Take one look at Daan’s body of work and it’s evident he’s someone who can craft a captivating image on screen. Based in The Netherlands, his approach to his process is both familiar and extrinsic, striking the balance between heavy preparation while allowing room to find a rhythm in the moment while on set. This conscious approach and consideration is a reflection of Daan’s true nature as not only an imagemaker, but a as storyteller.
What do you enjoy most about your process of making images?
The early stages of a production, when the visual ideas have yet to be conceived, is where I get most excited as a creator. I also think this is the most beautiful process of making art; coming up with something that is not there yet. It’s a process in which I always allow myself to be vulnerable and to fully trust my intuition, purely to allow the true nature of me as a maker to emerge. In addition to this trust in myself, coming up with something new always brings a certain creative tension. For me, it is a trade-off between trusting my gut but also questioning whether I have made the most of the script and ideas. In this process, I always try to put it in the bigger picture, to find out for myself if the ideas together form a whole. For me, the overall visual atmosphere in which the story is told is perhaps most important.
"I think this is the most beautiful process of making art; coming up with something that is not there yet. It’s a process in which I always allow myself to be vulnerable and to fully trust my intuition, purely to allow the true nature of me as a maker to emerge."
As a DOP, I like to be involved in the initial process of production as early as possible. Even before the director has written the script. Purely to be able to think visually about the first ideas that are already there and to inspire each other in this.
Besides everything you have thought of and preconceived in advance, it can sometimes be that you are on set and think: ‘I am going to do it differently than I had thought.’ I always want to approach my work with this attitude, because creativity is a feeling and your feelings can sometimes change - even on set. You see things develop and think: this way works better. I always try to keep an open mind while on set. I never want my work to feel too contrived, but rather come across as real and pure, and this type of approach helps with that.
How does being a cinematographer influence how you go about your day to day life?
As a cinematographer, I think it's important to be as flexible as possible. I also think this is part of the job. When you get a job, sometimes other things have to give way. In that way, it affects my daily life. Especially at the beginning of my career, I think it's important to go into it with an open mind. To take every opportunity when it is a job that suits me as a creator.
" ...to discover how certain light situations arise and what I can take from that in terms of inspiration for my own work."
In addition, living as DOP has meaning and influence in a deeper way, namely how I look at the world and its beauty. This, of course, is something many visual creators can relate to. Things that inspire you consciously and subconsciously. Think about looking at light. This has always fascinated me and I also see this as a kind of exercise for the eye, to discover how certain light situations arise and what I can take from that in terms of inspiration for my own work.
Screengrabs from BAMIGO spot
How do you enrich and add layers to your images in a way that helps enhance the way your work is received by an audience?
I find the location one of the most important elements when it comes to enhancing the viewer's experience, because it is very decisive for the atmosphere. You can really take the viewer into another world for a moment, whether it's a thirty-second commercial or a ninety-minute film.
I shot a TV commercial for the clothing brand Bamigo (link here). It has a very aesthetic, clean and minimalist location with a lot of interesting shapes and depths. What I think was cool about that place is that, as a viewer, you can't necessarily orient yourself with where it takes place because it feels almost unrealistic. It almost leans towards a certain kind of surrealism in that sense. I tried to instill this feeling even more in the image by working with literally a "floaty" image style.
What kind of feelings or emotions do you hope your work evokes?
In images, whether photography or cinematography, the purity and authenticity of the world has always fascinated me the most. Work by creators who have inspired me in this are photographers Stephan Vanfleteren and Harry Gruyaert. Their work puts you back on earth for a moment and, in my opinion, makes you look at the essence of the world and human existence. I hope to evoke exactly this with my work as well, to make my visual narratives as tangible and realistic as possible for the viewer.
In addition, I always look for the challenge to show the world in a different way with my images. I always take it as a compliment when people say to me, "How interesting that you look at it that way.” This is mainly also why the work of other creators inspires and fascinates me, because of the way they look at the world.
The greater film community is inspiring and supportive of so many types of work, but how does the film scene in the Netherlands help define you and your approach to cinematography?
The film scene in the Netherlands is not very big, but it is very accessible. This is precisely why it offers quicker opportunities for people who want to work in the film world. It’s a very open world and that makes it fun. Every now and then I meet people from the film world who inspire me and want to share their experiences with me. Because it is such an open community, it is very easy to approach people. I am also an associated member of the Netherlands Society of Cinematographers. They occasionally organize events where DOP's can meet and connect with each other.
"The creative power of knowing how to tell stories and convey atmosphere with images is, in my opinion, the most important thing to possess as an imagemaker."
There are plenty of creators in the Netherlands who have inspired me and helped me with my career as a Director of Photography. But there is one person who inspired me the most and made me look at films differently and that is Robby Müller. His way of looking, creating compositions of both moving images and photography inspires me greatly. The atmosphere he manages to capture in his work attracts me as a viewer and takes you to another world. That creative power of how he knows how to tell stories and convey atmosphere with images is, in my opinion, the most important thing to possess as an imagemaker.