Thijs Heslenfeld (1965, Hilversum, The Netherlands) worked as a laundry driver, newspaper reporter, lawyer, commercial copywriter and travel writer before picking up photography.
His first photo book ‘Cold – Sailing to Antarctica’ was an immediate success, with two reprints within a year. 'Hot - Life in the Australian outback' came out at the end of 2009 and was received just as well. In November 2011 he published 'Au!', in which he documents life in Surinam's unspoilt rainforest. In March 2012 he published a new book together with a solo exhibition on his project 'Men at Work' (Melkweg Gallery, Amsterdam). 'Men at work' won a prestigious Red Dot Award in Germany.
‘Heslenfeld’s interest is in the natural world and the human spirit - Life - alongside the shadows of death which make existence so precious’, UK’s authoritative magazine PhotoIcon wrote in this book review (pdf, 500 Kb). ‘His motivation, despite being one of Europe‘s most accomplished travel photographers, is to engage with the life forces he finds around him - be they human or otherwise.’
UK’s Shots Magazine called him a ‘supremely talented’ travel photographer in this interview (pdf, 1 Mb): ‘His work is classic rather than experimental, portraying an ability not just to record what he sees but to capture its essence too. For instance, he never uses flash (he doesn’t even own a flash), preferring instead to show the world as it really is and people as they really are.’
Heslenfeld considers ‘life’ and ‘people’ to be the central themes in his work. ‘When portraying a city or a country I want to show what it's really like out there. I'm not interested in the cliché travel images with just shiny happy people or spotless beaches. I want to catch the atmosphere of a place and its people in its bare essence. I want my images to answer that one major question: How does it feel to be there?'
His images are characterised by careful composition and an eye for the smallest details that people tend to overlook. He only works with available light, doesn’t like styling and doesn't use PhotoShop to alter his images: 'What I see is what you get!'
Being a self-taught photographer, Thijs Heslenfeld describes himself as a man who photographs from the heart: ‘To me, photography is something organic, something natural that just happens – or not. It’s not something I want to think or talk about too much. Like travelling, it’s most rewarding when you proceed without a plan. Just open yourself up and let it happen. That’s what works best - for me, at least.’
His images covering seven continents have been published in magazines worldwide, such as National Geographic Adventure, GEO Saison, The Flying Dutchman, Hide & Chic, Voiles et Voiliers, National Geographic Traveler, Nautique, Shots, Professional Photographer and Holland Herald.