Henk Leijen has been taking photographs during a time when some of us haven't even handled a camera in our lives. He's amassed skills along the way that let him take photos at will with great precision and remarkable quality. In this short interview, we got to learn more about him, how important photography is to him, and his work. Let's all get our papers and pens ready. Classes are about to begin.
Hello, Henk. Welcome to the Lomography Magazine! We’re so glad to have you. Please, introduce yourself.
My name is Henk Leijen, I'm living in a small town in the Netherlands. With my 63 years of age, I have a long history in photography. Nowadays I specialize in landscape and architecture photography. Beside that, I am a fanatic tennis player and runner.
How did you start your journey with photography?
As retoucher I worked with many photographers and artist who inspired me to become a photographer myself. This was 30-40 years ago and ever since photography has become my passion.
How would you define photography?
Powerful atmosphere, brightness and rest -- these are the main characteristics of my work. It is all about harmonic images without losing myself in unnecessary detail or complexity.
What’s your favorite thing about it?
The most inspiration I get is from architecture and landscape photography. The way architecture is built and landscapes are formed are an opportunity to be creative with the lines made by men and nature.
In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a good photograph?
For me a photograph is perfect when it is one, when all elements of the picture including objects and color are a perfect fit together. Without being distracted by any unnecessary fuss.
What’s your favorite subject?
In landscape, architecture, and floral photographs I can combine my creativity with the art of photography itself.
What influences your style/work?
By looking at other artist's work. Their work they opens my view on photography. As you become more experienced as a photographer, the influences of other artists become less and less as you have created your own style and way of work. But still it is good to keep an open mind about your own work and the work of others, whether these are photographers, painters or architecture.
What are the things you consider when shooting a photograph?
Most importantly the composition -- when shooting floral pictures that is easier clearly for the fact that they are small and easily shaped. With architecture and nature it is my own position that influences the composition.
How do you stay creative? How do you deal with creative block?
I photograph a lot with gives me the energy and creativity to try new things, without abnegating my own style. Every time I try something new, sometimes with good success and sometimes I am less satisfied.
Your photos have this impeccable image quality. Whether it be architecture or nature shots. Is that the overall aesthetic you’re going for?
Definitely yes. The image quality for me is the basis of a good photograph.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Do you follow a certain formula in your work?
I barely think about where I get my inspiration from. For me it is sort of aphoristic that when I see an object I already have an idea on how to photograph it and how to work with the picture.
What would you like to express when it comes to your photography?
When people look at my work I want them to keep looking and ask themselves: what is in the picture that makes them do that.
As a professional, what would be your advice to aspiring photographers and artists?
It all starts with photographing a lot, try new things and get inspired by others. However, try to find your own style and hold on to it. I realize this might be harder nowadays as everything is online and there is already so many things done when it comes to photography. Yet if you stick to your own style, you will stand out.
What other areas of photography are you looking to explore?
I get the most joy of the fields I am working in right now, this might change over time. But for now I would like to explore what is more to learn in editing.
For you, what is the most challenging thing about being a photographer/artist in this day and age?
I find it hard to put out my creative work outside of social media. Still I think that photography is too little shown in galleries.
How would you describe your style in five words?
Bright, powerful, unity, unique, diverse
If you could replace photography with one thing, what would it be?
This is a hard question, for me it is irreplaceable. However, if I have to choose it would be an other form of art like painting.
What would you be if you weren’t a photographer?
Still retoucher, or preserver.
How does a perfect day look like for Henk Leijen?
Everyday outside is a perfect day for me.
What song, movie, and book inspired you the most?
The largest wall in our house is filled with bookshelves, to pick one of them is impossible for me. Same for music, everyday is different so it can be that one day I am inspired by Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrisson or Coldplay and another day it can be Muddy Waters or Bob Marley.
Any photographer/artist that you follow religiously?
Yes, Man Ray, because of his experimental work and Ansel Adams for his impressive landscapes.
If you could have one camera/and or film to shoot with, what would it be?
I used to work and loved working with a Zenza Bronica ETRS, however nowadays it is very hard to get your film developed.
In your opinion, how should people handle failure and success?
Keep close to yourself, don't let failure or success be too hard on you.
Any last words for our readers?
Keep developing your own style.