Elke Van den Ende
Elke Van den Ende
Hi! I’m Elke, a historian who kind of accidentally became a wedding photographer. The tiny and slightly absurd country of Belgium is my home. I love weddings because they’re like fireworks, only exploding with emotions instead of gunpowder. I photographed weddings for three years before taking the leap and going full time last January.
If you weren’t shooting weddings, what would you be doing for work?
I’d probably still be working in educational policy. Or I’d be opening up my own candy shop. I’d definitely be doing something I wasn’t trained for – that seems to be the defining character of my career path up until now.
What do you think makes a photograph good?
Meaning, first and foremost. A photograph has to convey something. It should surprise, inspire, move, provoke or inform. It may excite you or make you slow down. A good photograph has an impact, whatever that might look like. The very best photographs to me are images that challenge, that fire you up to create something yourself.
What is a business mistake you made?
I’d say the biggest mistake I made was not taking my business seriously enough. Before I went full time I completely underestimated my value as a photographer. I thought I was worth less than all the ‘real’ photographers out there – not just financially, but creatively too. Which didn’t make sense at all. Time is not an interesting criterion for your professional worth at all. If you want other people to take you seriously, the first step is convincing yourself you deserve to be taken seriously.
What do you think makes an image award winning?
I guess that depends on the awards and on the judges. For my part I’d say: showing a deeper truth, taking creative risks, using an arresting visual language. Showing off technical skills is only interesting insofar it serves these goals.
What makes your business unique, different or special?
Honestly? My clients. I’m just a photographer. Sure, I have a vision and a specific way of working. Doesn’t everyone? But it’s not about us at all. I believe the best images are created in interaction with the people who are in them. I’m there to dig and prod and look for who they are. I’m there to create space for things to happen. That’s where I find beauty, in the unexpected. Those are the moments I’m looking for.
Advice for new photographers?
Glue the damn camera to your hand and practice, practice, practice. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask people you admire for help or advice. (Make sure to show them you value their time and effort.) Surround yourself with people who will help you grow, be it by supporting you or challenging you.
What’s something people need to understand about photography?
Photography doesn’t exist in a vacuum. I think we need to be mindful about the images we’re producing: where do they draw inspiration from? What’s their purpose? What do they mean? Why do we long for certain images? What kind of stereotypes or cultural understandings do we knowingly or unknowingly reproduce? I wish we’d talk less about posing and more about these kind of things.