Art Bluff Journal

Young Entrepreneur: Michèle van Vliet

November 16, 2015


Michèle van Vliet (25)
Photographer | Creative Director The Photo Graduates

We met through
| Instagram | A while back, one of the girls I follow posted a photo in which Michèle was tagged. I checked out her profile and started to follow the feed of this young photographer based in Rotterdam. She recently posted a picture of the gallery she had curated an temporary exhibition for. I commented on the post and asked for the address. An offline meeting followed, I spoke to this lovely young creative about entrepreneurship, her ambitions and her creative life.

What she does
Together with her good friend and fellow photographer, Nana van Dijk (28), she runs a platform called The Photo Graduates. They aim to shine a light on young, graduated and talented photographers and next year they’ll also guide them during the phase right after graduation.

Michèle and Nana share the vision that the photographs they expose should first of all be aesthetic. The underlying story is of added value. During their studies they often met teachers and fellow students who preferred (and sometimes pushed for) strong, well thought-out concepts and paid less attention to aesthetics.

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Expo photos: The Photo Graduates

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“We only started last year, so half of the time we find ourselves in unknown territory. We had to learn to think twice before we make certain decisions, everything is interconnected; especially in the world of curation. There’s never a dull moment! Being a rookie in this industry certainly gives us a fresh perspective on how things can be run.”

Besides this, Michèle is a young portrait and fashion photographer herself and together with Nana she was featured in the exhibition. When she is not working on her platform or shooting commercial work, she assists photographers who focus on shooting fashion and interiors. This busy young woman can be found working seven days straight some weeks. But she loves being her own boss and the diversity of her tasks. “I’ve definitely become more efficient at managing my time!”

For the Photo Graduates she dreams of
Having a permanent location somewhere in Rotterdam but have travelling expositions as well, across the world. That way, they wouldn’t be so dependent on others. They’ve only be working on the platform for one year but they’ve realized that showing only in temporary locations isn’t what they’re after.

“Having a permanent gallery allows us to make the space our own. I’d also love to have a little bookshop as well. With the temporary spaces we’ve been in, we really have to make do with loose doors and weird large posters on walls. It’s not always ideal! But when you can’t change those things, it’s important to let it go. Anyway, Nana and I notice those things but through visitor eyes they often go unnoticed.

We will collaborate with sister cities as well and I’d love to do an exchange with galleries overseas, they feature our talent there and we feature their talent here. Having a stand at Paris Photo as a gallery would be amazing, each year the most renowned art dealers and galleries come together at this fair.

Recently one of our graduates got featured on New Dawn, a platform for contemporary Dutch photography. The site mentioned that she had also made the selection of The Photo Graduates. That’s the way we’d like to be mentioned and seen, as a leading platform for Dutch photography graduates.”


New personal work: Michèle

How she became a photographer
“I grew up in Delft (NL), and this wasn’t the most exciting place to live in. After high school, all my friends were going to theoretical universities but I knew I wanted to do something practical. My first step was to go to a bigger, exciting city and see what the art academy had to offer. At seventeen, I did an introductory year at the academy in Rotterdam and realized I wanted to study Photography and not Lifestyle & Design like I had initially intended. With photography you have the freedom, you can really be the creative director and this appealed to me. It all started with doing shoots with friends and through school, I slowly started to discover my style. But I am still not there yet, but I’m not worried, I’m 25, it will happen someday.”

On making personal work
“To be honest, I only made some personal work again a couple of weeks ago. I saw this beautiful tree and it inspired me. I went back at 9am the following morning with a friend to do a shoot, under the beautiful light. “For a couple of years I didn’t feel up to making personal work. At art school you sometimes get so overwhelmed with critique. I needed to give myself a shove in the right direction to start creating again. But I am happy with my new work. I am on my way again!”

Her ultimate entrepreneurship tip
She laughs and starts off by saying, “Just begin!”

I ask her what she advises people to do, who find it hard to begin…

Team work
“You don’t have to do everything by yourself. I work really well with Nana, we trust each other and we’re on the same page. I like doing the graphic design side of the business, the website, the flyers and so forth. Nana is good at the written communications side, sending good e-mails and keeping up our presence on social media. Working together, we always find a way forward.”

“We know how valuable it is to get guidance from people who already have years of experience in the art world and who are willing to share this with us. We want to offer more help to young photography graduates ourselves in the near future, we want to pass on our knowledge to them, so they can make it in the industry.”

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