creative chit-chat

Zeb Daemen

Fashion photographer

He was named after Zeb McCain, cowboy from a TV series. When Zeb Daemen told his parents that he wanted to become a fashion photographer, this tough cowboy image got shattered. "My dad thought that I would open a shop with photo film rolls. That was the image he had of a photographer." We meet in his apartment in Antwerp which he rents together with his boyfriend. The working and living space has a minimalist style and contains beautiful original features. The most decorative detail is probably the case with colored macaroons on the table.


You love minimalist style, lots of space and daylight. We see very little furniture in your home. There are two desks, a table full of magazines, two sofas and that's it!

I love a clean space, I like my house empty, completely blank. The most important objects are the ones you see: my camera, my computer, magazines and a projector. I used to have my photo shoots at home and so I was really looking for a nice space with parquet floors and high ceilings. I only have few possessions but back then then I had even less. I’d love to print some photos, but I am not going to hang them on the wall. I'm going to frame them and put them on the floor. It is a rental, so I don’t really work on the furnishing. The sofas you see here are the garden furniture of my mother in law. As soon as the sun will begin to shine again, we're back with to no seats, very minimalist indeed. Every series of images needs a lot of retouches and when I look around, I’d like to be able to see the whole space. An empty room makes me truly calm while I'm at work. In the summer I leave the windows wide open. I really like living here.


Has Antwerp, as a fashion city, played an important role in your fashion photography career?

I was born in the Kempen (area in Belgium) and I came to Antwerp to study. Now I live and work here. The link with a city like Antwerp has only worked in my favor. The fashion world is so small here that I very quickly got to know students from the Fashion Academy. Some of them became my first clients and together we head to Paris and London. Great cities, but very busy! Here in Antwerp everything is much more relaxed and people are calm. I need of tranquility. Although being abroad is very important in the field of fashion photography, I would like to settle in Antwerp.


What is the biggest difference between assignments in Belgium and the ones abroad?

In Belgium, I do a lot of commercial work. And I can invest the money that I earn exclusively in my personal projects and the purchase of new material. So recently I've bought a Hasselblad, the ‘Rolls Royce’ among the cameras. To own one has been my dream for the last 5 years! The main difference between editorials in Belgium and abroad is that the budget abroad is much smaller, but there is more high fashion involved. Abroad I can do my own thing and I’m surrounded by set designers and stylists who can get their hands on expensive designer clothes. When I talk to other team members and discuss ideas, I really feel that my work can be brought at a higher level. It’s becoming more and more important to be surrounded by a good team.


You are working with the best material and you are surrounded by professionals. Is there a magazine with a winning team that meets your vision?

I would love to work for Vogue, which is a typical dream. If you work for Vogue, then you know that the styling is top notch and the same applies to the model you’re working with. My picture may be good, but if the clothing doesn’t attract and the model is not good, you never get a good result. Stylists’ know-how is really important because they choose the photographer for the shoot. Star stylist Grace Coddington works with Mario Testino and Steven Meisel. Or look at Olivier Rizzo and Willy Vander Perre, a great team that I really look up to! But I also like to work together with young stylists and emerging designers, because who knows they might reach the top any time soon. (laughs) A man should dare to dream out loud!


In your dream you’re the one holding the camera. Most photographers start their career as an assistant, but that’s a step you skipped.

That's right. I’ve skipped that step, because I've never studied photography. I have a graphic design background and my photographs are full of graphic elements. I am self taught and by experimenting and by making mistakes, I often discovered great effects. I bought a camera, played with it and that way I taught myself everything. This way I quickly developed my own technique and methodology.


There are many beautiful men in your photographs, but what about women? They are less present in your portfolio.

It is in no way a deliberate choice. You don’t have many good models in Belgium. The best girls immediately move to New York, to make it there. In Belgium we have a lot of interesting guys who work in Paris and Milan. They operate closer to home and that's why I photograph so many men. I don’t want to end up in the ‘male photographer’ category, so soon I am going to start looking for girls in Paris and the Netherlands and schedule more womenswear shoots. 


Your style is modern, stylish and clean. Where do you get your inspiration from?

I explore many blogs in search of inspiration. I have stacks of magazines and I often watch movies with my projector. With my iPhone I photograph great locations and I make small movies. I often get think of the best ideas when travellening by taxi. My biggest source of inspiration is probably my old fascination with futuristic movies and everything that has to do with aliens. You might not notice it in every picture, but the hair of the models is always very clean, the skin shines unnatural and the setting is tight. I like that cleanness.ùpre.jpg?1331333836



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About Coffeeklatch

Coffeeklatch stands for ‘Slow journalism using a fast medium.’ Magali Elali and Bart Kiggen created the blog as a creative chitchat featuring creative entrepreneurs in their homes over coffee, including interesting people telling intriguing stories. It celebrates storytelling and creativity in all its forms, from fashion design to architecture. Read More


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