Success is often followed by admiration. In any given field, even the most accomplished of individuals are inspired by someone else’s example. Indeed, our fascination with those whom we admire stems from our desire to walk in their footsteps, or in some cases, to surpass them. Thanks in part to the rise of social media, never in the history of humankind has following the success of other people been so conveniently possible. Still, there has always been an air of mystique surrounding these public personas.
At the 2nd anniversary of CreativeMornings Utrecht (14 March 2014), documentary photographer Marije Kuiper offered us a peek into the hidden lives of world-renowned creatives. As co-creator of the online documentary series Like Knows Like, she and filmmaker Bas Berkhout profile a host of talented artists, designers and musicians (among others) across the globe who are deeply beloved on social media. Throughout her career, Kuiper has worked tirelessly behind-the-scenes, in search of unique individuals, stories and settings, making the invisible visible.
After completing her training as a graphic designer at CIBAP Zwolle, Kuiper pursued her bachelor’s degree at the Academy of Pop Culture Leeuwarden. “I wasn’t so good at typography,” she says, but a fortuitous internship at Nijmegen design agency In Opdracht Van piqued her interest in taking photos. “When I finished my internship, I was still bad at typography, but I found my passion in photography,” she admits. Nevertheless, Kuiper was still uncertain whether she was on the right path.
In search of her own identity, Kuiper returned to her hometown of Vinkega, a tiny village in Friesland consisting of 5 intersecting streets, 79 houses and 223 inhabitants. “I was a farmer’s daughter with an interest in creativity,” she quips. “I asked myself, who am I? What do I want? What shall I do?” Instinctively, Kuiper turned to her surroundings for inspiration and embarked on an intimate project that would later serve as a springboard for her future career.
Wandering through the village on her bicycle, Kuiper visited all 79 homes, in search of individuals with a unique passion. What she found was an entirely different side to the neighbourhood she grew up in and the people she grew up with. Armed with a gracious smile and her trusty camera, Kuiper proceeded to photograph the citizens of her hometown, showcasing their individuality and diversity of talent. The end result was Vinkega, a touching series of portraits of the small Friesian village.
“Do what you want to do and dare to choose what is in your heart. That sounds so logical, but it’s not entirely easy,” Kuiper said during the opening of her photo exhibition at the Vinkega church (June 2010). “I noticed that all the people that live here dared to choose what was in their hearts.” In many ways, her subjects helped her do the same. Shortly after the exhibition, Kuiper’s photographs were published as a book, which immediately sold-out. At this point, she was absolutely sure that she wanted to pursue photography.
“I wanted more creativity in my work,” Kuiper shares. For a long time, she and Berkhout have been enthralled by the exceptional works of well-known creatives. Their genuine desire to know more about the people they admire has resulted in the launch of their global documentary series Like Knows Like. Offering a glimpse into the personal lives of talented artists, the project doubles as a significant opportunity to unveil their own craft.
Beginning in the Netherlands, the pair then travelled to New York and California to spend a day with their creative heroes. Singer-songwriter Tessa Rose Jackson, award-winning illustrator Victo Ngai and CreativeMornings founder Tina Ross Eisenberg were among the remarkable people they met along the way. “In the Netherlands, creatives are just as special as lawyers [or other professions],” Kuiper observes. “In the US, the mentality is different.” Working with clients is seen as a necessary evil, giving artists the financial leeway to pursue their own projects. In truth, it is precisely their self-initiated work that has skyrocketed these individuals to well-deserved fame.
Evidently, the same can be said for Kuiper and Berkhout as Like Knows Like has gained a massive, worldwide following. The fact that their chosen subjects are famous themselves does lend an enormous hand to the project’s reputation. Be that as it may, the aim of these documentaries is to gain deeper insight into the artists we adore, thereby humanizing the digital world. In order to make our social timelines more meaningful, the pair has taken it upon themselves to satisfy our curiosity, revealing the persons behind the personas. ✌
☞ For more information on Marije Kuiper, Like Knows Like, CreativeMornings Utrecht and CreativeMornings™, visit the websites listed below: