-I am a photographer because I feel a huge urge inside to capture things with my camera. It’s like a hunger for photographing. Whether it will be because I want to remember the moment, connect with the person, capture the mood or show a city, it will always be originated in an impulse to aim my camera and click the shutter. Whatever other motives were there, I will usually be able to analyze that afterwards, but never prior or during.

When was the first time you understood that you wanted to be a photographer? And what is it that makes you a photographer?

I became a photographer before I wanted to be one. During the months leading up to me buying a camera I was using my mobile phone to take photographs. There was a fascination inside for the visual aspect of the things that surrounded me at the time and I took a lot of photos simply because I felt like doing so. Even during these first months the pictures were often out of focus, blurry and grainy due to the fact that I was ‘limited’ to using a mobile phone. For no particular reason apart from preferring it visually, I also already processed all my photos into black and white. I think my appreciation for the aesthetic has an origin in the limitations of the phone I was using, though it obviously grew as I got into contact with other people’s work which made me feel free to keep doing what I was doing.
As the end of high school was approaching and I didn’t have another passion this strong, I decided to buy a camera and focus on photography in general. Looking back I think it was the first time I explicitly decided it was something I wanted to do on a serious level. Right now, two years later, I am less determined on doing it as a job actually. I accepted that I’ll probably be spending a few months per year doing a meaningless job in order to give myself some financial security. This also allows me to keep shooting because I feel like shooting, rather than shooting because I need to make more money.

What makes me a photographer is something that changes over time. As I mentioned above, I consider myself to have been a photographer back then because I had a visual fascination for the things around me. At the time, this would have been the answer. Right now I have a much higher focus on connecting with people while taking photographs and exploring what life has to offer along the way of taking pictures. My first project (Berlin Prague Budapest) consisted mostly of pictures of objects and sceneries that carried a certain mood, while just a part of the book were people shots. The latest project I did (Someone. Somewhere. Manila) consists mostly of pictures of people.
But to give a simple answer that will always be the essence of what I’m doing, I am a photographer because I feel a huge urge inside to capture things with my camera. It’s like a hunger for photographing. Whether it will be because I want to remember the moment, connect with the person, capture the mood or show a city, it will always be originated in an impulse to aim my camera and click the shutter. Whatever other motives were there, I will usually be able to analyze that afterwards, but never prior or during.

From Madrid Mad 5

Why do you shoot in black and white?

I accidentally set my camera on black and white two years ago and cannot figure out how to change the setting. Thankfully this is a joke of course, but the real reason is as much out of my control as that one would be. I shoot in black and white because black and white photographs have a much deeper visual and emotional impact on me when I look at them. This is something that I cannot change as it is something that happens subconsciously. Something I would be able to change, one could say, is that I stop shooting in black and white. It’s been suggested to me many times, but I think every self respecting cook prepares a meal in the way that he thinks it tastes best. Why would I shoot pictures that even I personally feel are less strong? It’s silly. I could give you a deep and poetic answer that I’m sure a lot of people would feel fascinated to read but this would contribute to the already existing pretentiousness in photography, which I deeply oppose.
Looking at a black and white photograph is simply a more intense experience to me, so shooting in black and white myself is something I consider to be a logical thing.

Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Manila. What do these trips mean to you?

Within my photographic growth the trip to Berlin, Prague and Budapest was my first real project. Going through the book, I can see my own exploration and search for what photography can be and a somewhat adolescent but developing look on the world through my lens. Every photograph was the fossil of a visual impulse and this is what I can appreciate looking back at the photos. None of the photographs have a contextual nor conceptual meaning or purpose, it’s a big collection of snapshots that unintentionally but successfully captured the energy of what it was like for me to make the journey.The trip to Manila might be too recent to fully grasp which impact it will have on my development as a photographer, as I can only look at it from an extremely subjective standpoint right now. Looking at the pictures I do feel like I am finally taking the best pictures that I could possibly take with my current level of skill. This doesn’t mean they are 5-star shots, but in all openness I think it’s the best I can do right now, which makes me extremely satisfied. The experiences I had will hopefully plant some subconscious seeds that will enable me to grow over time and keep progressing. In a way, every project I do is a step to the next project and based on my need to take pictures I think this cycle will never stop. If I can also keep learning from every new project/experience (and I push myself to do so) it will be good for my growth as a photographer, as well as my growth a person.
In short, trips like these make me enjoy life, explore the world and learn a lot of valuable lessons along the way.

From Mono Diary 9

What makes Jamèl pick up the camera and shoot?

If I’m in my hometown and living with my parents I hardly ever pick up the camera. Living in one of the more quiet provinces of the Netherlands and not feeling at home in the culture that surrounds me, I’m not very motivated to take photographs. I won’t push myself to be excited about something as a photographer, when I’m bored by it as a person. Whenever I visit a new place or a place that I already know I’m excited by, I can guarantee you I’ll be carrying at least one camera.

When it comes to what makes me shoot, I think it’s best if I refer to earlier given answers as I don’t want to repeat myself too much. Photography in general fulfills me while it at the same time always keeps me eager to do more; photography makes me want to do photography.

What is your opinion on a photographer needing talent, education, culture and/or luck?

I’ll answer this in the order in which you name the different points. I’ll relate the points to my own type of work as that makes it easier for me to work with examples.Starting with talent, I think to be a good photographer you obviously need to have talent. From my experiences with going to exhibitions and festivals, you do need to be a good photographer to be a successful photographer though. A lot of people lack the talent of taking an interesting photograph and instead focus on taking photographs that are either only worth complimenting for the technical effort that went into it or photographs that are claimed to be ‘interesting’ because the artist came up with a concept around the boring work. You can lack talent and still make it in the ‘business’, but without talent you won’t take a good photo.
Education is a tough one. I think education can be good for your development as a photographer, but never as a first step. The chances of choosing the right type of education are small when you don’t even know what you’re interested in yet. When you know you want to do product photography, I recommend you take a few classes. I also recommend you to sell your camera, but this is a different thing haha! When you know you want to take photographs the way I do, just live your life and be open to letting things in that might trigger you to want to press the shutter. If you can’t do that, it’s not the right type of photography for you.Culture plays a big factor in the context of my type of photography. When you look at my photographs you can tell that I am not the type of person to accept a 9 to 5 job and that I have quite an emotional personality. The culture in my own country, though rich from a historical perspective, is quite empty to me. Even our own queen stated a few years ago that there is no true Dutch identity. There is a small interest for art, music, philosophy and other things that usually have to do with feeling. If you look at the photographic scene you’ll see this is reflected there. The artists can only write about the emotions behind the work, but it is hardly ever captured in the photographs itself.
If you look at Italy, where it’s culturally the other way around, you’ll also find many more highly talented photographers who can put their own identity into their work without leaning on the shoulders of concepts.Luck is something I don’t believe in. I can walk through a city with a line of 50 other photographers behind me and I’m sure we’ll all choose slightly different subjects and certainly shoot them in different ways. The world will provide you with chances to take photographs, how you handle those opportunities depends on the person carrying the camera.

From Madrid Mad 4

What are your plans when it comes to photography?
The only concrete plan is that I’ll be trying to spread the word about my latest project involving Manila. There what seem to be a few possibilities to exhibit the work over the next couple of months, as well having it published on websites or even a magazine. If I am still content about the work in a few months and I have been receiving good feedback on it up until then, I think I might look for a publisher to turn it into a book.
I don’t have any plans about new work yet as I don’t know what the next months might look like. Chances are high that I’ll go to Rome for at least a few months and knowing myself this will probably/hopefully result into something.Thank you very much for showing interest in my work and for asking me to do this interview, it’s highly appreciated!

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