I’ve recently come to the realisation that PhD defence ceremonies are one of my favourite things to photograph, so much so that I went ahead and added a new section to my website here sharing my favourite photos from ceremonies I’ve had the privilege of capturing over the years. It may seem weird, given that in Groningen, you can only photograph the moments before and after the event itself. But one of the main tenants of photojournalism is that some of the most authentic and interesting moments happen in the lead up to the portion of the programme that is designed to be observed. The body language of anticipation and reassurances beforehand, and the huge rush of relief afterwards are so lovely to witness and capture, and the endless stream of joyful embraces at the reception are a welcome challenge to photograph in a different light. So I was excited when Anna found me and asked me to photograph her defence of her research into the impact of multilingualism on cognition and raging in the Netherlands (which is another benefit of photographing defences: I get to learn about incredibly interesting topics that I wouldn’t otherwise have access to). She and her paranymphs were super friendly and warm, as was everyone else who surrounded them to celebrate Anna’s achievement.
Obviously I’m biased, but there’s something extra special about international love. The fact that you found each other is not a given: you didn’t just happen to be born in the same city and grow up going to the same schools. You met because one of you made a choice that was not simply following the default path ahead of you. You deliberately took yourself out of your own storyline and put yourself smack dab into some one else’s life. And of course being childhood or high school sweethearts is wonderful, and you don’t have to search the world to find your person, but the total lack of inevitability when two people from different countries manage to find each other means that it is a very deliberate (and far from easy!) choice to be together, and eventually find a way to live in the same home/country/continent. That’s why I was so pleased to hear from Jodi, who is Canadian, to ask me if I would take some photos of her and her Dutch guy, Gunther. They’re getting married this summer and I’m looking forward to getting to photograph them in slightly warmer conditions than we had on the day of this shoot in December. But they picked out a great spot with a sweet view of the Hoge and Lage der Aa in Groningen, and then we took some photos on board their (shockingly spacious) houseboat. Thanks for having me guys, and I’m excited for round two this summer.
I’ve known Elise for quite a long time now - she was the first person I was in contact with about joining Bragi’s a cappella choir back in 2012 - so it was so nice to hear from her when she was looking for a photographer to cover her PhD defense reception at De Oude Gasfabriek. It was a beautiful location to photograph, and it was clear that everyone in attendance was very proud to be celebrating with her. The evening wouldn’t have been complete without a choir performance of its own, and playful ribbing in presentations by friends and family about Elise’s achievements. It was a fun way to spend an evening - thanks for having me, and congratulations!
Having American neighbours is a wonderful thing that I didn’t realise I had missed until the Zikmund family moved in a few doors down. A job at the hospital brought them here, and it’s been so nice getting to know them over the past few months. We’ve been able to help each other out in little ways that it has taken me literally years to get comfortable enough to ask of our Dutch neighbours, who are also truly wonderful people, but it’s been so comforting to just know that we’ve got each other’s backs without having to explain ourselves. When the leaves were still in full glory (for once) on the trees in the neighbourhood, we did a little mini shoot around the corner, and it was a pleasure to get to photograph this sweet little family.
Rieza is a great guy. Not only is he a brilliant scientist whose PhD defense ceremony I got to photograph last week, but he’s also an engaged citizen (he was the first foreign PhD candidate to serve on the University Council at the University of Groningen), a creative soul (he and I were both members of student music association Bragi), and a great photo model. This is technically the second time I’ve had him in front of my camera – the first time was back on a misty, freezing winter day, and the weather has been so disorientingly warm that it seems hard to believe that such conditions could ever exist here, especially when youre glasses are fogging up from the exertion of taking pictures or, more taxing, defending years of research.
The rules of photographing a PhD ceremony differs from one university to the next in the Netherlands, and Groningen is all about pomp and circumstance. Photographers aren’t allowed to take any pictures during the actual defense portion so as to not to distract the candidate, which means that it’s always a bit of a mad dash to photograph as much as you can after the beadle strikes his ceremonial staff and announces “hora finita” – but I really love the contrast of the sense of formality during the defense, the palpable sense of nervousness before and mid-way through the ceremony, and the huge wave of relief and joy once that degree is in hand. This is my fifth PhD ceremony photo assignment so far, but this one did have a special advantage: rich Indonesian lay cake that was flown in just for the reception. Congratulations, Rieza, and thanks for having me!
Oh, those Permentiers :) This fun, loving and game family has officially broken the record as my most loyal customers: this my fourth shoot with either the whole family or one of their kids' families, and there's new sweet kids every time. When I say game, I mean seriously game: one family member, a fellow American, who was brave enough to try out a pretty decrepit pier for a photo wound up partially falling through the planks! I'd like to say no one was harmed in the making of this photo shoot, but I can at least say there won't be any long-lasting injuries... and we decided against pressing our luck there, haha. From a newborn shoot to a wedding to a family session back when there was just one grandchild, and now a photo shoot with the whole bunch - and all of the colourful doors in oma and opa's home in Ferwert - it's always a joy getting to capture the way this ever-growing family interacts with each other. The weather has been century-record-breaking dry and warm of late, so it was a bit of a balancing act between finding good shady spots and basking in a nice sunny walk through the countryside, but I think we managed. Thanks, as always, for working with me, guys!
One of the first opportunities that I had to really bond with the city of Groningen after moving here seven years (!) ago was through volunteering and writing for Connect International. In particular, I've gotten to know Karen Prowse throughout that time, and it's been awesome to see the services that the whole team provides becoming more formally recognised and branching out.
A couple of years ago, part of Connect's services evolved into the International Welcome Center North, which is a hub for the international community of the north to go to and get the help they need with basically everything.
Another branch that emerged from Connect is called Connect Relocation, where Karen, Monique and Astrid provide comprehensive assistance to people who are moving to the Netherlands from a different country. Astrid contacted me about doing some portraits of them for their site, so we took a chilly stroll through Groningen and several windows inside the municipal offices of Groningen.
(My current job at The Northern Times is thanks in no small part to Karen, so she's wound up in front of my camera quite a few times lately.)
It's been a couple of years since I got to do a newborn shoot for Jonah, the cutest tiny old man I've had the pleasure of photographing so far. Now, he's a big brother - and a big boy in his own right! His little brother Samuel entered the world with a bang on New Year's Eve accompanied by hours of fireworks, and I enjoyed getting to spend a couple of quiet hours with this sweet, newly bigger family. These at home shoots are my very favourite kind of photo session: relaxed and real. And Judith and Ton, the parents of these two sweet guys, have such a lovely home full of lovely light which was wonderful for another newborn shoot. I loved every moment of this shoot, but I think my favorite shot is Jonah stopping his ears as Samuel let us know in no uncertain terms that he was quite done with being a model for one day. Judith tucked him into a wrap soon thereafter and all was well with the world. Thanks again for having me, guys!
It's been just a little bit over a year since I first met Claire, who is also an American woman living in Groningen on account of a swell Dutch guy, at a Thanksgiving potluck in an Australian pub in town. I was so pleased when she reached out to me about doing a photo shoot of her and her fiancé, and even more pleased when she told me that they wanted to do the shoot in the most photogenic part of town, complete with cobblestone streets, converted warehouses, gorgeous views of the Der Aa church and beautiful sail boats on one of the canals. As we kept an eye on the ever-changing forecast in the days leading up to the shoot, we joked about making Fearless Photographers-worthy shots of gorgeous light, ominous clouds and inside-out umbrellas. Well, when the light was good, it was very good, and when it was gone, we definitely had our share of dramatic umbrella moments (especially during a downpour in the Noorderplantsoen when Pim proved chivalry isn't dead and gave Claire my busted umbrella while I waited inside a nearby restaurant - see the triptych below). Thanks for braving the elements with me, guys!
It was a pleasure to spend a fickle Frisian afternoon with the Benedictus family and their friends as they celebrated Jan and Tytsje's 40th wedding anniversary! I've done two family shoots with their daughter, Nynke, her partner and their daughters, but now I've covered just about the whole extended family. This was also the second time that my photography services have been given as an anniversary gift, which I'm a big advocate of. It may be a bit meta, but pictures are the way to look back on all the details and moments of celebrating life's momentous occasions. Fan herte lokwinske mei dyn houliksfeestje (of zoiets - mijn Fries is iets minder goed dan mijn Nederlands)!
Oh, man. An expressive, affectionate, playful bunch of people in a former sugar factory - plus water guns. These guys are the best! This is the second family shoot I've done with the Geelen family, and there are some new members of the crew since our last photo session a couple of years ago at the Suikerfabriek. That shoot ended in a pillow fight, so clearly we had to keep the tradition going: this time, the shoot culminated in a tiny, neon water gun battle on the roof of the factory.
It. Was. Awesome.
I'm grateful for whatever mysterious forces (or mutual friends) led to Rebecca giving me a call a few weeks ago about doing an engagement shoot for her and her fiancé, Nnadozie. This British-Nigerian couple has called Groningen home for the past couple of years, and our shoot was peak Dutch summer: billowing clouds giving way to sweeping patches of light and, inevitably, a serious downpour. Thankfully they had my umbrella in hand just as the rain really got going in earnest, and it was just in time for the very last pose of the shot. We played Dutch photo bingo: bikes and windmills made an appearance (all we were missing were some tulips). It was an adventure, and it was a pleasure. Thanks for finding me, guys!
He's here! This past weekend, I took the now familiar train journey to Enschede to meet Miranda and Richard's latest addition: Alexander. We all just goofed off together in the house on a warm afternoon (with periodic breaks for my glasses to defog and to snack on stroopwafels), mostly creating the "after" versions of the "before" shots that we got during my last visit. This post is a mix of portraits, candid moments and a couple of photo illustrations (diptychs and triptychs of photos we've taken over the months and years). Enjoy!
Back in April, I got to stroll around Amsterdam with Chiara and Daniel, a charmingly sarcastic couple from Italy while they were in the city to admire the tulips. Chiara is friends with a former client of mine, Stefano, whom I also photographed when he and his fiancee (also named Chiara, so don't get confused!) were visiting the Netherlands. Chiara told me that tulips are her favourite flowers, and since the Amsterdam Tulip Festival was underway for the second year in a row, she was in luck. We went for Amsterdam shoot photo bingo: bike? Check. Bridge? Check. Canal? Check. Tulips? Oh yes. It was a lot of fun getting to meet them and spend some time seeing the sites together.
It's always such a joy to do photo shoots with Miranda and her equally joyful family. Miranda has been my best non-Dutch friend in the Netherlands from pretty much the moment I arrived in our shared (decidedly crappy) student housing back in 2005. She is one of the warmest, happiest, most enthusiastic and honest humans I've ever had the pleasure to meet and had the even greater pleasure of calling my friend. I've gotten to do her maternity shoots for her first two energetic, smily kiddos, and their newborn sessions soon there after - the tradition continues, so part two of this shoot will be posted after baby number three makes his debut.
Floris en Nynke zijn een heel erg aardig (en fotogeniek) stel. Floris is eigenlijk een collega van mijn man, maar net zoals veel van zijn collega's, denk ik aan Floris inmiddels gewoon als een kennis van mij. Ik heb een fotoshoot met hun voor het eerst gedaan in 2014 toen Nynke zwanger was met Famke, en een tweede sessie hebben we samen gemaakt in 2016 - in de speeltuin voor mijn huis (super handig). Dus deze post is echter een combinatie van die twee shoots, maar ik vind het heel leuk om de groei van deze lieve kleine familie binnen een post te kunnen zien.
Inge and Helen are two of the best damn people ever. They're both brilliant academics, very thoughtful, charmingly self-effacing and very much in love with each other. And now, they have a preposterously adorable little girl, and I got another chance to spend some time with them and photograph them (along with Inge's immediate family) back in December. Hooray love.
Back in July, I got my favourite kind of email - a request from a fellow American (and southerner to boot) asking me if I could a photo shoot while she and her husband were visiting Europe. So last week, I had the pleasure of strolling through an unusually chilly Amsterdam with Abigail and Tim to take photos of them chilling with (but not in) the canals on the second to last day of their Eurotrip. Thanks for finding me, Abigail!
In June, I had the privilege of being the photographer for the super laid back (and therefore super enjoyable) wedding day of Martijn and Lianne. As of last week, I've been living in the Netherlands for five years, and in some ways, little has changed over that time: I already loved the photojournalistic approach to weddings, and I was also already committed to sharing the work that the Ideal Home shelter and training center in Nepal was doing with the support of the Dutch members of the Didi Foundation.
Now, five years on, my belief that a camera is the best conveyer of the emotions of a day still holds true, and Martijn and Lianne's wedding day was no exception. A couple of years ago already, I did a photoshoot with Lianne's family, and I loved everyone's ease and naturally open hearted and funny nature, and the photos were a very true reflection their personalities. For Lianne's wedding, she and her now husband kept that good natured happiness tradition alive: the couple really wanted to have a laid back, casual day to celebrate with their friends: after an intimate ceremony in the nearby town of Klein Wetsinge, the newlyweds and their guests headed into Groningen for a backyard barbecue, complete with a bride and groom "cake topper" atop a heaping plate of potato salad. The vibe throughout the whole day was very relaxed and joyful, which came as no surprise to me, knowing this bunch. Congratulations, Lianne and Martijn!
Back in May, Rebecca and Alain's crew and I romped around the Prinsenhof in Groningen as spring sprang. Since then, their third son, Leander, was born in July, and the family wanted to have another seasonal shoot in October, this time in the Hortus Haren. I love this location so much, especially the Chinese garden section with the loveliest fall colors in the north. We basically spent about an hour cracking each other up, and I spent another few hours laughing out loud as I made my way through the photo edit. This family is so sweet with each other too, so every shoot with them is just me getting to document them being their silly, loving selves.