Milestones: Editorial work for ELLE and Glamour. Campaigns for Ici Paris XL and Bijenkorf. Represented by Solar Initiative
Current Location: The Netherlands
Can you give us a little intro as to who you are and how you got started?
My name is Nicky Onderwater and I am a fashion photographer. Before I started photography, I studied 2 years Design and Styling at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute.
I loved the pattern making, the precise working and the concept development, but creating a collection wasn’t my way of communicating. With every thought my mind makes images and I liked the idea of shooting one day and have direct result. So I went to the Art Academy in The Hague to study photography.
How would you say your style has evolved over the years?
At first my work was all about shape and serenity. Later on I have been making work that is stronger and a little bit more expressive. Now I work in fashion and beauty. And I’ve also been making more portraits.
But it is evolving and hopefully it will evolve for the next 50 years or so 🙂
How would you describe your work to someone who has never seen it?
My style is pure, clean, I love shapes and I show models in an uncommon way. I love tonality and balance.
How did you get into fashion photography?
Sometimes the fashion industry is somewhat overruling and too much. In the beginning I worked more autonomous but it was always staged photography. I always loved to build my own world in a studio. It feels like magic. My first real contact with the Dutch fashion photography industry was when I did my intern ship with fashion photographer Alique. It opened a whole new perspective for me.
I love the teamwork that comes with fashion photography. You cannot make a fashion photo on your own. You always need a team; model, styling, make-up. I have to make sure we are all working in the same vibe. As a photographer I am the one that captures the input of all these people on set into one photo or series. If everything works out the result transcends everyone’s first ideas. Thanks to all the energy and effort.
Fault Magazine. Photography: Nicky Onderwater, Styling: Roel Schagen @Eric Elenbaas, Hair: Stef Ralbovsky @Annelies Tan, Make-up: Chiao-Li Hsu @House of Orange, Model: Karlijn @Paparazzi Models
What are the biggest challenges of working in fashion photography?
My biggest challenge would be to stay true to myself. Fashion changes all the time and the only constant factor in my work is me. You easily can get carried away in this world.
Hard working, be open to grow and develop, and make sure you surround yourself with people you connect with.
How do you get yourself inspired for a photo shoot?
This depends on having an assignment or a free work project. Inspiration comes for instance when I go to the theatre (I love modern dance) or to an exhibition. Sometimes clarity comes just when I read a phrase in a book or article. After that, ideas pop up the exact moment before I fall asleep. Every idea needs time to grow. When I feel the need to express this idea right away, I’ll organize a free work shooting. Some ideas stay in my head for a long time until it suddenly fits an assignment.
I also use Pinterest to find images that fit to my ideas. But I have to say that we live in a time where there is an overkill of images on the web and social media that is hard to filter.
What is your most memorable shoot you have ever done and why?
That would be a shoot for Bijenkorf last year. That day we worked in a studio with great model Karlijn from Paparazzi Models. But she was not the only model. She was posing with a cow and the cutest little piglets. I can tell you that after the shoot the studio was not white anymore because of the cow’s digestive system 😉
Something else: the (not) funny thing about fashion photography is that you have to shoot the winter collection in summertime and the summer collection in wintertime. Although I usually work indoors. I definitely remember the outdoor shoots when actually it was way too cold for the model to be in her short dress, brrr.
Capturing the moment – how do you know where you need to be for a particular shot?
This is a funny question, because my pictures are so very much staged, that it’s most of the time not the question where I am, but where my model is, and in what décor or situation she is in. Photographing is really intuitive work. Thereby I always want my models to be relaxed and that they feel comfortable. I want to have fun on set, but in the meanwhile make a great outstanding picture.
Fabric. Photography: Nicky Onderwater @Solar Initiative, Styling: Analik, Hair and Make-up: Vannessa Chan @House of Orange, Model: Sharon @Ulla Models/ID Model Management.
What photographers have influenced you to create your own style?
Looking at all the high fashion photographers made me truly eager to find my own style. They all have their own style and therefore they are respected. I am fascinated by Paolo Roversi. The way he works with his models really fit my point of view. Quote: “We all have a sort of mask of expression. You say goodbye, you smile, and you are scared. I try to take all these masks away and little by little subtract until you have something pure left. It looks like an absence, but in fact when there is this emptiness I think the interior beauty comes out. This is my technique.”
Concerning working with shapes, I love the way Ishi works.
How often do you step out of your comfort zone to be creative?
I never take a huge step out of my comfort zone. To me the small things matter. Working with a different type of model, another team, other lighting. Taking on an assignment which you wouldn’t think of yourself. It gives new input. You will rarely see me go on a spree.
If you could shoot anything/anyone/anywhere in the world – what/who/where would that be?
Guinevere van Seenus, naked, in the studio.
You could have anyone take your portrait, who is it and why?
Annemarieke van Drimmelen, she creates the perfect atmospheres on location. I would love to enter her world.
What kind of impact would you like to make in the fashion world in the next 10 years?
I would love to bring some stillness in this world.
ELLE NL. Photography: Nicky Onderwater @Solar Initiative, Styling: Esther Coppoolse, Hair: Elise Haman @NCL Representation, Make-up: Chiao-Li Hsu @House of Orange, Model: Elise A. @Paparazzi Models