René Kramers

15 September of 2010 by

Please introduce yourself: What makes you who you are?

KRAMERS: I started in the beginning of the 90′s. While in art school and working as an assistant on photo and film sets, I quickly found my way: working for myself. Clients were magazines, big warehouses, advertising/design agencies and starting fashion designers. In the beginning you go fast, you wanna do it all, so you do a lot. You make nice work, meet lots of people, you travel a lot. You make loads of mistakes… all kinds. That’s what makes you what you are…

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages you’re faced with in the European fashion photography industry?

KRAMERS: …advantages, that maybe you get a leftover sample of jeans or a jacket. Disadvantage, when you go home empty handed! I don’t see any other disadvantages. It’s so nice when you do what we do, we can make work we like. It’s really nice when people are happy with what you have done on a job. I don’t see differences in working in Europe or the US, Asia or wherever. It’s work we choose, and we love. Sometimes with pain or struggle, but in the end it feels nice, and there comes another one. It comes down to yourself and what you think are the dis/advantages. Flying cheap working for an airliner, or coming back with great photos?

How do you feel about doing charity work? Whether it’s shooting a music video for a friend or helping out people to obtain their goals?

KRAMERS: Love charity work of course!! Like all photographers, it’s great charity for themselves and the agencies you’re being asked by. And you will always help friends. Shoot their wedding, heads shots of their model-to-be daughter… Great advertising is being made by shooting charity, which works for both sides. By big ad agencies as well as underground…A good idea is a must, or when you get the opportunity to turn it into a good one.

Finding an agent who believes in you is a difficult task. Can you explain how you went about finding proper representation?

KRAMERS: It’s so difficult, I still don’t have one!! Am I too difficult? Don’t think so…;-) But you need to have a vibe, the time and a job to prove it. You can become friends for life and beyond!

Do you notice the competition in fashion photography? What kind of things do you do to stay ahead of the competition?

KRAMERS: I don’t feel it as a competition – more as a playground. If you don’t get the job, you can only blame yourself and work on it, show it. There’s a need for talent in many ways, not only technically or creative…..also luck, among so many other things. And when you’re as famous as Terry you can do it naked!!

Directing commercial spots seems to tie into your photography. When you’re asked to do a commercial project, do you take it upon yourself to provide video + stills or are you contracted by the client to do so?

KRAMERS: I worked a lot on film sets. Going through all the ranks, from runner to DoP. Watched a lot and worked things out in my photography. For me, there’s a very thin line between film and photography. It’s all about storytelling, the mood where it takes place. Photographers getting inspired by films, and the other way around. When you’re not afraid to pick up a camera, whether it is a stills or a 35mm motion, you can become very handy for a client. We need stills but we love to do a piece of film.

Some of your favourite sources of inspiration? And where can people go to become inspired…

KRAMERS: Well I love books, I still do. So I go into bookstores wherever I am. Looking. Love the internet as well, where you can look stuff up, also things like where you can find a specific book. On the web you can search very directly, google, choose a direction. That can be fashion, but also when you need a late 18th century rococo wooden chair for a set. Books though, surprise me more and the new library in Amsterdam is very inspiring, but in all big cities are good ones I guess. To name one, my favourite bookstore in Paris is on Rue Rivoli, Calignani. Paris is always an inspiration. And from there on you can google your way home. The coolhunter(www), apple trailers and youtube/vimeo.

Lights! What is your brand of choice?

KRAMERS: There ‘s only one brand: Mole Richardson, that makes me feel like I was born 100 years too late. Have the best wind machine. But really I work with anything that works and gives me the right result, that could be the headlights of my car. I feel very comfortable with Profoto (giant reflector!) and Broncolor (very short flash duration). As well as the white sheets from the hotel bed, oh and sorry I broke the mirror from the bathroom on the beach!

Color! The correction of color (grading in the film industry) plays an essential role in achieving a desired final result and mood. Are there any tips of tricks you would like to share with us?

KRAMERS: Tear magazines apart. Grab photos from the internet. Pick up a dirty coffee cup from a trashcan if you like the colour of the dried-out brown dirt. Play with iPhoto or Photoshop, communicate with your grader, trust your feelings and be open to suggestions (only good ones). There’s a certain fashion (trend) in grading film as in photography, things look different now than years ago. Sometimes they make you laugh, next time it is in a high street campaign. Don’t be afraid.

Travel! Shooting video spots in Canada and not knowing a strange country, what kind of difficulties are you faced with? How do you obtain assistants to help you?

KRAMERS: I have no fear for the unexpected! But I do know that the battery of my Canon still worked at minus 25˚C. I’m always happy to bring back the shots. So many things can go wrong, on airports and on the road. The weather. You need to be flexible, and adapt, to get the shot you want and work simple. Sometimes the solution is much closer than you think. I read somewhere about Ang Lee (Director of Brokeback Mountain, shot in Alberta!!), that he shot almost everything in that film within 100 feet of a car park. You have to point your camera in the right direction.

On most shoots there’s a producer, who also works with a local crew he hires. Sometimes I bring assistants from Holland with whom I often work.

On a shoot in the Yukon, there was a guy who was a light technician in a theatre in Whitehorse. One night I needed a tungsten light for a shot and he came with the suggestion to borrow some par cans from the theatre. We were shooting an igloo on an ice lake!!

When you’re not shooting, what keeps you going?

KRAMERS: Books, films, music, images, football (played with the foot and a round ball).

How do you compete with the likes of Lady Gaga’s unique perspective on creativity?

KRAMERS: You mean Lady Gaga, the artist or the advertising agency? In my own opinion, Lady Gaga can’t compete with the likes of Madonna but I guess every generation needs their own idol, even though, for me, she doesn’t bring anything new. I do like her though. Love some of her videos. She works with the best stylists, make-up artist, directors, photographers, musical producers….not much can go wrong there. So if I look on that side and project it on my work, I feel strengthened by it. That there is always opportunity to grow.

Her tears on the last VMA show were real I believe.

Some of your photos resemble the likes of old-style paintings of still life. Can you share a little insight on what inspired you to do this and how you achieved your desired effects? Finding stuffed dead animals can’t possibly be something you find at your local grocery store.

KRAMERS: How can you not be inspired by those great painters. They were there first, and they showed us how to look and how to push and force us to watch their efforts on canvas (playground). Light was their way to tell the story, making forms, set a mood. In those paintings I love to see how much is happening in the dark and the compositions are a treat for the eye, flowing along the images.

So it’s great fun when you can do something like that for a client. Using very big soft lights from a side and cut them with flags, nets and anything that can give you the right shape (I used a shopping cart once, that was in the studio for a strange reason). The stuffed animals and anything else in the shots were produced by a styling agency. There was also a food stylist. So that means a lot of creative minds on the set.

What’s been the most interesting project you’ve been exposed to? And why?

KRAMERS: Very boring to say, but there are many. How can I compare shooting in the north of Canada on dog sledges, with shooting in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta with a huge tractor. Monument Valley and hot air balloons with a shoot on the coast of Washington State from a helicopter. A studio in New York or a studio in Cape-town. Most of the time it’s the result that counts and bring back the shots, that can also be my backyard, but ok… travelling is a very very nice way to pass through the mill.

What can we expect to see from you over the next 5 years?

KRAMERS: A big international campaign, with lots of exposure which brings me to the next 5 years. A short film or maybe a feature. A book for the eye!

All images contained within this article are copyrighted by the artist (and/or publishers, editors, representatives or clients the artist has worked for). The images and/or videos published here are used with authorized consent. Any duplication in whole or in part is prohibited. Please respect the rights of the artists.


Chris Large


Sean Kennedy Santos

You may also like