An interview with Photographer Hugo Snelooper

Hugo Snelooper is a photographer from Arnhem (the Netherlands), Arnhem has always had it’s own special place in the dutch skate scene. When I was young I visited the city quite often but I never met Hugo. A couple of years later that I saw him skate in the dutch cult classic the 103 video, Hugo stood out in a good way! He had his own push, his own tricks and the most broken in pair of shoes I’ve ever seen. He made quite an impression and when Pop trading company started I got exposed to his photography. This summer I met the Pop guys at the Warschauer Strasse, I asked Hugo if would be down to talk about his photography, the result is this interview, please take some time to get to know Hugo’s pictures and his stories.

How did you start shooting photos?
We’ll I started off painting and about nine years ago somebody gave me a camera and ever since that moment i’ve hardly been painting. I mean a picture is a one second painting. I do miss painting, it taught me the importance of color or the absence of color. Painting has been important in the development of my photography.

Do you even have enough time? You’ve been on the road a lot lately.
For sure – next weekend we are going to Utrecht with the POP guys to skate and shoot photos. I still skate a lot as well and I definitely don’t want to have one without the other, skate and shoot. I want to do a small booklet that is going to come out with the POP Live Berlin clip. Actually I just got a fisheye lens, after many years of shooting without one. I’m shooting stuff for paralel projects (skate camp) and you can’t really shoot a cool photo of a kid jumping down 3 stairs without one, so it was about time.

You are from Arnhem – a city that I always thought had a strong DIY vibe. Have you thought of making your own book?
I haven’t done any of that and unfortunately a lot of the people that used to do projects have stopped or moved away. But the DIY spirit is still here, if you don’t have it lying around, you need to create something yourself. I’m part of a big crew of people that party together and do projects. The skate shop (Frisco) used to do a lot of events, but since that’s been gone, Peter (Kolks) and Ric (van Rest) started Pop trading company. They wanted to do their own thing and they organized the events anyway so for me, Pop has taken over Frisco’s place and continued the tradition.

Do you shoot digital or film?
Strictly digital because I don’t really have the money to shoot on film. I do really like to shoot film because you tend to be more critical – you have a limited amount of options. With film I am constantly thinking if this is worth shooting or not, you don’t want to waste film. But I do use old analog lenses and I do take my time to set things up manually, so when it comes to that side of things it feels similar. Sometimes the equipment works against you and you shoot 100 pictures and 99 of them are not good.

You recently worked on a shoot for the Skatestore paper.
Yeah, that was a whole different experience – I often need some time to set things up and they are used to photographers with flashes, which is not my style. At times they did become a bit impatient, the end result was good though.

I can see that being a new challenge, because of the way you shoot photos.
I take my time to create the right atmosphere and be creative. A “standard” skate photo is not something that sparks my interest. I need space to show more than just the trick. I want to capture the moment as a whole. As a skater I always liked the b-side edits, because you got to see what really went on, some people take that out but I want to keep that stuff in.

So, what are your criteria for a good photo?
It needs to be something that I can hang on the wall and be proud of. I want to be able to look at it again and again without the picture becoming boring – that makes me happy about a picture. I’ve seen friends who were scared to take pictures because of what could happen. I just walk up to people – not being afraid has definitely helped me.

Do you construct pictures as well?
When I shoot on the street I always try to capture the original moment, but sometimes I ask a person to repeat something to get the picture I want. I also did some fashion photography because of some friends who have connections in the fashion world. I did some work with art school students as well. I like the process that goes into making a concept into a reality, combining somebody elses idea with your own style. Often we ended up with something that looked so different than expected. I don’t like working in a studio environment, I look for things outside, dirty alleyways are my speciality (laughs). For some reason the dirtier the alley the better the fashion photos look.

What about your greatest misses?
Me and my friend went out into the city, walked around and saw this homeless guy. I knew the guy always makes these gory world war 2 drawings and tries to sell them. All of a sudden this blind guy walks past and the homeless guys starts to try selling his drawings to the blind guy. We both had left our camera in the bag and before we could get it out the moment had passed, moments like that teach you to always have your camera ready.

Do you see yourself as having a career as a photographer?
I’ve stopped giving away my photos for free and I’ve been shooting stuff for Pop and Cons. So as far as money goes things are definitely starting to change. Most of those assignments are in the west and that’s not where I live, so I have decided to move from Arnhem to Amsterdam. Even though I believe the place where you are from shapes you as a person. I need to be where my employers are. I want to keep moving forward and grow, I think I’m either going to be a photographer or I am going to end up working in a factory.

Hugo Snelooper would like to thank: Pop trading company, Palace skateboards, Supra footwear, Budgetbeuker bearings, Skatestore Arnhem, Parallel Projects.

If you want to see more click this link.

Interview by: Roland Hoogwater

All photos courtesy of Hugo Snelooper.