Interview: Music Photographer Hans-Peter van Velthoven

Hans-Peter van Velthoven, pictured with Paul Weller and Kelly Jones (at Kelly's wedding)

Hans-Peter van Velthoven, pictured with Paul Weller and Kelly Jones (at Kelly’s wedding)

By Alex Williams 

Over the past year, I have been lucky enough to strike up conversation with music photographer Hans-Peter van Velthoven via Twitter. This on-line conversation led to a “money can’t buy” workshop for some of my students with Hans-Peter at a Stereophonics gig in November 2013.

Although Hans-Peter states that he is “average height for a Dutchman”, while standing at 6 foot 5 inches he is big in both presence and personality. With our conversations touching upon psychology, interpreting light and being able to develop a professional relationship with those you work with – Hans-Peter is clearly a person with experience, knowledge and a humanistic outlook in life and his passion: music photography.

With a portfolio covering top bands since the millennium, Hans-Peter has taken the time to answer a few questions on his experience, which I felt would be great for

So, Hans-Peter, how did you get started in music photography? My first gig was Tears for Fears in 1996. I’m a big fan of them, and I got myself a photo pass. I did not realise music photography was so contagious  :^)  It took a while to shoot more music…in 1999 I had the opportunity to shoot a festival in Nijmegen, Netherlands, that included bands such as Aerosmith, Lenny Kravitz and UB40.

Bono by Hans-Peter van Velthoven

Bono by Hans-Peter van Velthoven

It sounds like a great introduction into the world of music photography!  Do you think there has been a defining moment, or big break that propelled your career? I got pulled up on stage by Bono on the 3rd August 2001. Since then, everybody knew me  :^)

Wow! What an introduction! Do you think the music photography industry has changed since you began? Yes!!!  There are more “wannabes”. Their quality is poor. The artists reaction is “Put them at the front of house…” Years ago I decided to directly work with artists instead of magazines. It took me a while to get in touch with the right people, but when I got the chance – I grabbed it with both hands!!!

You’ve mentioned that you work directly with the artists – who do you shoot for? Stereophonics, MUSE, Pogues and several Dutch bands.

MUSE by Hans-Peter van Velthoven

MUSE by Hans-Peter van Velthoven

Stereophonics by Hans-Peter van Velthoven

Stereophonics by Hans-Peter van Velthoven

Looking through your portfolio, you have clearly developed your own style within music photography. Do any photographers or artists inform or inspire you? “Disfarmer” is a big inspiration for me, also “Helmut Newton”. But, the boy or girl next door who shows me their portfolio could also be a big inspiration!!!

How have you developed your own style in photography? I try to get as close as I can to my ideal picture… It’s not always possible. Inspire yourself with working under different circumstances – this will improve skills!

What equipment do you use to capture your images? 85mm f1.2, 35mm f1.4, 24mm f1.4, 15mm f2.8, Canon EOS1 DS MK3, EOS5 MK3.  In the future I’ll be working with Sony – as I have acquired sponsorship  :^)

With over a decade in the industry, there must be a favourite photograph that you have captured? Yes – Bono, who is doing the bull-act only for me!!!

Bono by Hans-Peter van Velthoven

Bono by Hans-Peter van Velthoven

You play the guitar and you’re a keen musician – do you think that helps to “read” the actions and impulses that occur on stage? Absolutely – You listen through the ears of a musician, and you look through the eyes of a photographer!

Do you feel your portrait and documentary photography skills and knowledge improve your skills within the photo pit? No… I think that live-photography is one of the hardest skills in photography. It’s very important to get as much experience as you can.  This means you have got your gear under control.  But a live-shoot is more than that! When you show your friends a live shot of Bono, Dave Grohl or Kelly Jones, when the picture is nicely coloured and focused – they think it’s a good shot! But unfortunately that’s not the case!!! It needs a certain message – a unique interpretation of the photographer!!!

Rammstein by Hans-Peter van Velthoven

Rammstein by Hans-Peter van Velthoven

Do you have any advice for those photographers with access for the first 3 songs, rather than AAA and shooting throughout the gig? Dare to give yourself a minute to see what is really going on, instead of starting to shoot without seeing the whole picture. Try not to go where your colleagues are… :^)

Hans-Peter, you have achieved a great deal throughout your career. What are your aims and aspirations for the future? My aims… hahahahaha… trying harder, getting better, yet stay the same person :^) Expand my field of work, and never ever think “You’ve got it made”!!!!

You can find more of Hans-Peter’s work on his website and he is also on Twitter

Do not use these images without the correct permissions.

Big thanks go to Alex Williams for writing this for us – and of course thanks to Hans-Peter for his time and photos.

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