There is beauty in everything

A conversation with Robert-Paul Jansen

Mattebox Master

Robert-Paul Jansen seems to have perfected a landscape photography style that feels casual yet considered. He possesses an incredible eye for detail and a keen sensitivity to his surroundings in the south of the Netherlands. Like Monet with his haystacks, Jansen returns to some subjects multiple times per year, observing as the seasons reshape them.

Although he first gained recognition for his outstanding iPhone photography, Jansen also shoots with a Canon 6D. I recently chatted with Robert-Paul Jansen for the first in this series of interviews, Mattebox Masters. All photos have been processed with Mattebox.

Ben Syverson: How did you get started with photography?

Robert-Paul: The real explosion started a few years ago. The worldwide financial crisis started to get bigger and bigger, and it was affecting the housing market I work in. Getting out there and being all alone in nature helped me release the tension. In those hours, I could focus completely on getting the right photo. At the time I was using an iPhone 3G, which made me work hard to get the photo just right.

But really, I have always been fascinated with photography. When I lived in Paris, I used to buy these B&W disposable cameras and shoot during the day. I have had Polaroids, the Sony Mavica (with floppy disks!) and a few point and shoots.

What is your process? Do you ever leave the house with a particular shot in mind?

Sure I do! Most of the time, I go out on Sunday morning with my bike to take photos. 90% of my photos are taken within a five minute bike ride from my house. I’ll check the weather on the iPhone the night before, so I know what to expect (sun, humidity, visibility, etc) and choose my location for the day after.

With the location, I also think about what sort of photos I want to take. Reflections in the river, tall trees in the forest, fields… They all have their own pros and cons and ideal weather conditions, and the seasons change them on a daily basis. Sometimes I’m lucky, sometimes not.

You often return to the same subject, but it never feels repetitive. How do you keep a fresh eye when shooting something for the 10th (or 100th) time?

Ha! Well, I probably have shot some places more than 100 times. I never get bored, because of changes in the light and seasons. Trees get leaves, then lose them; fields change after the harvest. That’s one of the things I have learned: there is beauty in everything, and nothing is ever the same. Sometimes I get another photo just by processing differently, or switching to my Canon or iPhone. There is no need to fly around the world to get beautiful photos.

Some people will say “That’s easy for you to say. You live somewhere beautiful.”

I really do believe beauty is everywhere. I don’t live in an exceptionally beautiful place, and I didn’t see its beauty before I started to go out with my camera and really pay attention to it. Most of the time, beauty is in the smallest things around you. I’m so much more observant now; I see the smallest details. It also helps to change perspective. Look up, or get down on your knees, or simply change the route you walk every day. You’ll notice things you never saw before.

What other advice would you give to someone just getting into photography?

If you’re just getting started, pick one camera and lens, and stick with it. Using the iPhone helped me a lot. Because of its limitations, I had to push myself (and the camera) further. The iPhone is perfect for this. I learned how to deal with light conditions and compose a shot. I just went out on a regular basis and shot a lot in various circumstances. If you do this, and you look at other work, you’ll discover what you like, and begin to create your own identity.

It seems to have worked well for you—you’ve built up an extensive following online. What’s next for you?

Well, I really don’t think it’s about followers or “likes.” That would be no fun at all! Of course I like a good interaction with someone, and I love being inspired by Andrew Smith (Cuba Gallery), Chris Ozer or anyone else. I have met some great people online whom I really consider my friends—like Dirk Dallas, Paul Pride, Daniel Berman and many, many others.

But I’m learning every day, and I’m just at the beginning of my journey. The best moments are still the times when I go out and shoot; enjoy my surroundings, just as it started. So I hope those moments will just keep coming!

Robert-Paul Jansen’s work has been exhibited all over the world. His stock photography is available on the artist-run Stocksy United, and prints are available through his own site.

All photos © Copyright 2013, Robert-Paul Jansen.