His photographs appear on numerous album and magazine covers. He’s a self-
confessed music fanatic who, over the course of a career spanning almost twenty
years, has amassed an incredible portfolio in which he captures the essence of
countless illustrious and iconic names. Michel Mees (1969) is undoubtedly one of
Holland’s more prolific music and portrait photographers.
He shoots in a distinct, documentary style. ‘I like the idea of falling into a story’, he
says about his work. ‘As if you’ve just walked into someone’s life. They’re stark,
unaffected moments. I want it to be convincing, authentic.’
In many of his photographs his subjects seem to surface from the desaturated
anonymity of what are often unconcerned urban settings. This transient feel is
not completely incidental. ‘It’s a case of letting the fast pace of editorial music
photography work for you. With reportage you’re often at impersonal locations like
hotels or concert venues with limited time for a shoot. What I’m looking for is a
spontaneous break in that uniformity, to capture open and intense moments. So the
contrast works really well.’
At age sixteen he shot his first live concert. A photography study at the Royal
Academy of Visual Arts in The Hague made his passion for the music industry
professionally legit. Since then the likes of Ian Brown, The Chemical Brothers, Alice
Cooper, Tiësto, Dave Clarke and hundreds of others have stood in front of his lens.
For superstar dj Armin van Buuren Mees has shot several album covers.
His editorial clients include Holland’s definitive music magazine Oor. He was
commissioned regularly by legendary dance zine Bassic Groove and has worked for
the Volkskrant and record labels Jalapeno Records (London), Sino Records and Black
Meet and Greet
His most recent publication Meet and Greet is an impressive hardcover retrospective
covering the years 1995 to 2012. As the title suggests, the photographs offer a slice of
life beyond the public persona. Among those featured you’ll find an older and pensive
Debbie Harry caught at sundown; Maxi Jazz in abattoir ambiance; the menacing
looks of a Massive Attack whose outright hostility is almost palpable. You’ll also
find British rapper Dizzee Rascal under whose tough demeanour Mees found
someone ‘quite amiable’; or a no less colourful personality: the late Prince Bernhard
of the Netherlands whom Mees photographed at his residential palace.
Mees gives it to you as it is. ‘At the end of the day I’m the guy with the camera.
That’s it.’ Nothing less.
Michel Mees is a commercial photographer specialising in music and portrait
photography. He shoots editorial, advertising and corporate assignments. He is based
in The Hague.
text by: Some Good Culture
buy: Meet and Greet