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Anne Ku at Ilp in May 2001
Anne Ku writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page. She has written and produced two chamber operas, premiered in Utrecht, Netherlands. See her publication list for more.
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Bon Journal

Humphrey Daniels, photographer

Utrecht-based photographer Humphrey Daniels looks and moves like someone half his age. That is, if you notice him steering his camera among the crowd as I had last October. At the “Diversity of Talents” Expert Meeting in central Utrecht, the half-Surinamese local resident captured conference participants in discussion and debate. I was curious if he had caught me on candid camera.

“Are you hired to take photos here?” I asked him at the post-conference drinks in the Hofman Cafe. In other words, was he a professional photographer? And if so, was he self-employed?

He revealed that he had previously worked as an electronics engineer for 15 years before taking the plunge to become a freelance photographer.

“It was the best thing I ever did,” he said. “The best day of my life.”

“To quit your job and work for yourself? But, how do you get your work?”

“By word of mouth.”

Diversity of Talent Expert Meeting, Utrecht by Humphrey Daniels
Diversity of Talent Expert Meeting, Utrecht 27 October 2008 Photo: Humphrey Daniels

To me, it seems a highly uncertain way to live. Only very established professionals can afford to rely on word of mouth. Either he is extremely good at what he does or he has a side income. He admitted that he has also been working as a DJ for the past 30 years. But he has been a photographer for nearly half that time.

At the age of 16, Humphrey bought his first camera. Taking pictures was a hobby until he decided to study it part-time for 3.5 years during his last job as engineer. He specialises in portraits, in a large portfolio which also includes still-life, fashion, and cities. His shots of New York and Dublin are on exhibition in Schiedam until end February 2009.

“We need new photos for 2009.” I told him about my piano guitar duo. I invited him to visit our web site to see the press photographs. “Our repertoire has expanded greatly in the last 7 years. We could always use new poses against new backgrounds to reflect that.”

My guitar partner and I have had many photo sessions with both professional and amateur photographers, in a number of settings. We have even tried drinking alcohol beforehand to appear more relaxed. Only one was taken after a concert (by a fellow composer.) The rest were “posed.”  I suggested that the best time to capture us was after a concert, but we’ve not yet tried a photo session.

We arranged to meet at our duo concert in an old monastic church in the village of Warmond. Humphrey arrived early to see us warm up and give the one hour concert. Afterwards, he spent nearly half an hour setting up. He had brought a lot of lighting and flash equipment to give the church the boost it needed. I had never seen so much work in set up or adjustment for the right lighting. There were only three poses, yet it took nearly two hours to run the photo shoot.

Humphrey checked the lighting carefully. He tried to make me laugh by making faces. Between shoots, he asked us to check the big computer screen for the digital output. His attention to detail showed in the way he asked us to move our hand positions, if only slightly to the right or left. He was also keen on customer satisfaction by asking for our input and feedback. It was a constant adjustment of lights, posture, facial expression, and checking for the right balance.

“You don’t say much, do you?” I asked Humphrey, a few weeks later when he showed us the colourful results.

“What is there to say?” he replied. “A photo is worth a thousand words.”

Indeed, if you can capture that magic moment in a timeless photo, Humphrey Daniels is worth every portrait. We selected five press photos for our website and hope they will bring us timeless opportunities to share our music.

Anne Ku and Robert Bekkers, Warmond, Nov 2008
Anne Ku and Robert Bekkers in Warmond. Photo: Humphrey Daniels

Anne Ku playing Chopin while Humphrey Daniels is packing up in Warmond

13 January 2009

Related links:
Humphrey Daniels
official website
Piano Guitar Duo
official website
Diversity of Talents expert meeting
Yet another photo shoot,
Bon Journal entry