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Written by Karina Zharmukhambetova

'The Class of 1998' for Self Service Magazine

For our next interview, we met with nobody less than the very down-to-earth, but nonetheless amazing Dutch photography duo Blommers & Schumm. We sat down at their studio in Amsterdam—accompanied by their lovely dogs Mitty and Louis—and talked about how they ended up being one of the most respected photographers in fashion and beyond. They explained how they had no clue when coming into the fashion industry, who or what Prada and Comme des Garçons stood for. How they rolled from one opportunity into the other while involving their friends and family in their projects, and how staying true to themselves has always been their one and only go-to-strategy. 


Anuschka Blommers and Niels Schumm both graduated from Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, Niels in 1995 and Anuschka in 1996. This is where they ran into each other and where their journey as a team continued ever since. They are known for their strong, distinctive work be it fashion, portraits or still-lives. When Jop van Bennekom from Fantastic Man, then studying at the Jan Van Eijck Academy, invited Anuschka to collaborate on his Re-Magazine, the ball started rolling. Next, Viktor & Rolf approached Niels & Anuschka to shoot for Purple Magazine and before they knew it Self Service requested the duo to shoot one of the most notable portrait series up until this day: ‘the class of 1998’, where (mostly) beginning models were shot with peculiar hairstyles, in Veronique Branquinho pieces. This series became a part of the book Anita and 124 other portraits, a collection of their work between 1996 and 2006.


By now Blommers & Schumm have worked for numerous magazines and designers like Raf Simons, Dazed & Confused, AnOther Mag, Buffalo Zine and the list goes on. Apart from being established fashion photographers—which was never in instance the plan to become—they’ve also managed to take up space in the art scene. What distinguishes them is their playfulness, while also making sure to incorporate some curious elements that grab, and hold your attention. They like to poke the viewer and experiment with perspectives and proportions, to an extent that you might even be confused about what it is that you’re looking at. In this interview we discussed some of the works that they have exhibited during their solo show ‘Delusions’ in Ravenstein Gallery in 2013. Other national and international museums where they have displayed their work are Maison Européenne (Paris), Institut Néerlandais (Paris), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam) and Groninger Museum (Groningen), just to name a few. 


It was a wonderful conversation with many laughs and insights. Thank you Anuschka & Niels for your honest answers, it’s been a real pleasure. Read everything on their journey in this interview and discover their thoughts on AI within photography, how they sang with Björk on their most memorable shoot, and how they are working on a new book for this year. Enjoy reading!

"We were quite naive stepping into this whole fashion world. We were coming from an art school and you always had the idea of becoming an artist. We didn’t envision things for us to go like that." 

What did you want to become when you were a child? Did you have a dream job or profession?  


Niels: I wanted to become an industrial designer but there was a numerus fixus/clausus—a fixed number of students that were allowed in—so I had to choose something else and went for architecture.


Did this come from a specific place or did somebody influence you?


Niels: My father was in the building industry and I thought: “Oh, maybe that’s nice.” So I went and studied architecture, but I quit. It took too long for me.  


What about the studies, did you like them?


Niels: The studies in itself were interesting, but I think the process of designing and building a house or a building is too extensive for me. So definitive as well. I know architects for example that won't cycle through the street where they build an apartment building. They're done with it afterwards, I think every architect has that. 


Anuschka: No, not all of them… Some love it. They're like: "I made this." (laughs) 


Niels: That’s the other part, yes. (laughs)


What about you, Anuschka? Did you have any dream job as a child? 


Anuschka: I wanted to become a vet and take care of pets actually. That was the first thing I had in mind. But you’re still a child of course. Afterwards you change and grow, and discover that there are so many more options.


Niels: Exactly, I think it was the same for me. I probably also wanted to become a doctor or something, before I thought of becoming an industrial designer.


Life can go so many ways. What about your growing up? Are you both from Amsterdam or from somewhere else in the Netherlands?


Anuschka: I’m from the suburbs. I grew up in Purmerend, it’s like 20km from Amsterdam. Let’s say a half an hour drive. Niels is from the other side, he’s from the East.


Niels: Indeed, I’m from Het Gooi. Do you know it? 


Only from this TV show ‘Gooische Vrouwen’. (laughs)


Niels: Well there you go, it's quite a posh area. 


How were both of these places to grow up in? 


Niels: I think growing up there was really nice. There was a lot of green, but at the same time you're 18 and you want to go away. To something more exciting, something more like a big city let’s say.


Fair enough. How was it for you, Anuschka?


Anuschka: Well… Purmerend is not Het Gooi. (laughs)


Niels: But also very green though, sort of.


Anuschka: Yeah, but personally I didn’t like Purmerend that much. So I would already go more to Amsterdam with friends. But I did have a good youth.


Glad to hear that. How would you describe each other? 


Anuschka: I’d say that Niels is funny… (Gives a pensive look on what to add more)


Niels: We get along very well, clearly. After 25, 30 years, what is it? It's amazing, you rarely hear of these kinds of connections. So Anuschka is a true friend.


That's amazing indeed, you really get to the depths of knowing and understanding each other after such a long time.


Niels: Exactly, I know Anuschka longer than my wife. (laughs)


Anuschka: Yeah, same for me.  


How did you meet? This was in school, right?


Anuschka: Yes, we were both studying at Rietveld Academy at the time. Niels was one year ahead of me. He was working there with other students, helping everyone out with their technical issues and later on he was kind of helping me with my final exam. Then, I think half a year later already, we were assisting each other after we finished school. 


Another half a year later, we did the ‘class of 1998’ series for Self Service. At that time we were still working under our own separate names. Niels was doing the still lives and I was doing the portraits. So Niels had his part at Self Service and I had my part. Finally, at some point we thought well…


Niels: The credits would be photography by Niels, and lights by Anuschka and the other way around too, photography by Anuschka and light by Niels. So it didn’t make any sense anymore. (laughs)


Anuschka: No it didn’t. (laughs) So then we decided to make it one. 


It came together very naturally actually?


Niels: Definitely, it wasn't really a decision like that.  


Anuschka: No, and because we let it flow like that we were also very open to everything that was coming our way.


Niels: Moreover, it was really nice in the beginning that we were two, wherever we had to go. Let’s say you need to go to Paris, at least you’re not alone. We also both speak Dutch. (laughs) Nobody understands Dutch, but we could always have a nice conversation together. 


Anuschka: Or have a real crisis without other people knowing it. (laughs)

Niels & Anuschka in 1999

I can imagine! I would like to hear more on how Self Service came onto your path. You were freshly graduated at that point. 


Anuschka: Yeah, I just graduated and then Jop van Bennekom from Fantastic Man was doing his final exam at Jan Van Eijck Academy too. He had this magazine, Re-Magazine, and he liked my work and asked if I wanted to do something for him. He was also the boyfriend of Viktor from Viktor & Rolf. They saw what we did for Jop, and asked us to do something for them, and then Self Service picked that up. (laughs) And that's how it all started. 


Things can go quickly like that, right?


Anuschka: Absolutely! But we were also quite naive stepping into this whole fashion world. Because we were coming from an art school and you always had the idea of becoming an artist. We didn’t envision things for us to go like that. 


I understand, but it’s great that you found each other through school and that other people and opportunities came your way via that same environment, which again opened up a whole new world. What about photography as a discipline though, how did you end up doing that?


Niels: Hmm, I don't know. I got a camera when I was about ten, I think. I tried all these things that didn't work (laughs), because you look through a lens and it's not the same way as when you take a picture, it's sort of a parallax. But I was intrigued by photography as a medium. It’s so direct. During my architecture studies I took some pictures of buildings, streets, people and whatnot. At some point, my mentor told me: “Maybe it's better for you to go study photography.”  


Oh interesting, so there was a nudge from your professor?


Niels: Yeah, and I think it was very well noticed from him. So after, I went on to art school and I was blown away. I was like: “Wow, this is great!” It’s so different when you're super motivated for everything. I actually studied painting in art school and then I switched back to photography. I did both at the same time. But all of this started from that first camera, nowadays everybody has a camera. It was so exciting! I mean, I had this camera and there were maybe 24 pictures on it. It took like a year to fill the roll. 


That’s hard to imagine today.


Niels: I know, but it took so long because it was expensive to develop these pictures. We had maybe some pocket money but not much. So then you send the pictures out and you wait for the result. You even forgot what pictures would be on it.  


A whole other element of surprise. 


Niels: Yeah, I think that's also a difference with today, digitally you can just click away. It's definitely another approach. Sometimes I’m like: “Oh, let me look for this picture” and then I have to look through 50.000 images on my iPhone.


That’s definitely the times we’re in.

How did you end up in photography, Anuschka? 


Anuschka: I think it started through experimenting with friends, just dressing up together. Wearing high heels of your mom, stuff like that, and documenting that, photographing each other. My father also had a camera in a dark room, from the seventies. So I started playing with that as well, which I really liked. 


That’s a great way to develop an interest in something. Playing around can bring you to the most unexpected places. Coming back to art school, was it for both of you what you expected from it? Or even more? Like you said Niels, this kind of wow effect? 


Niels: Well, in architecture, there were all these people who wanted to be special, you know what I mean? I don't want to generalize but there were many people that had, for example, triangle glasses with blue hair and that type of stuff. Which is all fine, no problem. 


But when I went to art school, they were all so normal. Except, they weren't. It was totally the opposite. They didn’t look particularly special but when you started talking to them, you would be like “Aha, interesting!” Also, not all of them of course. (laughs) It's just that it wasn't about how you looked like, but more about who you were as a person, and that was very refreshing. Apart from that, everybody was also really, really nice. 


Anuschka: Yeah, I agree. 


Niels: Also, it was very crossover for all arts. So it was not only photography, but also painting, sculpture, welding, fashion, everything at the same time. It was one big mix. If you wanted to make a dress in photography, you could. 


Anuschka: You could even start a band if you wanted to. (laughs)


It's great that you had so much freedom. A school definitely plays a big part in opening your perspectives (or not).


Niels: Absolutely, in opening your perspective on how you look at things, but also how someone else could look at it. 


Anuschka: Yeah, there was such a good energy. We were in a good place there.


Happy to hear that school was such a good starting point for the rest of your career. So now you’re working together for quite a while. Did you grow into a specific task division or do you assess this from project to project?


Anuschka: It depends on the project I’d say.  


Niels: We always think about it together, and then we look at the concept. Also depending on whether there are models or not. Anuschka does the models for example.


Anuschka: As in casting, and everything that comes with it. I also oversee things like hair and make-up, whereas Niels is a bit more technical. 


Niels: Yeah, I’m thinking more about how you can execute something. 

It’s important to know each other's strengths when working together. 


Anuschka: Definitely, and it's also nice that I don't have to think about equipment. (laughs) But it also got to a point now that I don't even know how the camera works. I'm so used to not thinking about that. 


Niels: That's not a problem. 


As long as this is the way that works for you, that's the most important. I think you also reach this point where you can hand things out to an assistant because you really know how you want it to look like, no?


Niels: For sure, but assistants, they're really the hands. You know what I mean? They see everything and of course they can help, but when it comes to technique, I'm always doing it myself. Even if they're really good, I still want to do it myself. You lose something otherwise, I guess.

I get that.


When looking at your work, still lives and portraits/ capturing people are definitely your force. Do you still enjoy doing both of them as much? 


Anuschka: Well, I think the division would be 50/50 between still lives and photographing people. 


Niels: Yeah, we did this book and it consisted of 124 portraits: ‘Anita and 124 other portraits’, published in 2006. But then we thought, the still lives are also sort of portraits. So, you could also see it the other way around. (laughs) As 124 stills. Because when we took the pictures for the book, they were so constructed, even for portraits.


Anuschka: If we are asked for a project today, it's mostly to shoot with people rather than still lives.


Niels: But that's also more fashion. I mean, a museum would be more likely to ask for still lives. 


Do you have a preference? Do you prefer working with objects or with people? 


Niels: We always have a preference! (laughs) But it differs, if you're shooting two weeks with models, then you’re also done with that.


Variation is important, of course. I wonder, did you have a vision about the industry before going into fashion photography and has this changed over the course of time?


Niels: I had no vision. 


At all? You had no expectations? 


Niels: Nothing. At Self Service, I remember them saying: “This is Comme des Garçons”, and I had no clue what they were talking about.

"I think it was quite good that we didn't know anything about certain brands. There was respect of course, but at the same time we could take them for the clothes that they were and not as something too special. "

Also really nice to roll into it like that and learn along the way. 


Niels: I did think it was super exciting to do all these things. We took a picture of Anuschka’s grandma, for example, in a Hermes sweater of I don't know how many thousands of euros. It's sort of a very strange thing to do. It was also very nice to be able to involve my brother or my sister in law, and the rest of our circle as models. I think it was quite good that we didn't know anything. There was respect of course, but at the same time we could take them for the clothes that they were and not as something too special. 


I see, a more neutral approach. How did you step into the industry, Anuschka? 


Anuschka: For me it was the same. I remember seeing a collar from Prada. And I was like: “Prada? What is that?”

Now, it’s so different with social media of course. Everybody knows. But it was a different time and the fashion industry has changed a lot. 


Niels: I’m so unfashionable. I've been buying the same shoes for 30 years, the same trousers, everything. 


But fashion is not only being aware of the brands. That’s what it became today in a sense, but it’s just as much how you’ve decided to dress the same way for 30 years, I feel.


Niels: Yeah, and it's funny because when we did all these fashion things, we went to all the shops and I was always fully dressed in Helmut Lang. No? 


Anuschka: Yes, I remember that. It was because we went to this store: Century 21, opposite to the Twin Towers.


Niels: They were kind of, “normal” clothes within fashion, right? But still exciting, just like Margiela. A sweater from the second hand market, but with a cross in the back, I really liked that simplicity. 


There’s a lot of politics involved and we do have to adapt in our ways to make it work for us. 


Anuschka: Absolutely, which is also a challenge. 


Niels: At the same time, you never know what’s coming. Maybe there's someone who's graduating in fashion right now who’s going to bring a breath of fresh air. There must always be something to be excited for.


Most definitely! I’d like to touch upon role models. Did you look up to somebody? Photographers or other creative people?


Niels: Anuschka (both laugh)


Anuschka: In fashion, I always really liked Mark Borthwick. He was kind of a hero to me. Apart from that, I was always watching these John Cassavetes movies—he helped pioneer modern American independent cinema as a writer and director, often producing and distributing films with his own money. I think he quite influenced me in how complicated things were, but then made it look so easy. I always thought it was fascinating, his approach to film and everything around that. 


Niels, did you have anyone else except Anuschka? 


Niels: No, not that I'm aware of. I never looked in magazines. I was just doing my thing, I guess. 


Anuschka: You still don't look in magazines.


It's good to have a very strong sense of yourself. 


Niels: I mean, in those times you had Jeff Wall and Andreas Gursky, the big photographers. 


Anuschka: They were heroes as well. 


Niels: They were heroes, yes. But then I went to the MoMA and saw this exhibition of Gursky and I looked at it, and it was all photoshopped—which disappointed me. Now I would think differently. I’m not against digital manipulation, but it depends on what the game is. And if we talk about references, these ‘Class of 1998 portraits’ for Self Service had lightning inspired by cheap tv-shows. 


Anuschka: Indeed, shows like 'As the World Turns' for example, just to give you an idea. We were very inspired by them (laughs)  


Niels: …and football pictures. Stuff like that. 


This is interesting because it came from such a different context and you still made a bridge towards: “Okay, now we are working with these beautiful girls and hairdos, but then with this cheap lighting it gives an interesting contrast.”


Niels: Exactly, and it was a great team too you know. It was not only us. Almost all these girls were being photographed for the first time, with their mothers waiting for them on set. We had Eugene Suleiman for the hair. It was super nice to start like that, we were all new to it. Especially since it was a bit of a grunge era, where all the models looked like drug addicts or otherwise were super sexy. So it was nice for us to work outside of that frame.


It’s always great when it’s a group effort like that and even more so when it becomes a perfect moment for you to experiment all together. I’d like to talk about your work that has been exposed in museums too, since you’re not only fashion photographers. In 2022 you participated in an exhibition at Museum Den Bosch with light boxes inspired by Lucio Fontana's work. How did you approach an exhibition like that?


Niels: People from Museum Den Bosch came by and asked us if we could reinterpret the work of Fontana. His work is all about space and we figured that it may be good to have a new dimension in it. So we took pictures of the art pieces and then rephotographed them again. It gave a feeling as if it wasn’t fitting. There's some sort of layer that doesn't sit quite right. And we thought that this worked well within this context.  


Anuschka: Yeah, we created kind of a new space while reusing his images by rephotographing his work.

Did you enjoy this process of reinterpreting another person's work? 


Both: Yeah, It was really nice to do. 


Niels: We had a super tiny studio in the museum because we couldn't take anything with us since Fontana’s works were super fragile. We thought: “How can we do this?" So we took the picture and did something with it, went back to the studio there and rephotographed it on the picture. Like this you get sort of a double exposure, but it can also be something lying down, standing up. It becomes a weird thing that you can turn around.

Going to your ‘Delusions’ show at Ravestijn Gallery in Amsterdam in 2013. Here you presented a selection of thirteen optical illusions wherein confusion was omnipresent. Really great images with witty interpretations, going from suggestive sexual ones to the ones with the Margaret Thatcher effect. It’s intriguing how you succeed in confusing the viewer in different ways.


Niels: That was funny! We had this assignment for Baron Magazine and they said: “Maybe you can take pictures of each other naked.” And we're like: “What?” (both laugh) But we understood that they wanted to have something sexy.


Anuschka: So we proposed to shoot them naked, but they were not into that either. (laughs) 


Niels: Then we tried to find things that looked very sexy, but actually weren’t and that's that.


Anuschka: And the other ones, the upside down ones with the Margaret Thatcher effect—not for Baron Magazine—they were about these beauty queens and we were like: “Oh, that’s something great to work with.” Because if you photograph it like we did, you can only look at it upside down. But if you want to look at them the other way, they become a bit like monsters. There's never a moment where you can actually see their faces the right way.


Niels: Upside down is the most real way.


After having worked with all these different museums, what would you consider a museum's role today? Compared to, let's say, a decade ago or 20 years ago. Do you feel their role has changed?


Niels: Yeah, I think a museum is sort of like a mirror to modern art.


Anuschka: And society.


Niels: I think it's way more diverse today, which is how it’s supposed to be, in my opinion. You see a better representation of the world as it is at the moment. So yeah, I think in that sense, it has changed and made a big difference. 


Anuschka: I think museums have always played an important part in showing a certain critique or view on society or politics. So I don’t think that has changed, it’s just that our society and politics have changed.


Definitely, social media also played a big role in this of course. A lot of things have been sped up very quickly. The viewer also became more attentive because of that I feel. 


Anuschka: Yeah, we were much more naive before as a society.


Niels: We became more aware especially. Even though you also had critics in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. 


Anuschka: But then you had someone writing about it in a newspaper. Today it ends up within the whole social media circus.

Baron Magazine 2011

Exhibition 'Delusions' - Margaret Thatcher effect 2008

Valid point. By now you have done many types of shoots and had all kinds of experiences. Do you have a favorite one? One that you would consider as the most memorable one till this day?


Anuschka: It’s funny, but I think that we both would choose that one time in Iceland. We had to be there for a shoot…


Niels: … and it happened to be the hottest day there in like 20 years. It was 20 degrees, everybody was walking around in their underwear. (laughs)


Anuschka: There was also only daylight, the sun didn't go down. 


So peculiar.


Niels: Yeah, it was really weird and funny. We shot there for two different magazines, which ones I don’t remember. But just the whole experience of being there…


Anuschka: I think it was the most special shoot we ever did. But more thanks to the team and the setting indeed, not necessarily because of the pictures.


Niels: It's such a small community as well. We ended up singing with Björk and Sigur Rós. (laughs) 


Anuschka: There's only two bars there, so you always run into each other. (laughs) It was a very surreal experience. 


Oh, I see why it was so memorable. (laughs)


Niels: Björk was playing this one song, the whole time on repeat.


Anuschka: (laughs) Yes. She was DJing, but she played one song only. It was crazy. We were shooting during the day and doing castings at night, no one slept. There was no night time really.  


Niels: And what an incredible nature. Everything was soft. Have you ever been there? 


Not yet!


Niels: It’s weird because you walk over the ground and it feels like you’re walking over this thick moss.


Like a carpet?

Niels: Like a bed almost!


Anuschka: And the make-up was like: “Hey guys, we're on Elf Lands, so we should be really quiet.” The government made this whole map apparently. So if you don't want to go through the Elf Lands, you already have official, existing roads that you can follow. Quite a magical place. 


Niels: Even though that has nothing to do with the pictures that we took. 


Sure, but it's about more than just the pictures, right? It’s also the whole process of creating at that moment. It's also about the time you spend together on set, the people you're working with. 


Niels: Absolutely. Experiences like shooting in Cuba or Jamaica are also unforgettable.

"If we would have to choose a favorite moment on set, we would both choose that one time in Iceland. It's such a small community, we even ended up singing with Björk and Sigur Rós. 

I think that's also the beauty of the job, to always meet new people, to be in different places.


Niels: Most definitely.


Anuschka: Yeah, and then you have this stylist from New York for example, you meet each other once a year somewhere, but you still become friends. Because these moments on set are always quite intense.


Absolutely, it’s super intense and then afterwards everybody goes back to their life. But the true connections really do stay. I was also wondering about your perspective on restrictions within jobs or projects. The last Buffalo Zine, for example, the ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’ edition—of which you shot one of the covers—was completely in black and white. Or this group exhibition 'Manifestations' in Ravenstein Gallery where you participated as well in the summer of 2023. Here they worked around black and white as well, but more to question the role of AI.  Do you like working within restrictions or does it feel more like a burden?


Niels: Well, we were teaching in the Design Academy for half a year for a workshop, and there was this guy who said: “Okay, I solved the problem.” And I thought: “Solved the problem?” You just have to embrace the problem!


It also starts with how you interpret this of course. Do you perceive it as a problem indeed or is it more of a challenge? 


Niels: Yeah, it's just a challenge. You can go all the way in different angles or directions or whatever. I think that's the most interesting part. We never do something freestyle, out of our own, just like that. 


Anuschka: Yeah, we need a direction. Otherwise we won't do anything. (both laugh) Even during Covid, we both had so much time that friends told us: “You should do your own personal work now!”


Niels: We thought: “Personal work?” So I redecorated my house. (laughs)

'Monochromatic' exhibition in Ravenstijn Gallery, 2023

That was definitely a good moment to do that! Coming back to this 'Manifestations' exhibition in Ravenstein Gallery that I just mentioned. What is your take on AI within photography? 


Anuschka: I don't know… I'm so not interested in this whole AI thing. 


Niels: It’s sort of like you write something down and then there's gonna be an outcome. But then again, it’s not you who made it. So there’s this big coincidence factor in whether the outcome is going to be interesting or not. 


It's hard to put your finger on it, I agree. But it is being implemented everywhere as we speak. 


Anuschka: Exactly, it’s like when Photoshop came onto the scene. I remember everybody being so against it within photography.


Niels: Yeah, I guess it’s a bit the same. 


Anuschka: But in the end, if you do something interesting with it, why not? 


In many ways different scenes are becoming more saturated, going from music to photography and so on. So there’s also this movement of people going back to the “old ways” like using analog for example.


Niels: I will never go back to film. That's for sure! (laughs)


Anuschka: My daughter was very much into my old Yashica at some point. It was really a trend for a moment, everyone was shooting on Yashica.


Niels: Yeah, because Nobuyoshi Araki had this camera. 


Anuschka: So my daughter had all my old films from like 20 years ago. The outcome was so nice! I was really amazed and I was thinking: “Give me this film back.” (laughs) The colors were really interesting, that’s the magic of film.


Niels: When we were in school, I didn't have any money. So if you took a picture on a big sheet of film, that meant like a week of money, or food or something else. So it really had to be right. It's so different now: click, click, click.


I feel that both—analog and digital—have their pros and cons. But it’s always interesting as well when something new appears that creates unexpected outcomes and AI definitely does that.


Niels: Exactly. If it’s interesting, it’s interesting.


Anuschka: In the end, I think creativity probably always wins over these developments. 


Niels: I don't know about that… What I think is a bit scary is this Tik Tok thing. The whole time, you're looking at people that are unreal.


I get that, but interesting that you mention this because I also saw that you played around with these Snapchat face filters, how did this happen? 


Niels: Yeah, that was totally fucked up. (both laugh)  


Anuschka: We were using a doll, but then we had her face in the picture. 


Niels: So we wondered: “How far can we go with these filters?” What if you just use a banana with two apples instead of a face, for example. Sort of fooling the trick, the technology in this case. You have to really think about what you can do with it to make it work. Not just accept it and say: “Okay I want Maxima and Willem—royal family of The Netherlands—in the desert playing golf." You already know how this is going to look like.


It’s the same with Photoshop as well nowadays. Let’s say you have a person on a black background. Then you want to have them in a church, and then you get five options. It looks horrible, all of them look horrible. But very soon, it's going to look very real. 


Because they're always adjusting it, perfecting it. It's always growing. But I think it's also interesting to test its limitations, like you did with the face filters. Like this you can still make it your own. So yeah, there's still a spectrum, I think, to kind of play with.


Niels: I remember that we had this exhibition in FOAM and that people were watching our images and said: "Aha, Photoshop.” But we didn't use Photoshop, so it’s sort of like a turn off at the same moment, you know?


Anuschka: Yeah, that's such a disappointment.  


Niels: You even make enough mistakes to see that it's not photoshopped, and then people still perceive it as being photoshopped. Crazy, don’t you think?  


Absolutely and I definitely get that frustration. Photographer Boris Eldagsen also started an interesting discussion surrounding the role of AI within photography. At the Sony World Photography Awards he submitted his work, The Electrician, that won the prize last year. Afterwards he announced that the image was AI generated and that he therefore refused to accept the award. How would you act in that situation? 


Anuschka: It’s a fine line. You still had the idea in the end. 


Niels: But it depends also on what the idea is. 


Anuschka: You see the same thing in the film industry, it's quite a big problem. That's also where the strike came from recently, actors and actresses being worried about their job due to AI.


Niels: It's insane how quickly you have your 20.000 words when you ask ChatGPT to write something, it's just rolling out like that. It's crazy: “Write something about Blommers and Schumm”. 

Boris Eldagsen's AI generated photograph that was the winnerfor a very brief momentof the Sony World Photography Awards 2023

Did you try it? 


Niels: Of course. I mean, I was curious. 


Anuschka: It still does make mistakes, but I must say that it had quite an interesting way of describing us.


Niels: My first name was different. (laughs) But it was quite accurate too. If you think about it, it takes the whole internet and combines it to summarize it. But I have no idea of what the effect is going to be in the long run. We're all kind of afraid of machines taking over or something…


I do get people's fears and questions about it. And then some are very excited about it, since it also has this capacity to do so many things. So it's kind of a double-edged sword. I was also curious about your time on set, do you have a favorite moment? Like taking the first picture or finalizing the shoot, for example. (laughs)


Niels: It’s the fashion clap. (laughs)


It's a wrap! 


Niels: Well… It’s the most exciting moment if it works. In the beginning, you never know if it will work out the way you envision it.  


Anuschka: And then in the end you know it and it comes all together. So that's the most exciting part. (laughs)


That makes sense. Since there are so many photographers out there, what would be, according to you, qualities that a good photographer should have today to stand out? 


Niels: Good ideas, I guess. I mean, it’s not about the camera. The iPhone pictures turn out better in some cases. Sometimes we have a shoot and the art director takes a picture of the screen, and it looks better on the phone than on the screen. 


Anuschka: I would say that personal vision is the most important. That will make you stand out in the end anyhow.

"It’s not about the camera. The iPhone pictures turn out even better in some cases. Personal vision is the most important."

Absolutely. Then something else, do you have art yourselves in your home?


Niels: My house is one art piece. (laughs) I have two kids, it’s everywhere. But apart from that, I have art from friends, mostly. Sometimes we trade some stuff.


That’s a great way to support each other.  


Anuschka: I do have it, but I never hang it. (laughs)


That’s also a possibility! Allright, we’ve arrived at the last question. What is keeping you busy these days? 


Niels: We’re making a book. With sort of all our work combined in it, but we still have to figure out some things, because it's a bit schizophrenic at this moment.  


Anuschka: We’ve printed like 1.500 pages, and then we have to make a selection out of that, so it's quite a lot of work. 


Niels: Yeah, and it's not our best part to do an edit like that. 


When will this book come out? Do you already have an idea? 


Anuschka: I hope this year, it should be somewhere this year.


That's a great prospect.


Niels: I think it's very difficult with a book to have a sort of order that's not an order. In the last book that we did, we had everything in alphabetical order. But then, we cheated a bit with the names. (laughs)


It's also important to have enough time to let things rest and come back to them with fresh eyes later on.


Niels: Definitely, it’s just so many pictures. It’s overwhelming.


I can imagine it’s tough with so many things to consider: fonts, lay-out, selection etc.


Anuschka: We send them to the designers now. So hopefully we can start a conversation there.


Most importantly it should reflect you guys as people. Very much looking forward to the result. Anuschka & Niels, thank you very much for your time and stories. 

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