Michiel de Lange is a street , travel and documentary photographer with a distinctive visual style, capturing subjects in candid situations that embrace both social & cultural aspects of life. The artist seeks to capture its promotional poster shots, and explains that "the performance of daily life consists of millions of unscripted plays." Street life inspires Michiel as "a place to witness and capture 'the human condition' within different urban, cultural, religious and social environments."
Don't hesitate to check the thrilling interview with Michiel de Lange, and to view his fantastic gallery below.
Tell us about something about Michiel de Lange Photography?
I'm a completely self-taught, but blessed to be supported by a day-job as an architect to fund my photography adventures. Photography is not my mainstream career, affording me the luxury to indulge without worrying about earning an income from it.
I think the turning point came when my father passed his old Ashi Pentax SLR and a few lenses on to me in 1986. I was fascinated by it, and this taught me a lot about the fundamentals of photography in its raw, traditional form. I upgraded myself to a used Pentax ME Super in the early 90's, but the costs of film, processing and printing, proved prohibitive to a young student at the time, forcing me to take a break from it. It was only when digital became mainstream around 2003 that I started investigating getting back into serious photography again (starting with a new 3mp compact) and I’ve been hooked ever since. Thankfully I didn't remain hooked to the 3mp compact, but it was enough to convince me that digital photography has a future, and that I want to take part in it again.
How did you get into street photography?
Strangely, when I started with photography again in 2003, I refused to shoot people, instead concentrating on only urban scenes and detail compositions completely devoid of people. I felt that people just add unnecessary, uncontrolled clutter to what I wanted to achieve. I think the turning point happened during a visit to Lebanon in January 2004, where I "dared" to shoot a few street shots of people and their activities. I loved the results, in particular how the viewer of such photos can instantly find an emotional bond, or associate with a particular activity, circumstance, or whatever on a level that we all share - being human and dealing with our condition every day. I have been focusing on the refinement of capturing people in street environments ever since.
What’s your creative process like?
It really starts already by planning properly before travelling to a destination, otherwise I simply go out to the streets, where I know interesting things may happen, to see what I can find when the mood takes me.
I always shoot in RAW, which after sorting and tagging, I process in Adobe Lightroom and PS5. For me, the post-processing part of my workflow is as equally important as the quality of the captured image, as this is where I am afforded the freedom to "design" the image to some extent to make it my own.
I've been working hard to achieve something of an own “style”, but even this is ever evolving. I can spend anything up to 3 hours on an image until I’m satisfied with it, only to see it “failing” when I post it for viewing. I think the lesson is that it’s not just the post-processing, but people have to like the whole picture, find a connection with it – that is more important than anything else.
How has your shooting style and work ethic changed in time?
Initially my outings were pretty much random and opportunistic, just hoping to find something interesting. To a great extent that always remain true for street work, but I guess my eye is now much better trained to search for particular situations, and even pre-visualizing potential shots and waiting for the situation to unfold.
Today I'm also more focused on shooting scenes in a way that define my personal "style" as well as thinking about composition in a square format while shooting. Though not exclusive, I still favor square compositions, but that is likely to change over time. Shooting and processing in a particular coherent style also give me the flexibility to make up a number of different collections, by example only a particular destination, only street portraits, only environmental portraits, only street photography etc., while maintaining a common stylistic thread throughout to bind such collections together.
Ethically, I always strive to capture my human subjects in the most dignified and respectful way, no matter what they do for a living or what their circumstances may be. Everybody deserves that basic human respect, while that dignified, emotional connection is very important to me. I simply avoid using images that degrade, or present a person in a negative way.
What are some tips you could give to people that really like your work?
I think that the majority of well-known photographers have one thing in common – a fairly distinctive “style”. To achieve this, it is best to focus on subject matter that you have the best affinity with and try to perfect your skills in a particular genre. Natural “evolution” / “migration” towards new or other genres will surely happen over time, but it would be natural progress rather than forcefully trying to be a “jack of all trades”. If you lack inspiration, try coming up with a concept for a series, and then do it. Who knows, something good may come from the entire series, or maybe only one good shot, but that makes it worth the effort too.
On a practical level, my advice is definitely to travel light, whether to a particular destination, or just roaming your local streets. You need to be highly mobile, quick and stealthy to capture moments. Being bogged down by huge bags or backpacks full of equipment just doesn't work for me.
To capture "that" natural moment, never ask before you take an image. It ruins the moment. Even most of my street portraits are candid, usually taken at the very moment when the person looks up and notices me.
Can you name some great photographers that inspires you and why?
Despite the obvious charms of the grand old masters of street photography, I am more drawn to contemporary photographers who seem to stand out above the rest, people I consider to be the modern-day masters of their art, and who all have a very distinctive style that bind their work together. GMB Akash is a brilliant photographer from Bangladesh, and I love Eric Lafforgue's work, particularly his ethnic African collections. I also admire Manny Librodo and Anderzey Dragan for having developed their own distinctive photography and processing styles, and off course Steve McCurry is a great inspiration for both his photography skill and enviable locations that he can visit and showcase to the world. One photographer that I consider to be a modern day master of street photography is Dutch photographer Michel Verhoef, aka "Farfarm". His works always inspire me to try harder, and look harder for those less obvious moments in life. He is a master in capturing that extraordinary moment within an ordinary scene, a very well developed eye indeed.
If you have something else to add (a video/book/about your next project/etc.) just tell us.
I've started work on a self-published book on the recent 8 months that I've lived and worked in Hanoi, Vietnam. It was a fascinating experience, but I'm already so focused on the next adventure that I'm not sure if it will see the light of day. If any professional publishers are out there that want to take that task away from me, I'm ready to listen ... that sounds lazy, doesn't it.
In the near future, I'm relocating to work in Bangkok, so expect to see a whole new collection of work focused on life in Thailand. I'm certain that some very interesting projects will come from there. It usually takes me a while to get a proper feel for a new destination and determining how to approach it, but once I've figured that out, I can run with it.
Another near future project is to set up a proper website, instead of only relying on a portfolio style online presence.
Dear Mr. Michiel, it's such a great honor to have you featured on Photography Office. We truly appreciate the feeling, taste, smell and emotions taste of your promotional poster shots, and we are very glad to share a slice of them trough our community. Because you have lot's of work in progress we want to wish you good luck with all of them, and don't hesitate to let us know when they will be launched.