This was an interview I had with After5 Magazine, a new online art magazine in Kenya. I recommend you read the full issue (and their other ones) as it is truly enjoyable to look at, and a pretty new concept for Kenya. (See the full issue (with pictures!) here)
1. please tell us a bit about melissa de blok?
Hmm. A lot to say, I'm a woman of many, many, many words. Sometimes too many. I'm a thinker, and a dreamer. I see a deeper meaning in everything I come across in the Universe. Everything I do is directly related to creating (my main passion, apart from photography, is singing/songwriting under the stage name of Zubi d'Nova) - writing, cooking, silly inventions... I do it all. My main goal is to inspire and open minds. Oh, and I'm Kenyan. In everything I do, I'm Kenyan to the core and will always represent my home. Kenya made me who I am, and I want to give back.
2. what does the act of photography mean to you?
I believe in capturing and then changing reality, in such a way that you end up seeing how beautiful reality REALLY is.
3. a lot of your work is quite commercial, is this a career path for you or just a passion ?
Yes and no. I would love to do commercial work as a career as it is a challenge I have given myself, but my main passion is portraiture, macro, and conceptual imagery.
4. what would be your high point as a photographer? do you have any goals in mind that you would like to reach as an artist?
My high point as a photographer would be to know that my work has inspired other photographers, or people in general. I'd like to be published for my fashion, too, as well as work with some fashion designers whose work I adore. As for goals, I really want my skills to reach my imagination. I started photography after my ideas as a model weren't portrayed the way I'd imagined them. I have so many conceptual ideas with very deep messages, and I can't wait to start these projects. I have some controversial opinions, and I plan to express these in my work.
5. what influences your work and what drives you to keep pushing for that perfect shot?
Growth. I want to grow and see how far I can go. I want to see what the limits are, learn them and know them, then jump over them. I'm far from being an expert and still consider myself an amateur - I suppose this is my driving force. Also, just knowing the fact that I'm creating is enough for me to keep going with it.
6. your work can be considered as quite editorial, is this on purpose? do you ever try to convey a certain message when you shoot your subjects?
Honestly speaking, it's my intuition that drives my shooting, my lighting, and my editing. I write songs in exactly the same way. I don't know how I know, but I somehow know what "fits", and I don't question this gut feeling - it's worked for me so far. So no, there is no deliberate decision to make it look a certain way. I sometimes feel this is my flaw; I do not have a specific style as I just do what feels right for each particular situation. As for a message, nothing more than that each person has beautiful parts that, when accentuated, become more obvious to the world. I like to think of myself as a person with vision in a world full of blind people, and that it is my job to open people's eyes to the fact that everyone is naturally beautiful. This is why I hate photo-shopping skin to the point of not seeing pores. I cannot stand the 5-minute treatment some photographers give skin. Sure, you look like a barbie doll, but it's no longer YOU. When I photoshop, there have to be pores or I'll be unhappy, haha!
7. there is such power and affect when it comes to portraits, how do you perceive the work of portraiture ?
Portraiture is my favourite genre precisely for this reason. The eyes are truly the windows to the soul, and I love capturing the vulnerability and essence of a person in their truest form. Apparently people feel comfortable with me to let down their guard, and this is something I'm very grateful for. I feel that, without many people realising it, a portrait session is a spiritually revealing and psychologically healing experience when done correctly.
8. what do you feel bridges the gap between photography being a passion to it being a profession ?
In general terms, money. If someone is willing to pay you, then that makes this your job. However, I also feel that actively taking steps to grow constantly in your craft, is what makes the difference between a hobbyist and a true professional. The moment one feels one is "the best" they can be, the only road is downhill. Humility is something I see in top professionals in every field.
9. one final question - what do you do "after 5" (after 5pm?)
Watch more TV than I should :D From Fringe to Chowder, Pushing Daisies to FireFly, Adventure Time to House... As an artist, I cannot help but appreciate other art forms, and my interest in singing, writing and acting, means that I have a lot of material to look at for inspiration. Yes, even Chowder... Again, I see a deeper meaning in everything; the manner in which adult jokes have been subtly woven into some of these cartoons entertains me to no end.