“The unique features for me in this kind of photography are the way you can tell a story with light, color, and lines. For me, the key to master it was and is all about my love and passion for making images/art”
Gemmy is a Dutch artist. After she graduated as Goldsmith, she studied Multimedia design. In March 2016, she started photography, it changed her life. Attracted to the light, composition, and use of color used by painters of the golden age, her great passion for painting and drawing was recovered in photography. Every photo is created with a huge investment in good preparation (sketches, story, and mood boards). Carefully chosen color schemes within, for example, styling, set, mood, and makeup, all these ingredients make the story within the frame cohesive. This, combined with the love for humans and a strong creative urge, creates staged portraits in storytelling themes.
Born mid-seventies, Gemmy is a mother of 5 kids, an autodidact, but most of all, a sensitive and caring artist with a never-ending creative urge.
Tell us about the development process that culminated in the artist you are today.
From an early age, I drew and painted a lot, I was always busy creating.
Sewing clothes, gluing boxes together to build a house, creating was just as important to me as it is now. I’m a graduated goldsmith, work in the multimedia design in the early days of the internet, and kept on being creative also while starting a family.
After a few years, things changed in my personal life, a breakup, a new home, and a new life, physically I got some issues, and I gave up painting. At that point, I had to reinvent my life.
Now almost 4 years ago I bought a camera and started experimenting with that, it wasn’t love at first sight, and I almost gave up photography. I followed a fine-art workshop, and that’s what really changed everything!
All the things I’ve been doing fell in place. I could use a camera to paint, I could craft with a purpose, and I could be nerdy behind the computer to edit. That day I really found my passion.
What is your main source of inspiration?
I’m fascinated by people, how they all have their unique expression and beauty. This, with the combination with my love for art and light usage - especially by the old masters - is my primary source of inspiration.
You are a truly multifaceted individual, with a background in multimedia design. How does this diverse experience contribute to your art?
I’m really happy that I can enjoy the making of, for example, costumes, crafting props or collecting and planning ideas for a shoot as much as the actual shoot itself. I think all these parts are things I’ve learned along the way and are now very valuable for making an artwork.
In your “Expected Standards” personal project, you magically bring up this absurd pressure to fit within expected standards, forgetting that being ourselves is more important in this life. From the start to the end, how did you develop this idea? If possible tell us about the challenges and satisfactions that you encounter in the process.
The idea for the project was something that was on my mind for a long time. Surrounded by teenagers (and adults) so obsessed with their looks, worries if they fit in. Also, the huge pressure that brings starting at a very young age. Everyone is daily surrounded by and confronted with the sometimes absurd pressure to fit within expected standards. Forgetting that being satisfied with who you are and finding your passion is way more important in this life.
I was mesmerized by the intense beauty of Melanie Gaydos, she was for me the perfect ambassador for this project. It was in my head for a long time, so it was all visualized in front, but the actual shooting came a bit earlier and more unexpected than planned.
Within a week I had to collect the props to build the set, arrange the costume, the planning (shortlist, etc) and finalize the ideas. It was hard-working, sleepless nights, and stressful, but it was magical to see everything in place that day and tell exactly the story I wanted.
Rembrandt was without a doubt an early master of light and shadow in portrait painting. The edition of your images tends to have the same style. How do you achieve this similar style in photography?
The base setup for all of my images is a Rembrandt light setup. I’m not comparing myself with Rembrandt, but I do like the drama in the usage of shadows and light from the old masters.
The contrast between those two, in combination with layering thin layers of color, tells the story. Maybe that is a thing that is similar to old masters’ paintings.
What are the technical challenges of this kind of photography and how did you overcome them?
The most important thing for me is the light. You really have to learn to take that seriously. This is the reason why I spend a lot of time getting it perfect in every shoot. On the contrary, when this is ready, the actual shooting doesn’t take that much time.
Your commercial projects require an important photography production, including the use of assistants, models, etc. Some photographers find coordinating their work with many other persons challenging. How would you describe yourself in this role?
Commercial projects are always about making a good plan. The more people on set, the more chaotic and complex things sometimes get.
Everybody has their interests and priorities. This sometimes makes people forget that they are working in a group for the same goal. The crowdedness makes me sometimes spend time alone in the studio to just shoot some simple still lives, to destress and get zen again.
As the expert you are, what are the unique features of this kind of photography and the keys to master it?
The unique features for me in this kind of photography are the way you can tell a story with light, color, and lines. For me, the key to master it was and is all about my love and passion for making images/art.
I’ve sacrificed a lot, almost entirely stepped out of my social life and dived in deep to make all the information that I could find my own.
I spend 14 hours a day, seven days a week at this obsessive passion. Sometimes it’s hard, and a lot of struggling, but it does give me a fulfilling feeling being able to create, tell a story and share it with a lot of people.
What is the secret for an image to become unforgettable?
I don’t know if I know the secret for an image to become unforgettable, but for me, an image has to stop me, has to make me wonder, make me curious, must be mysterious and give me the feeling I need to know more about it.
What should we expect from Gemmy Woud-Binnendijk in the near future?
I hope I can realize a few ideas I’m working on into personal projects in the near future and share the passion I have for the making of images.