Interview with Photographer Roy Kerckhoffs

Photographer Roy Kerckhoffs



Roy Kerckhoffs's Winning Photo from Art, Rhythm, and Wine

Photo by Roy Kerckhoffs

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Originally born in Geleen in the Netherlands, photographer Roy Kerckhoffs has led an interesting, varied life. Kerckhoffs was initially a scientist with a PhD in bioengineering, however he eventually made the transition into being a full-time artist and photographer with a studio located in Carlsbad, California. Now, Kerckhoffs offers photography services shooting portraits on location, engagement photos, holiday card photos, and commissioned work.

While Kerckhoffs does produce commissioned and personal photos, he truly is an artist at heart. Below, FINE Magazine interviews Kerckhoffs about his photography, his artistic vision, and some of his favorite pictures.

When did you start in photography? How has your upbringing influenced your work?

My parents had bought a point-and-shoot camera for me when I was about ten years old. After that, I took lots of images with it, especially when we went on vacations throughout Europe. At one point, my mother accused me of taking only landscape photos and [none] of family members...

At a young age, I wanted to go to art school but my parents talked me out of it. [I] went into science and engineering instead––which, don’t get me wrong, I liked too. In 2001, my friend Martijn took me on a little photography tour with his SLR through Eindhoven, a city in the south of the Netherlands. That’s when I got hooked on SLR’s (single reflex cameras) and bought my first Nikon. I was especially drawn to the total control that an SLR gives you as opposed to a point-and-shoot.

When did you decide to become a full-time photographer, and how did you make that transition?

In 2003, at Eindhoven University of Technology, I graduated with my PhD in biomedical engineering, and I came to San Diego for postdoctoral training at UCSD. Having never been to California before, I was amazed by the diversity in landscapes here such as the coast, forests, mountains, deserts, etc. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to leave here.

In 2008, I started my business “Eyeball Photography,” while still being 100% employed by UCSD. I started the business on the side mostly because I was curious to see if people other than family and friends would like my work. In 2010, I started selling my photographs at art shows and street fairs while still going through my scientific career. In 2012, I started working half-time at UCSD so I’d have more time available for photography. Two years later, my wife and I made a big decision: to quit science, go full-time with my photography business, and move to North County in search for my own gallery or studio space. That’s also when I renamed my business “Roy Kerckhoffs Art.” Last year, I found the right spot and, not too long ago, we had our 1st anniversary party at my studio/gallery.

What inspires your photography? What are your favorite subject matters?

I like scenes that will allow me to emphasize textures and contrast. I not only like dark-light contrast, but also color contrasts (for example warm sand vs. cool water) and contrasts between nature and human-made objects. I do not really create “pure” nature landscape photographs, as I most of the time [my photos] include human-made objects, be it a lifeguard tower, a pier, a set of stairs, etc. In my work, I enjoy conveying a story of a place with a history. That approach may be straightforward with my ghost-town images, but [it] also applies to the coastal scenes, as piers, towers, etc. have been built decades ago. The passing of time subsequently yields interesting textures.

In my ghost-town images I like to portray still life of old human-made objects. I add color to my black and white photographs by painting with a very translucent oil paint directly onto the prints, using similar techniques as in the days when color photography was non-existent.

What are some of your favorite photographs that you’ve taken?

All Mine Roy Kerckhoffs

"All Mine!” at Windansea in La Jolla, CA, which is an image that is composed of two exposures: one long exposure of 30 seconds which smoothes out the waves and removes other surfers. The second exposure, which was only a fraction of a second, captured the surfer and the famous wave break in the same scene. This image also includes the shack that got destroyed last winter, but in the meantime has been rebuilt.