Ramona Deckers is an Amsterdam based photographer focussing on portrait, lifestyle and fashion photography. She specialises in film and polaroid and develops her own black-and-white film rolls. At the same time she enjoys the speed and precision of digital photography and feels equally at home in both worlds. Her photographs of her friends are raw, emotive and lay bare private moments. Their trust allows her to get close and reach a level of intimacy, honesty and realism that would be much more difficult to achieve with random strangers. It opens the door to a beauty of the natural kind. The chemistry between subject and photographer, one of the most important aspects of shooting candid portraits, is already established.
KALTBLUT: Do you prefer to work freely or do commissioned stuff? How are they different to you?
Ramona: I mostly work freely, I make up my own projects. Luckily, when commissioned for knowing what I do, people trust my artistic judgment. However, as a starting photographer you take on (any photography related) jobs that are slightly more commercial for instance. There lies the challenge. Here you are the professional. You show that you master the craft. When I make free work, I fool around with camera and lighting etc., less pressure on taking a perfect picture; it’s the artist vs. the professional. Sometimes I need these straightforward commercial assignments to know where I stand as a photographer, simultaneously inspiring me to make more art!
KALTBLUT: Do you remember how you discovered photography?
Ramona: I’ve been exposed to photography at a very young age, mostly dancing in front of the camera. As a child I walked around with a camera because of my cousin. We were both obsessed with Madonna (yes, he’s gay) and he would make the clothes from the video clips for me on his sewing machine. I would pose and he took pictures. You can say that at a very young age we were already experimenting with film cameras. We were so excited going to the film shop picking up the results. What triggered me specifically was that book that came out, S.E.X., written by Madonna (this was 1992, I was 10), with beautiful pictures by renowned photographers (Steven Meisel amongst others). It came wrapped in beautiful aluminium paper, so exciting and very provocative. Only three years ago I took up my old cameras again and started shooting, for real. During my MA course fashion journalism in London I knew I was more interested in the image rather than the letter. Great life lesson! I moved back to Amsterdam and slowly started photographing friends and friends of friends.
KALTBLUT: Why do you still choose film over digital?
Ramona: I choose to work with film because of the quality, the colour tones and the surprise element. Working with film also slows you down. I need that. And there’s just more variation: 35mm, medium format and large format, instant film — all equally interesting and quirky. Black and white film is so beautiful; the grain, the hair and dust particles… Do I need to say more? Working with film is working with your hands, getting dirty. Developing film in the darkroom, printing in a darkroom, manipulating film feels like making art and mastering a craft; something authentic and tangible.
Ramona: I recently started the Girls at home in Amsterdam project. Would love to take this one on the road and spend a month or so in cities such as New York, Melbourne, Tehran, Tokyo, Addis Ababa, what have you, and photograph powerful women in their own natural habitat. That would be an amazing project. I also would like to collaborate with other photographers, art directors and do something bigger…what, I don’t know (yet). Be part of a collective and create a movement. Being a photographer can be solitary, which I like, but it’s also fun to collaborate, inspire and learn from others.