Another year is gone and with more life behind than ahead of me I want to reflect on what has been the incredible journey of a shy young man born behind the tobacconist shop of my parents in a working class suburb in Hague, Netherlands.
It was a big step at 19 to move to Nuremberg in South Germany, but I had been offered a job that would make my hobby into my profession and so I became a press photographer at the Abendzeitung. What a great move it turned out to be and what a fantastic career choice. I have never regretted it.
I helped out when the local DPA (German Press Agency) photographer was on assignments or holidays and my photos were wired all over the world and appeared in all major German magazine. How proud was I to get a double spread in Stern magazine. It only happened once but it was very special and I got good money for it.
I followed the Bundesliga soccer competition and drove many long hours most weekends to places like Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt to capture the games of FC Nuremberg.
I photographed horrendous accidents, fires, murders, violent demonstrations, floods, etc. and will never forget the eerie mood when a aeroplane full of flowers crashed into a forest. In the middle of the night only lit by the lights of the emergency crews was the wreck of the plane surrounded by thousands of beautiful flowers. It was an amazing sight.
Taking photos of dress rehearsals of live theatre were assignments I loved and it taught me to learn to appreciate opera as well. Even now so many years later when I hear Cosi Fan Tuti do I remember that I took photos of it in the early 70s.
Thirteen years in this great and mad profession was enough and so I migrated to Sydney in March 1982 to find out Australia was in a recession and no one needed a photographer. Even the promised job to stand in as a shooter at the Sydney Morning Herald, while their photographers were at the Brisbane Commonwealth Games, came to nothing as they needed to save money.
So I ended up working as a kitchenhand, cook, waiter, and market researcher before deciding that I loved photography too much and started freelancing for builders, designers and the Housing Commission of NSW.
In late 1984 another move came and we moved to Perth, bought our first little brand new villa in Como and started Profile Photography. What a ride it has been!
The first job in the West was at Blina north of Derby for Canadian company Home Oil, the State Energy Commission liked my portfolio and so I became their photographer for many years. I shot assignments for architects, designers, advertising and PR agencies, property developers, the mining industry, tourism, etc.
I had exhibitions in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Geraldton, Albany and Germany and sold my art photos to many companies.
I had the pleasure of shooting a series of posters for Shell on East Timor for a week, was the official photographer for Gordon Reid, the Governor of Western Australia and for the Legislative Assembly. I travelled for a week with Princess Ann of England as the official photographer and even had dinner at her table in the Kunnunura Hotel. Life was exciting with heaps of work, lots of money and a great lifestyle, so we moved to Swanbourne into a gorgeous Californian bungalow that we extended. The wine cellar was full with Cape Mentelle wines, a client who paid us with wine.
When I think back on all this and where I am now in Fremantle, a place I adore, I see a common thread and that is people. I absolutely love people, no matter how difficult, egotistic, quirky, and different they might be. From a shy young man I became a good communicator and outgoing person who cares about others and is willing to stand up and tries to make a difference. I have hardly ever had a bad experience in my life. I have never been hungry or homeless and I have never experienced war.
My life has been a bit like a dream really, meeting great people, seeing stunning places and doing what I love doing. Sooner or later it will all come to an end but I have little regrets and wished I could live on for another 60 years and meet more unique people.
At the end of 2012 it’s time to show appreciation for all the beautiful years I have had and thank life for having me. It’s been a mind blowing experience that everyone I met made special.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
Twenty-six years ago, in September 1984, my then partner Brigitte and I established Profile Photography in Perth, and what an incredible journey it has been. We had arrived in Perth a week earlier, and only knew Graham, a man we had met on the plane on a holiday to Perth a year before, but we were full of naïve confidence, as most new migrants are.
Brigitte is a master in marketing and promoting, so she was on the phone to get us appointments to show my portfolio, and she succeeded as always. The portfolio consisted of B&W press photos only, which I had shot during my 13 years in Germany working for daily newspapers, and doing assignments for magazines and press agencies, in Nuremberg.
The first job we got was for the State Energy Commission; the erection of a wind turbine at Coogee, and I became their preferred photographer for many years. The second assignment was near Blina in the Kimberley, shooting pumping oil heads for a Canadian company. It happened to be that Graham, the man we had met on a plane, was the CEO of a Canadian oil company. Lucky us!
More and more work arrived and I worked for some of the top architects, designers and advertising agencies. That also meant I worked with quite a few people whose inflated egos well exceeded their mental and creative abilities. But that was yet another challenge in life.
I worked for the mining and building industries all over the state and interstate, and for the government and government departments. The Western Mail used me as one of their homes photographers. I did assignments for property developers, artists, galleries, tourism, airlines, hotels, redevelopment authorities, PR agencies, wineries. I spend a week in East Timor shooting for Shell, etc. You name it and I probably photographed it, from land, boats, cranes, helicopters and planes.
The days were full of shooting assignments and in the evenings I was in the darkroom with a glass or two of red, printing orders. They were busy times.
One of my favourite clients was Cape Mentelle. They paid me in wine. Great wine! It also meant frequent visits to Margaret River.
For years I shot the opening of the W.A. parliament and took the official photos for every member-of-parliament. Through that I also became the official photographer for professor Gordon Read, the Governor of Western Australia.
I was the official photographer for the visit of Princess Ann and traveled with her to the Pilbara and Kimberley, and even had dinner with her in the Kununurra hotel we stayed, when she invited her minders and me. It was fun. On her last day, at Laury Connel’s horse property, Premier Brian Burke gave her a fat leather album with all my photos of her trip.
I photographed Fergie and Andrew, Prince Phillip, and who knows how many other dignitaries, planting trees, or standing at the staircase in Government House for the official photos.
But my love for photography has always been more for discovering photos amongst the clutter of visual pollution, rather than staging them, so my favourite jobs still are going to mining and industrial sites, doing architectural shoots, and capturing the activity in Fremantle port, etc.
My life as a photographer in Western Australia has been challenging but extremely rewarding. I have met so many very good people, and many have become friends over the years I worked with them.
Photography changed when digital technology was invented, so I had to adapt to that and change with it. It also meant that it has become harder to get assignments, as many companies take their own photos. My inability to promote myself has not helped, and I hate cold calling, but such is life.
The ups and downs over the last 26 years have sometimes been frustrating, but mostly deeply satisfying. No matter what the next years might bring, I will never regret I made the decision to become a professional photographer. I love taking photos, and it is irrelevant if I get assigned to take them, or get paid for it, or not.
Photography and people are my passion. What a great combination. What a rewarding profession and life!