Martijn Mendel, Amsterdam based photographer had big dreams from the start. “I wanted to be a superstar. The ability stars have to create their own world and build an identity as they wish is the thing I love. When I figured that out I started with photography.” Paving his way to fame Martijn is in his last year at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and before embarking on his big final piece of work for school we had a chance to catch up with him and talk the industry, models and social media.
First picture you ever took?
When I was very young (and not so bright), I used my father’s camera to take a picture of a flower in our garden. Then, playfully, I opened the back of the analogue camera a thousand times ’cause I didn’t know that I wasn’t supposed to do that. My first picture never became a first picture.
You study at Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, what is the biggest advantage you have gained by attending this school in particular?
When you just start at the art academy you really feel that this institute holds all the answers you need for your career. But after 4 years you realise you have to come up with those answers (and solutions) yourself. Who’s a teacher at an art academy to say what’s good and what’s not? Who makes the rules for that? Though, I think an art academy is really a good place to discover who you are and why you do what you do. If you decide to learn by starting in the field (for example assisting somebody), you really quickly discover what the market wants and expects of you. Both are great, but finding a balance in between, that is a real art.
One thing that can make or break a photo?
Have you ever noticed you can tell people all sorts of things and mostly they won’t really listen. But, as soon as you start talking about something very personal, they suddenly all get quiet and listen. This too applies to photography, if you manage to tell your own personal story your work becomes so much more valuable and interesting and people treat it with more respect.
How did you develop your own style?
I think it’s not about what you do behind the camera but what you do in front of it; the stories you wanna tell and why you wanna tell them are eventually what people are gonna recognise you for.
You’ve also dabbled in video, is this something you plan on continuing – if so why?
Deff! I think video is great, but I also feel like nobody really has the time to watch a video. Because, who even watches a 5 min fashion film when we have so much else to do? I hope I can experiment with new ways of moving-image that’s more suited to the eye of our generation.
You seem to shoot men mostly, why is this?
From a very young age I’ve been confronted with what it means to be a guy. What is masculinity? Where does it come from? What can it be? I think these questions are the reasons why I want to take pictures of men, and more importantly: gaining control over them.
What do you look for in a model?
I either see myself in this model, or I’m in some way very fascinated or even intimidated by this person.
How do you think social media shapes the industry today?
You know, we are so used to the fast life! We don’t even look at a picture anymore, we go ahead and habitually like it on Instagram. Instagram really gave the industry a shock and put big question marks on what’s seen as good and not. We can all easily criticise this, but it’s better to just embrace all the new mediums and learn to use them in a smart way.
By Indiana Roma Voss