In the realm of fashion photography Marcel Zuurmond is a force to be reckoned with and one look at his photos explains why. I sat down with the fashion photographer to discuss his edgy motif and eye for photographic perfection.
All photos by: Marcel Zuurmond
Q: Marcel, you're one of the best fashion photographers I know, all in all how did 2014 treat you?
A: Thank you so much! 2014 was a great year. I’ve been traveling to Brazil, Los Angeles and Paris this year and did a lot of shoots to update my portfolio. All in all, I’m very happy with the results. I’ve met some amazing people along the way as well!
Q: How do you summarize your style of photography?
A: Edgy fashion. That edge is a bit harder to describe, I’m trying to make sexy and attractive images. I always keep it classy because I have a lot of respect for my models and women in general, that’s something my parents taught me.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about how you got started in photography? Were you trained in photography or self-taught?
A: I’m self-taught. I bought my first digital camera, a Sony Cybershot, in 2001 for a trip to NYC. When I was playing with it, and uploading images to PBase (there was no Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook!), I received many comments from around the globe from people who loved my style. We’re talking about cars, trees, those kind of pictures. Those reactions motivated me to continue and get better and better at it. A friend, a pretty girl, asked me if I could take her pictures. I did and when I posted those online I received many requests from models that wanted to work with me. The rest is history as they say.
Q: What's your typical workday routine?
A: I don’t have a typical workday or week routine but most of my time goes into the pre- and post production of a shoot. Getting teams together, discussing ideas, acquisition, networking, Photoshop editing, accounting. The actual shoot is only a small part of the business.
Q: What magazines have you previously been featured in?
This year I haven’t focused much on publications but from a technical point of view I wanted to take my photography to a next level. Traveling to Los Angeles was the right thing to do and I’m so happy I took that step and grateful to meet all these inspiring people. I got the chance to renew my portfolio and I’m so satisfied with the results! The only problem is that I am addicted to that city now; my goal is to move to LA! Along the way this year magazines like Tattoo Planet, Palmares Paris, Girlys Magazine and Inkstyle Magazine featured my work among others and a lot of online magazines shared my work, like Maxim mag and Social of course sharing one of my favorite series of Nathalia Castellon! I did some album covers for musicians as well and shot a music video for a metal-band.
Q: What’s one thing you think is integral to the work of an artist?
A: I think the continuous drive of getting better. Trying to find new approaches, new ideas, being creative. Thinking out of the box is definitely integral to the work of an artist.
Q: What role does the artist (like yourself) have in society?
A: I don’t want to overestimate the role of a photographer in society. To the majority of society seeing pictures in magazines, billboards and advertisements is just a given fact. I don’t think photographers can change people’s lives but if we can enrich them a bit by giving people something to think about, or a smile, or a tear, even if it’s for a brief moment, I think that’s worth the trouble. You know, we work for hours on a picture and people scroll and look at it for 2 seconds. It’s the feeling that you can give someone in those 2 seconds that counts.
Q: Have avenues like social media enhanced your creativity?
A: Honestly, I don’t know what my life would look like without Social Media, Instagram in particular. I have so many people finding me on Instagram and sending me messages, it’s just a great platform for business. It also helps me keeping up to date with trends and following my own idols. It surely has enhanced my creativity and scrolling through all these pictures (for hours!) really motivates me. I get jealous too ha-ha! There are some amazing photographers out there.
Q: Do you find that fashion photography has become more competitive in 2014?
A: Not any more than in 2013 or 2012, 2011 etc. Sure, it’s not the same as the 90’s (I heard) but when you keep pushing yourself to become better, people will notice you.
Q: How has your photography changed over time?
A: I think the core of my photography has always been the same and I like a cinematic, candid feel to it. I work with different cameras and lenses but my quality has always been consistent. What has changed is that since the last few years I am able to create the images exactly like I have them in my mind. So no more surprises in the dark room!
Q: When did you decide fashion was to be your focus?
A: I’ve always loved art and have been drawing since I was a kid. The first years of my photography didn’t have a clear vision of what I wanted to do or be. I knew I wanted to become good at it but I didn’t have a clear direction. But when I saw Emma Summerton’s series of Anja Rubik in Vogue Italia June 2008 called ‘Gleams’ a whole new part of my brain opened up and really convinced me this is what I need to do in my life. I still think that series is one of the best I’ve ever seen, especially on print. Actually I’ve just looked it up again and I still adore it! Go Emma!
Q: What kinds of reactions do you get from your subjects when they see their images later?
A: I usually send out my pictures digitally so the most reactions are: <3 <3 <3, #todiefor, OMG, Love love love, you are amazing, come back!! J
Q: What themes do you pursue when creating a new piece?
A: Usually my themes are about femininity, love, sex, loftiness or power. I use that as a starting point and work with the team from there. I love strong looks.
Q: When did it become a reality for you that you could make a living from your art?
A: It took me a while actually. I wanted to grow of course but grow as an artist, not as a businessman. I would rather have an amazing portfolio and do the work I love and live cheap than to do something I hate and be filthy rich. Of course, I need to pay my bills and I love to travel every now and then but following my heart and shooting what I love is my number one priority.
Q: What’s your favorite photo thus far?
A: I love the shots I took of Nathalia Castellon. She came in the studio (Studio 6 DTLA) in LA and I think it took about 30 minutes and the magic was just there. It was a great vibe. She told me we would definitely meet again and we did, a few months later in Paris. And again we shot some amazing pictures. She’s a great model with a sparkling personality and I think we will continue to create magic every time we shoot.
Q: Can you describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
A: Real-life is not that inspiring to me. The world is pretty messed up you know? All these wars, shootings, riots, Ebola, racism, sexism, domestic violence, it’s just screwed up. When I open up the paper and see all the things that are going on, it gets me angry! But I don’t use that in my photography J I use my imagination, music (I listen to all kinds of music from R&B ballads to death metal) or the old painting masters to get me inspired. And the Italian Vogue of course.
Q: What is most unique about your work?
A: I’m confident enough to think my work is timeless. I’ve shot series in 2002 that look like they could have been photographed yesterday. I have a good understanding of color theory and aesthetics.
Q: What's a common misconception about what you do?
A: A huge misconception people have is that fashion photographers are doing this work to have sex with the models. People think a photo-shoot is like a party at the Playboy mansion with naked girls dancing around and people drinking, having fun and making out. The reality is it’s a tough job with a lot of waiting and hours behind a computer. And I had more sex before I became a photographer ha-ha!
Q: Have you done runway photography or would you consider it?
A: I have done runway photography for the Amsterdam International Fashion Week for a few years but I quit doing that because it just got too crowded. Thirty photographers on only a few square meters is not my thing anymore. It cramps my style as well. I've stopped going to fashion shows too and just watch stuff online.
Q: What memorable responses have you had to your work?
A: One girl told me her schoolmates always bullied her about the way she looks and that because of my pictures she became confident about herself and her looks and stood up to those jerks who bullied her. She’s a happy and strong woman now. I loved that.
Q: What's the funniest or strangest thing that's happened to you on the job?
A: The funniest thing that happened was when I was shooting in a subway in the Netherlands when 8 (!) police offers were waiting for me at the next station. I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to shoot on a subway. I had strobes and all kinds of stuff with me, the whole shebang, it was embarrassing! ha-ha! The strangest thing was a summer shoot in the city center of Antwerp, Belgium. We had a big mirror with us so the model could check her wardrobe and we left it against a building. After five minutes of shooting we turned around and the mirror was gone. In broad daylight!
Q: Do you think art should be funded?
A: No. At the end of the day it’s business and there should be a healthy P&L. I would feel weak if I needed the government to support me. If you can’t live off of it, no problem at all but get a day job!
Q: Do you have advice for other photographers looking to make a name for themselves in this industry?
A: Yes! Never give up. In the last twelve years there have been numerous times I just wanted to quit and sell my gear. I wasn’t inspired anymore, I didn’t work with the right people and I didn’t see the light. Do not quit. Don’t look at the storm but wait for the rainbow. Next to that I would advise to do assisting jobs and learn from other photographers. Don’t copy but be creative. Follow your heart. And keep shooting!!
Q: What is your dream project?
An eight-page Vogue Italia editorial with a political or social theme and multiple models, great locations and a dream team would be amazing!
Anytime, thank you so much for your interest in me.