college at the HKU’s teacher-training program. That was a safe choice to make, maybe because in my family nobody really is that artistic. In the first instance, I really loved the teacher-training program. In the second year though, I started taking extra courses in photography at the HKU as I wanted to discover my creative side. Those lessons were about documentary style photography and I learned that that was not my ‘thing’. It is a really different approach to photography than fashion and advertising photography, as you must work with the available elements at a certain moment in time. I would rather create my own world, develop a concept and capture that on frame.

Floor | When did you really choose photography as your main focus?

Nancy | During my years in college, I got the opportunity to go on exchange to Australia, Brisbane. That school was really experimenting with different styles of photography and I learned a lot. Back in Holland, I realized that photography was what I wanted to do in life, preferably fashion and advertising.

Floor | Why fashion?

Nancy | Fashion tells a story.

I feel like the best school for fashion and advertisement photography is the KABK, so it was clear at the time that I had to apply there. After an admission assignment I was welcome to start in the 3rd year of college, but I still had to take courses from the 2nd year. That resulted in a crazy schedule and the fact that I spent my days and nights at school, working till 11PM. But if you have a passion, it really is not that big of a deal. You just do it. Your passion is your life at that point and it actually still is. Photography is my big love.

I have been singing for quite a while too by the way. I even auditioned for the rock academy. I was not accepted, but I like to imagine how my life would be if I was accepted back then. I still make music though and it really is my second big love in life.

Floor | Tell me about life after art school. Did people notice your work immediately?

Nancy | No, not at all. I graduated with a video installation. I rebuilt a mini-club, with a door bitch and the whole shebang. Actually nothing really related to fashion and advertising photography. In art school, lessons are more about conceptual thinking, not really about producing work that people would like to hang up on their walls at home. I do not really see myself as an artist in that sense, I am a photographer.

Floor | But what is the difference?

Nancy | I know that I probably am, but I do not feel like an artist. It feels pretentious to say that I am an artist. I would rather have other people label my work. And really, what does it matter which label you have? I think it is fine if people love my work for it's aesthetics and do not get the story.

Floor | Do you always try to tell a story with your work?

Nancy | It really depends on the kind of assignment I am working on, but usually I do. I always develop a concept. Sometimes I do a commercial assignment that might not be as artistic as some of my other work, but the challenge is to search for the balance between who I am and what the client wants.

Floor | Do you need your editorial work in order to do commercial assignments?

Nancy | Yes, definitely! It strengthens each other. My editorial work reflects who I am as a photographer. At the moment, I see my work is changing. I would like to do more sophisticated work. I really love Glamour and Vogue style photography for example. I am experimenting in my studio quite a lot to see how I can make my work more interesting. I am really discovering a new side of photography. For a few months already, I have been feeling like I am starting a new phase in my career.

Floor | Does that also show from the choices you make?

Nancy | I am not sure if I should go to LA again next year for example. In the last couple of years I made it a habit to visit LA in April, but maybe I should break that routine and do something else. Like travelling to South Africa. LA is really easy for me. I know that I can go there and work. South Africa is totally new for me though, which makes it exciting. I am not sure yet which possibilities are waiting for me over there, but who knows. I find it interesting to see that African fashion is getting noticed. They even have their own Fashion Week! I would love to go and discover that.

Floor | Okay, so next year you will visit South Africa on spec?

Nancy | No, not on spec. I definitely want to prepare my trip well. Preferably, I would like to travel there with a team and collaborate with African designers. But nothing is written in stone yet, so all input is welcome!

Than you Nancy and Jolene, for taking the time to talk to me. I wish you all the best and would love to see you soon! 

For more info about Nancy's work, check out her website. All images I used in this post are the courtesy of Nancy Schoenmakers. 

For more interviews with inspiring people, check out the interviews I did with Chris van den Elzen, Liselott Roos, Kim Evers and Jiske Snoeks

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