Kees van de Veen (1980), freelance photographer based in The Netherlands.
Winner of the Zilveren Camera 2020
I am interested in real stories from real people, photographed with respect and dignity.
My work has been awarded several times, including at the Zilveren Camera, European Newspaper Award and the World Press Photo.
Besides my personal projects, I also work for clients such as NRC Handelsblad, Trouw, De Morgen, National Geographic Magazine, Vluchtelingenwerk, Rijkswaterstaat and Provincie Groningen.
Represented by Hollandse Hoogte
Journalist Lieke van den Krommenacker interviewed me about my work:
Capturing the daily life of ordinary people, like you and me and everybody else. That is what’s at the core of Kees’ work. For everyone has a story. And a story behind their story. At exactly that place, you’ll find Kees and his camera.
What are you trying to show in your work?
“For me it’s all about showing ‘normal’ life in all its facets. That means: the beauty as well as the rough edges. I’m not looking for glamour or the polished representation of people and their lives; I’m interested in real stories of real people, photographed with respect and dignity. The authentic and honest stories. Most important to me is to approach people with an open mind and unbiased eye.”
How is this reflected in your photos?
“I think I have a keen eye for detail, light and finding the right moment to take a photo. Always, in every story, there is this moment that shows what’s really happening. A gesture, a look or motion that reveals a layer that goes beyond what you literally see at that moment. Recently shot this series of a group of young rugby players. They live in Oost-Groningen, where unemployment is an issue, and they are having a hard time finding work. To become more resilient, they join this rugby course. When I then take a shot of those guys jumping for the ball, it shows boys jumping for a ball as much as it shows how those boys trying to reach higher in life.”
How do you find your subjects?
“I read things, I hear things, I see things happening. I preserve whatever catches my eye: I cut out little stories from newspapers and put them in a special little notebook, I make screenshots with my phone. Sometimes, I hear stories that immediately evoke an image in my mind. Last year, a journalist told me about this man in Friesland who likes to stay in the dark for weeks in the summer and who literally darkens every window in his house while his family members are away for a holiday. Then I think: that’s a story. Usually I like to go on the hunt for stories when I feel a bit grumpy. It always cheers me up.”
You seem to have a preference for working in the backwoods; the countryside of Groningen, North-western Europe. Why is that?
“I like the northern down-to-earth-mentality, the emptiness of the landscape, the wayward character of the people who are living in the periphery. Places where you can find honesty; what you see is what you get. I always love being on the road and outside. It’s something that I have to do, it keeps me going. The stereotypical image most people have of the people here in the North of the Netherlands is that they are a bit gruff and hard to connect to. I’m convinced of the opposite: people here warm-hearted and accessible, they just don’t like to beat around the bush.”
How do you gain people’s trust?
“I put a lot of effort and time in my projects. The rugby players for example, they were training together for two months. In such a case, I make sure that I join them twice a week to really experience what it’s like for them. When you invest time in the people you work with, they’ll give you back what you need in order to get the best possible story: trust.