Image Focus

Brendan de Clercq | Steven Oprinsen

This is Steven Oprinsen. He’s a famous Dutch painter and mixed media artist. Steven has been on top of the world and very successful in his field, but he has also had struggles. He led a rock and roll lifestyle, suffered from loss, and was even homeless for a period of time. But he has struggled and fought his way out and back to the top.

Steven is, was, a friend of mine, who suddenly died back in November 2020 from a heart attack. That’s why this portrait, from all others, has a special meaning to me.

When you see the picture it has everything for me. It’s a heavy image; you can see his struggles, but also his pride at what he has achieved.

portrait of steven oprinsen wearing a check shirt

© Brendan de Clercq | Sony α7R III

I shot the image with my Sony Alpha 7R III, and I used a lens with a tilt-shift adapter. Normally you would use an adapter like this to make vertical lines straight when you are shooting architecture or product photography, but I used it here to change the depth of field.

To me, Steven was a very mysterious guy. When you spoke to Steven you would always leave the conversation thinking ‘What’s happened to this guy?’ There was so much depth to his character, and that‘s what I was trying to achieve with this image. So I used the tilt-shift adapter to focus just on his eyes and face; the rest of his body is out of focus and it creates this mysterious, unusual looking depth of field.  I did all of this in camera, there is no Photoshop or editing in this image.

Usually I would always shoot through the camera’s electronic viewfinder, but in this situation I wasn’t able to use the excellent Eye AF, which I normally use when shooting portraits. It is one of the best features of the last few years. However, because of the tilt-shift adapter I had to manually focus so I used the focus peaking and the rear screen to focus the image exactly how I wanted, to place the depth of field only on Steven’s eyes.

The result is an image that I feel is the real Steven Oprinsen. There is a real vulnerability in the portrait. Normally he would be making jokes and putting this mask on, and he would always be this person to protect himself. He wouldn’t ever let someone in 100%. But in this shoot we had such a connection that I took away all of this mask and the wall that was behind it.

That’s why I’m so proud to be a portrait photographer. People let me come in into their lives, into their real life, so I can take these portraits.

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Brendan de Clercq

Brendan de Clercq | Netherlands

"One day I will make the most perfect portrait. One that captures emotion to the fullest. That is the reason I raise the bar in my photography every day"

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