Bakkes Images (Riehan Bakkes Photography) is established in Stellenbosch, South Africa as a premium photographic service provider. Following twelve years of extensive photographic industry experience in Cape Town, Riehan Bakkes moved Bakkes Images to the heart of the winelands where inspiration is omnipresent and activities are abundant in fuelling the creative processes. We had the fantastic oportunity to collaborate with him for a smashing interview about his passion, photography. Don't hesitate to check it out after the break.
Tell us about something about Riehan Bakkes Photography? Bakkes Images (Riehan Bakkes Photography) was established in 2008 as a high-end professional service specializing in the photography of wine and wine-related subjects, including wine estates, portraiture, food & restaurants, hospitality and architecture. Based in Stellenbosch the studio is situated in the heart of the South African Winelands surrounded by a thriving industry and inspiring surroundings, architecture, landscapes and people. In the past I have worked for respected photographers that would often photograph wine and it interested me to see how it was done and what challenges are involved in shooting of it. I then decided to go fulltime professional and when Bakkes Images was established it set out to as primary objective to specialize in the particular niche. I believe in specializing in a specific field in order to become truly good at it as well as to gain intensive knowledge of the industry, role-players and products in order to establish long term relationships with clients.
I’ve always wanted to be creative. I tried writing, drawing, painting, and making films and music but I could never master any of it. Then I took up surfing as a sport and found creative freedom in it and, in turn, it attracted me to photography. My friends and I were constantly travelling up and down the South African coast chasing good surfing conditions. We had a great time in and around the ocean, riding waves, travelling, meeting people and seeing breathtaking place that I became desperate to capture the elements of those adventures and that’s how I first explored photography. I was immediately interested, obsessed, addicted and quickly thereafter passionate. I wanted to know all I could about photography and improve constantly. Before I knew it I was a freelance surfing and skateboarding photographer and published internationally.
I am a self-taught photographer. As an economics student at university I borrowed or bought the textbooks the art students used in photo school. That laid a good theoretical foundation for me. At the same time I befriended renowned water photographer Douglas Cockwell who became my mentor and provided priceless practical lessons. Magazine editors gave the hardest critique and lecture as I entered the editorial market and began to earn a little off my photography. That was the basics. From there my school was everyday life, what I saw and observed around me, the work of other photographers’ I worked for or that I reviewed in exhibitions, books and online.
What’s your creative process like? The commercial photography of wine and wine estate requires a single and very important objective to be fulfilled. That is, the photographs must represent the estate, its people and products in a beautiful, eye-catching and most importantly, inviting manner so that ultimately they will make sales. For this reason my creative process begins with research into the brand identity and placement, what images has been created for the particular client in the past, the people involved and their corporate culture, and location details like the situation of the estate relative to the sun, the time of year and crop, etc. The first step is to lay the platform for unique and accurate creativity. Once on location I can draw on that researched information, combine it with my experiences, history, technique, etc. and create the images they will require.
There are three perils to overcome when shooting wine bottles. Firstly, shooting bottles, glasses and wine is limited to a finite number of options. Extreme attention must be paid to reflections in glass and caution must be given to the wine labels that is embossed and foiled to retain detail in those areas. Ultimately and reiterated, it must look beautiful and delicious as to assist in curving the viewers’ behaviour towards remembering and then purchasing the product.
Post-production is very important and something I find extremely enjoyable. This is where the images come to life. More importantly, I always advise my students not to shy away from post-production techniques and tools for a very important reason. If you understand your post-production software and techniques you will know how to adapt your technique on location with the end result in mind. To shoot-for-post will strengthen you ability as a photographer. Modern photography requires a holistic approach to achieve the fullest potential of an image or set of images.
Where do you find inspiration and why you like photography? My first source of inspiration comes from my everyday surroundings and what I see. There are constant messages conveyed through numerous elements in a single day that inspires me in the next direction for photography. I find the work of other photographers very inspiring. Photographers are lucky that there are so many subjects, perfectives, techniques and genres to engage and specialize in that there is always an element of awe towards another photographers work. Regardless of your skills one will never be good at it all. So, for instance, I can find great inspiration from lighting in fashion photography, or an exhibition on bodily form and how it relates to the curves of a bottle in my field. Books are great for inspiration, so are magazines. Digital media gives us access to masses of photography and photographers so we have more at our fingertips. Finally, my inspiration comes from my wife and boys that always support and believe in me. I love photography simply because it allows you to be creative. To create images and feel the response from viewers is an amazingly gratifying experience. To be a photographer shapes the way you see and think. Even if you don’t have a camera in your hand you are constantly taking pictures in your mind. Also, photography is one of few arts that have a strong technical and electronic side to it and it gives our art a good Tao balance.
What are some tips you could give to people that really like your work? Be passionate about you subject field and art and channel it through your processes. Try to specialize in a certain photographic field and master it. Always draw inspiration from other genres and try to apply it to your own. Remember to experiment constantly and try to break the rules. Do not shy away from post-production as it is a reality in modern photography and an integral part thereof. Lastly, always have your camera with you and enjoy photography.
Can you name one great photographer that inspires you with his works and why? Annie Leibovitz remains one of my favorite photographers. Her later work for me is absolutely amazing. Technically and emotionally they are masterpieces. The aspect of her work I enjoy most is her lighting skills. She has a respectable control over light and seldom leave clues as to the use of lighting at all.
A recent discovery for me was the work of Nick Brandt and particularly the work published in his book “On This Earth, A Shadow Falls”. I admire his black & white technique, his confidence and ability to find himself in the spots from where he shoots. And finally, his post-production skills, if he even does any. Some say he doesn’t and word has it he shoots on 50mm only, meaning he gets real close to the animals.
Finally, surfing and commercial photographer Dustin Humphrey. His book “Sipping Jetstreams” is an all-time inspiring book that I always page through before I go out on a shoot and I am huge fan of Ken Duncan’s landscapes.
If you have something else to add (a video/book/about your next project/etc.) just tell us. Due for release in September 2011, is the book “Celebrating Méthode Cap Classique”. This book will be my first coffee table project as principle photographer. The book is about the South African equivalent of the French Champaign, called Méthode Cap Classique or MCC, and looks at the history, production method, and modern-day industry, producers and people associated with MCC. It was a great project to be part of and a huge privilege. The project forced me to rethink the way I have been doing photography and to invite fresh ideas and techniques to front. Through the project I explored new versions of landscape, portrait, product, macro, architecture and even fashion and beauty photography. It was a fantastic vehicle for photographic growth for me and I am very excited about its release and reviews. The book is published by Di Burger of Stacked Publications and distributed by Art Publishers, South Africa.