Jonathan Vahsen | Photographe


2018 was a year of change for me, my life, my photography and in general my approach to things. First, I turned 35, which is a big deal for me, more even than 30. I didn’t even care about being 30, but 35 was an interesting one:

I started to do sports again. When you consider the fact that upon my 27th year I was playing tennis, soccer, swimming and still horse riding from time to time, and then nothing for eight years, there is no wonder I was overweight, pale looking and in a weird place mentally. So I started rock climbing in November 2017 and have to say, that for me it is the best sport ever. The mental aspect is exactly what I need, work on fear, work on your comfort zone, work on self-confidence  and meditate at the same time. From a body perspective, I have never been so strong and fit in my entire life, I lost 15kg in total and got to know my body like never before, and I actually finally like how I am looking.

Second change was to place my kids into the center of my life. After the breakup with their mother, I had to take even more charge of them. They have nothing to do with the relationship failing, they just want a father and mother that get along well, and probably most important, they don’t need a depressed father that isn’t doing anything with them. So I had to act, I had to change things and had to take full responsibility of the situation. Interestingly, and I had this conversation with a lot of single fathers, who confirm what I discovered, suddenly I had total freedom. I was free from other people telling me what I should and should not do with my kids, how I had to raise them and what sort of activities I can do with them. A world of trial and error opened in front of me, and I felt relieved  that I could finally get answers to questions I was asking myself about how to be a father, how to be a friend to them and how to be a guide in life, should they want that from me. So yeah, I failed, and will probably still fail, but on the other side there is so much trust between us, the connection is real and stronger than ever, the love I can feel when we are together somewhere and totally connected makes my eyes wet just thinking about it.

From a practicle side speaking, I also learned to say no to work to be with them. Maybe in 2018 I was too extreme in that regard, 2019 will be a bit more balanced. But I had to do it, to make them feel that even if we are separated, I will be there for them as much as I can. Money won’t buy me a relationship with my kids. Of course, we need a minimum to exist in the western world, but it is far from the most important to me.

Third change is the fact that I admitted that I was depressed, that I was in a weird place mentally, I admitted failure, slowed down my life, took things step by step, even making things up on a daily basis, not really having a plan in the long run, just focusing on feeling good each single day. I can’t say it went smoothly, it took me two full years, to get to a place where I can now say that I want to get up every morning and do stuff, get along with life, share, received, give for free to others, do new things, fail, succed, have a relationship and make up with the past and things I felt that I had failed since adolescence. After being angry, nice, weird, sad, depressed, confused, alternating between highs&lows, trying different ways of communicating with people, etc…I can point out three things that made me see the light at the end of the tunnel: Admitting failure, music and sports.

I feel there is not enough space in the western capitalist world for discussion about mental health issues. Either we talk about extreme issues or not at all, there is still a fear that people discover our weaknesses and judge us. Depressed people are totally misunderstood. It is not that we can’t function, often times we are even functioning very well, but in the back of our head there is always this sadness, this voice that asks us why we are even bothering with trying if there is no sense. Slowly but surely celebrities, associations and states are acknowledging the issue, but in my mind there is a long way to go still.

All this leaves me with 2019, for the first time since two years I have set myself goals, and intend to pursue them, failure or succes, who cares, the most important is to act towards them. 

In no particular order:

- Prospect new clients

- Get into climbing photography

- Challenge myself even more in my craft

- Clean up my car more often

- Be nice with people

- Accept that people don’t necessarily have the same opinion (even if I know I am right…:))

- Show a good life to my kids

- Become friends with my ex

- Share for free and don’t await things in return

- Blog and create a podcast

- Read

- Climb outdoors as much as possible

- Accept my flaws and work on them

- Spend less time in front of computer screens and continue to eat well

I want to appologize to all the people that I have hurt or gotten angry in the past two years, also want to thank the people who have stood by my side, although I wasn’t all the time the best acquaintance to have.

Stevie Ray Vaughan  - Tin pan Alley

Tash Sultana - Pink Moon

Tash Sultana - Jungle

KALEO - Way Down We Go

KALEO - Save yourself

Corporate Photography

Being a corporate photographer has brought so much diversity to my life that I can only be thankful. I meet interesting people, discover new ways of thinking and get to shoot all kinds of pictures, sometimes even all across Europe.

It is a bizzare thing, very rewarding in the sense that you are usually challenged by the conditions but then the position you are in is misuntderstood: not fully considered an artist but expected to create the amazing for your client.

I know that my corporate photography will not go down in history as for example the work of HC Bresson or Avedon, but I shoot more then a lot of photographers and have to be very skilled in all kinds of photographic disciplines, probably more than a colleague that is very specialized. 

Ususally you have to shoot the location, the conference set-up, the decoration and details, the food, the speakers, the people, group pictures, portraits and also manage to create some kind of generic image bank looking pictures. Images that are generic and branded at the same time :)

Sometimes you can even improvise a little studio set-up to give some extra souvenir to the client and attendees.

On company events you need to give energy and can’t miss shots that the PR-Department will need to communicate on. When you do portraits of an important person in a company and have only 1-2 minutes, preparation, posing, interaction and self-confidence are key.

When your clients trust you and there is some kind of friendly relationship that has come due to working together over the years, it is the best.

In the image above, I was shooting group pictures of the complete management board and had an idea in mind to go outside, but one of the chief officers said he wouldn’t want to do that, so I had to (very) quickly reasses, improvise and show full confidence in what I was doing.

Working with reflections usually works well in this field of photography. Also, as it is usually for publication purposes, you have to get the colors on point when you add additional light.

An aspect that is often underated in this field is appearance, in other words how you look and how you present yourself. Sometimes wearing a clean white shirt and elegant shoes, whith a fresh shave can go a long way to be hired again by the client. There is nothing more frustrating, and I have been there and will be there again, when clients really like your work but think you look too artsy or not clean-cut enough. Same with gear, arrive with two or three arranged bags and you look like a pro, arrive with your tripods in hand, batteries in your pocket and the background half hanging out of your car, you look like a mess. People, as bad as it is, judge you based on how they see you the first times they meet you.

Last but not least, turnover is also key. Delivering a couple of images straight after the event or the same day of the shoot can be seen as the fact that you know how things work in this world. In general I agree with clients that they will receive the complete job within 1-3 working days, which is short when you have shot a conference for 8h and have 6000 images to cull and edit. If this is not possible, I communicate with my clients, I tell them how things are and they reply with their needs and we find a solution together.

“Underpromise and overdeliver” - F. Swennen aka. Alohafred

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