NM: I read that you never studied photography and in one year you had great success in the field. What inspired you to pick up a camera? Did you have any mentors to help you through the learning stages?
MS: I was always inspired by portraits in paintings like Vermeer and Rembrandt. I can look and study them for hours. I am a terrible painter and I just started to shoot some portraits of interesting faces. I did not have any mentors, I just started with a camera and a studio flash. I made a lot mistakes (which I am still making) and learned from them. You can’t learn photography from a book.
NM: What helped you find your direction in portraits? I would expect someone who was new to photography would spend a lot go time experimenting with different subjects, lighting, and moods.
MS: Yes of course! I’ve tried every camera and lighting source. I shot film and digital. For me it’s the only way to find out what i like.
NM: What kind of equipment did you start with and what do you use now?
MS: I started with a Canon 6D and a cheap studioflash. I shot a lot of portraits with this set up. Then there was a period where I shot film, mainly with a Hasselblad. Now I am more into digital. I like the analogue process but I think you can get a more painterly look using a digital camera.
NM: Your pictures are beautiful and very striking. In your portraits, I find that my initial reaction is to gaze right into the models eyes, then notice the rest of the image after. Are the eyes a key focal point for you?
MS: Yes the eyes are very important. They tell a lot about a person. I’ll only cast models that have a kind of ‘sparkle’ in their eyes.
NM: I love how your portraits border the line between photography and a painting. How do you achieve this?
MS: Like I said, I am inspired by paintings. I studied the works of famous painters. The light they used and the poses of the models. I think it’s a combination of technique, lighting and the posing.
NM: I read that you live in Amsterdam, is this still current? Do you ever use your city and its history as inspiration for your work?
MS: I travel between Amsterdam and The Hague. I love both cities. The Old Masters like Vermeer, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Jan Steen etc. were all from the Netherlands. So I think portraiture is a signature of Dutch people and it still is in present day.
NM: On your website, I see that you often receive messages from your fans.They are either sharing their admiration or asking questions about equipment and editing. I think this is a really great feature to have on your website, it feels like you are creating an all inclusive photography community. Do you have any advice that you can give novice photographers who are inspired by your work?
MS: Try to focus on photography every day. Just start shooting, editing and experimenting. You’ll soon find out your own path.