Come Create w/ Sophie Hemels

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Skandl’s Come Create interview series is your gateway to insider knowledge from creatives in careers ranging from directing to graphic design.

We’re a branding and communications agency, and we’ve selected the interviewees for this series based on our admiration for their work and attitude, in order for them to talk about their field and their experiences.

This time we hear from Sophie Hemels [https://www.sophiehemels.com/], a photographer and videographer who has shot editorials for i-D and Posterboy, and has worked on commercial projects with Nike, The New Originals, Diesel and adidas Originals. 

I would say the Smart EQ campaign that I did recently demonstrates my style quite well. It’s all about freedom, youth, edginess and a certain rawness. I like it when it feels very personal and in-your-face, like a group of people you want to hang out with and who make simple acts look so cool. As well, my personal series depicting kissing youngsters also describes my style very well. It’s all these real couples whom I shoot kissing in their own environment – often at home – and I love that the images are so intimate and intruding. It really shows love instead of lust and love has always been – and probably always will be – my biggest form of inspiration. 

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I’m self-taught. I started on a Nikon FM2 and am still going strong with that one. I did ballet academy and when I was 18 and finished there all I wanted was to live a life and explore what was out there besides ballet and that’s how I started taking pictures. First I took photos of myself in my bedroom to practice, then of friends, and then slowly more and more out of my comfort zone. 

I mainly shoot on 35mm film and either on a Nikon FM2 or on disposable cameras, they’re the best! I did some pretty big jobs on those and no camera can beat them. I also shoot digital sometimes when clients want 50/50 on set, but since I don’t know how to photoshop I always just stick to the simple film. plus, film looks so so much better.

My advice for people wanting to develop their own style is: delete your Instagram, put on your favorite music, and shoot whatever they like or find fascinating. Don’t think of what is ‘cool’ or ‘in’, but I also know how hard that is because we are all so brainwashed by a few particular styles that we see on Instagram every day, and we automatically internalize that. But I started shooting whatever I could see in my bedroom or while walking on the beach (luckily when there was no Instagram, though there was Blogpost, which really influenced my style). I shot pictures of my books and my trash just because I wanted to. I never did something with those images but you gotta make miles, you have to find what you like and what resonates with you simply by trying. And style always develops so this is an ongoing process. 

I don’t believe that keeping up with industry trends is important. You will maybe get a few more projects if you are always giving clients what they want to see but I believe you will also be tossed out quite soon because in the end we all (including the clients and art directors) look at those who are different and unique and who don’t compromise. But this is difficult line because I believe it is easier to stick to your own true style if you are already at a certain level – simply because you can do crazier things and people still think you are legit – and when you’re not on the higher level yet it is harder to get picked up in the first place. But still, always stick to your own style cause you are truly selling your soul if you are “being creative” while it’s actually not you. That’s my opinion.

I listen to a lot of podcasts, read a lot of books, I’m even doing two studies at the moment, but nothing is related to the creative industry. I tend to shy away from “creative industry” content as much as possible in order to keep myself fresh and original. The more I listen/read/look at other photographers/filmmakers/etc. the more they influence my style, and I’d rather be influenced by a piece of fruit I see at the supermarket or a book about fertility or something. There are other people in the industry who inspire me however. Xavier Dolan, Nadia Lee Cohen, Mees Peijnenburg, Lena Dunham, Sam de Jong, Tyrone LeBon, Wes Anderson, Tim Walker, many more. 

An online portfolio is very important in my opinion. The way you show your work really helps to tell what your style is. And the online world is where you and jobs are found nowadays. Instagram has been the best place for me to get work through.

Alongside very screen-oriented work, have something on the side that is “in the real world”. It’s nice for the head!

It’s really difficult to suggest how to deal with feedback, because it’s so different for everybody. I would say: know what is valuable feedback and what is unhelpful criticism, and find your own ways of dealing with those two.