Photographer Carrie Mae Weems went on to do graduate work in Folklore at the University of California, Berkeley after she acquired her Master of Fine Arts degree.

Interview with a Photojournalist

Karijn Kakebeeke “Bend It Like Beckham,” 2006 (Winner of the 2009 BMW Prize)

NAME:  Karijn Kakebeeke

JOB TITLE/OCCUPATION:  Photojournalist / Documentary Photographer / Teacher

PROFESSION/INDUSTRY:  Photography and Journalism

EDUCATION & CREDENTIALS:  Postgraduate diploma in Photojournalism (with Distinction), London School of Printing, The London Institute (2000); International Baccalaureate, International College Spain, Madrid (1999); Masters in Cultural Anthropology, University of Amsterdam (1998); BMW Photo Prize(2009);  3rd Prize  – Zilveren Camera Foreign Documentary series (2006)

ADDITIONAL PURSUITS & AREAS OF INTEREST:  Sculpting/ceramics and (in the process of learning) documentary filmmaking

WEBSITE: http://www.karijnkakebeeke.com/

After secondary school I traveled overland to India and Nepal, crossing from the Netherlands into Eastern Europe, then to Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and finally India. The trip made a big impression on me and triggered a fascination that always stayed with me: What is it that makes us all the same yet different? Before setting off to travel I thought I wanted to study history of art or go to art school but now Cultural Anthropology seemed to fit my interest best. And it did, except that, when I finished my degree in Anthropology, I really missed doing something, creating something tangible. I had actually thought I would become a development worker but wasn’t entirely convinced of the benefits of aid. I worked for a bit as a researcher for a television agency that made tv documentaries, which I enjoyed very much. But I was impatient and wanted to make the stories I was researching for others, myself. I then stumbled across the course in photojournalism at the (then called) London College of Printing (now the London College of Communication) and it seemed that there all my interests came together. I could report on issues concerning development aid, be creative, do research and come closer to answering my personal question. So I applied and, luckily, I got accepted.

 

The level at LCP was very high and my classmates and myself were very ambitious and idealistic. Many of us travelled extensively during the course, making our own photojournalistic stories, and getting some of them published as well. A small group of us decided to create our own agency in answer to all the large, and getting larger, photo-agencies. We made group portfolios and business cards and set off to Visa pour l’Image for our ‘launch’. Even though nothing groundbreaking happened, I think we tickled people’s interest. I was the most inexperienced of the group but the fact that I was part of this start-up agency helped me to get an internship at a Amsterdam-based newspaper—a small newspaper with a long history, big ideas and modest budgets. For me this meant that there was lots do and there I learned how to ‘deliver’, how to work fast, be creative and, very importantly, get pictures published and build a valuable network.

 

The biggest change for me has probably been the shrinking market for photojournalistic stories. The number of magazines that publish these types of stories has diminished significantly. For me that meant that I needed to expand on the type of photography I was doing in order to make ends meet. I have moved into commercial photography more since, photographing for companies or individuals, but it’s not always a happy marriage. My strength, as well as interests, lie very much in the storytelling part of photography; just taking beautiful images is less my ‘cup of tea’. These last few years I have been teaching on the side and have found that I really enjoy it. But with the recent economic conditions, however, I still struggle to make ends meet while still doing the kind of work I feel passionate about.

 

I see a lot of people with a lot of visual or photographic talent, as if the ever increasing number of pictures that we see around us subconsciously gives (new and upcoming) photographers a bucket full of inspiration and knowledge even before starting out professionally. I see beautiful things being made. I also see a lot of “ego-documents”—people using photography as a way to express themselves, literally, rather than to express something. What I sometimes miss in all the visual (over)load is work that is layered, work that goes beyond a picture alone and expresses information next to emotion. Emotions and feelings are so highly rated that they sometimes get presented as facts which I don’t think is a good development.

What I really like is patchwork, and it’s what a lot more people are doing now—a crossover between disciplines and styles where people do not limit themselves by traditional modes of working. Visual storytelling has no limits, necessarily.

I would ask students to be aware of the power and tools knowledge gives you. Not just on a general level but regarding specific projects as well. I meet students who don’t do any research because their project is personal.  No matter the idea, I believe research will always enrich work,  if only because it teaches where you’re coming from.

I would also emphasize the importance of good entrepreneurship as an important tool to a successful career.

 

Karijn Kakebeeke (1974) completed a Masters in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam and worked as a researcher at a documentary film company before obtaining a degree in Photojournalism (with distinction) from the London College of Printing (now the London College of Communication).  She is fluent in Dutch, English, Spanish and German.

Editorial clients include: The Independent on Saturday Magazine, Publica, La Vanguardia Magazine, The Observer, Marie Claire, Elle, FACTS, De Standard Magazine, Volkskrant Magazine, Chrismon, Emotion, Internationale Samenwerkeing, Onze Wereld, and NRC Handelsblad.

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