Deborah De Graaf
Deborah de Graaf has been into photography for as long as she can remember. Long hours were spent in darkrooms, developing and printing black and white. Now she shoots weddings, along with her husband. "Its nice to do something we love together. Otherwise it might be a lot of lonely weekends"
Where are you based?
My husband Dave and I are based in the beautiful city of Auckland.
How long have you been a photographer?
I have been photographing for as long as I can remember, with many a fond hour spent in the school darkroom developing black and white film and prints. However it is only in recent years that I am making the move towards more full time photography. Dave and I shoot as team and we love being able to do something we love, together. Otherwise it might mean a lot of lonely weekends!
Tell us a little about your style of photography.
We really enjoy the story telling element of photography, so a lot of our approach is based on that. We love capturing the natural and spontaneous moments in life, the emotion, beauty and struggles. But we also love creating timeless images that reflect the uniqueness of a person or situation especially if it is a bit quirky!
What gear do you use?
We both shoot on Canon 5D II's and swap out our lenses between us. My favourite would be our 50mm f1.2, if I was to shoot with only one lens it would be this one, love this lens! We also shoot with the 85mm f1.2, the 135mm f2.0, the 16-35mm f2.8, and next on our wish list, the 24mm f1.4!
What is/has been your greatest challenge as a photographer?
Probably trying to find the work / life balance.. I love what I do, so work can easily merge into non-work time. Still trying to figure out what that looks like, but getting closer, I think! Similarly, trying to work on the business, not just in the business.
What do you feel has been your greatest photographic achievement to date?
I don't know if I could put it to one particular achievement, however when people have an emotional connection or they are somehow inspired or motivated by one of my photographs then I feel a great sense of achievement.
If not a photographer, where would you see yourself?
If I weren't photographing, I would continue on with Graphic Design or maybe be a painter! Otherwise I would love to learn more about using art as therapy, particularly in contexts where people would not normally have access to that type of resource.
If the chance arose, who or what would you most like to photograph?
We love travelling, in particular to developing countries and off the beaten track. Photography has already given us the opportunity to meet and photograph some amazing, beautiful people, often courageously living in desperate situations. So really it would be to continue to sit with people, photograph and tell their story, whether they are in remote villages, urban suburbs or city slums.
What tips or advice do you have for budding photographers?
Be you, do what you love and try not to compare yourself to others or their styles. We have also found it beneficial being connected with a community of like-minded photographers. But, we still consider ourselves budding photographers so if you have any tips let us know!
Has the advent of digital been beneficial or detrimental to professional photographers?
I really love shooting digital and the ability that it gives you to review and adjust a photograph instantly and I have found it has given me more confidence to experiment. Overall I feel it has given a lot more possibilities to photography, but on the flip side there is still something special about film and because of this, I don't think the art of that will be lost.
Can you see clients moving from stills to video, with the advent of HD video capabilities in digital SLRs?
We definitely are seeing more video, and Dave in particularly is really enjoying learning what our cameras are capable of. But I still think that there is something really timeless and pure about a photograph that will never change.
Are you a fan of using flash in your work?
We do use flash, but is generally more when we have to. We much prefer using natural light where possible.
If you can change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Probably the disconnection between the need and the resource. The need being - People under any form of injustice. The resource being - People with the ability to make a difference. We have seen the huge difference it makes, for both parties, when these two are connected.
What do you do to get away from the grind/to de-stress when things get too hectic?
Get out into nature! Go for a walk, a meal with friends and family, going and having a good old chat over coffee!
Who has been your greatest influence / role model?
Susie Childers definitely opened my eyes to the possibilities of photography to make a positive difference. She takes beautiful portraits that celebrate the value and worth inherent in each person, influencing now how I approach photographing people. Jan Schlegel is an inspiration with his portraits of diverse people groups and tribes. Using a medium format film camera and hand developing and toning produces striking and unique images. He inspires me to continue to think of photography as an art and to strive for excellence. Jan and Susi both willingly and openly share their expertise and are such an encouragement to talk with. I also love Jasmine Star's work and her personal and open approach when it comes to her photography and business. Media Strom produces some amazing work and I love their ability to tell a story in a compelling and polished way.
Check out Deborah's website