Neil Van Niekerk

I’m a photographer based in Wayne, NJ, specializing in portrait, wedding and boudoir photography. I also maintain an active website for photographers, Tangents. I teach workshops and seminars on photography. I have written two books on flash photography, of which the first has been translated into Polish and Portuguese.

I’m originally from South Africa where I worked as a TV Broadcast Engineer. Then in 2000, my wife and I decided to settle in the USA with our daughter – and I have pursued photography here as a full time career since.

What drives me as a photographer:
That I love photography for a variety of reasons. The stimulation and excitement of responding to new situations satisfies both my analytical and creative sides, and I also truly love working with people. Even after all the years working as a photographer, I still feel the same thrill as I first saw a B&W print come up in the developer.

With wedding photography, I’d describe my style as get-the-job-done-aslism. Rather than subscribing to a specific philosophy regarding style, I am happier using any of a variety of styles and techniques to get the best results.

The same approach infuses the rest of my philosophy as a photographer, “let’s see what works here!”

How did you get started in the business? Who helped/guided/mentored you?
“I started off shooting for various wedding studios here in the USA, and learned from numerous other photographers, and also by reading online about digital photography.

I can’t off-hand think of any aha! moments, but I had a number of break-through moments with lighting and flash that came over time, realizing that I do actually “get” this! So it was more of an accumulated thing rather than a few singular flash-points of illumination.

If I had to thank someone who helped shaped my work in recent years, it has to be David A Williams.”

From Neil:
“I draw a lot of inspiration from music and movies. Various photographs that I see in magazines are also inspiring, for example, Inked magazine. But even looking around websites like Tumblr will show you a wealth of interesting work. There are many people who inspire and push me to become a better artist:

Elliot Erwitt for his perfectly observed whimsical view of life and people.
Yervant and Jerry Ghionis both had immense impact on me as a wedding photographer. Similarly, David A Williams
Michael Freeman, well-known writer of photography books, is probably the one writer of general photography books whose knowledge I devoured way back when I first delved into photography.
Various photographers from my home country, South Africa, had a huge influence on me.
Obbie Oberholzer (for amazing environmental portraits)
Ken Oosterbroek who died while covering war-torn parts of South Africa.
Many of the news and war photographers from a few decades back had huge impact on me. Specifically, Don McCullin. Currently, James Natchwey is always impressive.

If you’re thinking about coming to another After Dark Event, remember there are so many wonderful presenters on simultaneously that you simply can’t catch everything. There’s such a surplus of great info and stuff to learn. Besides, you can always just go up to one of the unoccupied bays and shoot and play with the toys. If you’ve never been to After Dark Before, immerse yourself into the experience. Don’t be shy. Go up to people and introduce yourself and start chatting. ‘And the knowledge that we gain in part always leads us closer to the very start, and to the founding question What can I say when, in some obscure way, I am my own direction? fukkemall: a confident disregard for other people’s bullshit will take you a long way.’