Interview: Casey Van Liefde

Casey Van Liefde, originally from South Africa, moved with her family to New Zealand as a child to escape financial hardship.  After studying a Bachelor of Visual Arts majoring in Videography, it was a chance encounter with Australian based, world famous photographer, Sue Bryce that introduced her to the world of contemporary glamour photography.  4 years on after building and establishing her business in the photography world on the Gold Coast, Casey has arrived back in New Zealand where she is tasked with the challenge of building her business profile in the South Auckland region all over again.

Tell us about your photography business and how it all started? 

I specialise in Contemporary Glamour Portraiture.  Not many people enjoy having their photo taken, and that’s why I’m here.  We all deserve a beautiful picture of ourselves because; quite honestly we are all beautiful.  The problem that many people encounter is that your everyday snaps just don't bring out the best in most people which results in a lot more self-consciousness than you think.  My photography is about loving and feeling good about yourself and being proud to show people.

I've always been a girly girl; hair, makeup, barbies and dress ups were all part of my childhood, and I guess now they primarily still are.  Destiny, irony, call it what you will but I never planned to do what I do.  I just lived life doing what I enjoyed, following my heart and having fun.  I was lucky enough to meet an incredible photographer and work alongside her for a year and the rest is history.  I fell in love with photography from day one, and each day that love grows.  This is not just my business, this is my passion!

Who has impacted you most in your career and how?

Well that’s simple, Sue Bryce.  Sue kicked my career off; well actually to be honest Sue kicked my life off!  Everyone comes into your life for a reason, and she is the reason for so much of what I have achieved.  When we worked together, travelled together, struggled together and laughed together we both learnt so much.  She didn't just teach me how to use a camera, or how to pose or how to edit as these things you develop for yourself through time and practise.  She taught me how to love myself, love life for what it is, follow my heart and always make this shine through my work.  She has achieved so much since we both packed up and left New Zealand 4 years ago, and she is constantly inspiring me.

Where do you see Casey Van Liefde Portrait Photography going in the future?

I think one of my biggest successes is how personal my work is and the experience that’s involved.  I liaise directly with all of my clients from the initial consultation right through to the final viewing and photo collection.  My work is personal, the experience means as much to me as the result and I never want to lose that.  I am not a huge studio that turns around 5 shoots a day and I never want to be, I want to remain true to myself and my work.

Eventually I'd love to own my own home in the countryside and build a small boutique studio on it.  I don't want lots of staff; an assistant would be nice but nothing major.  Education would be a big one for me, I'd love to teach others about what I do and hopefully enable them to start their own careers.  But most importantly for me it’s that I want to keep pushing the boundaries within my work and my skills and keep taking things to the next level, whatever income or rewards come from that is just an added bonus!


What have been your three proudest career moments to date?

Firstly I would have to say taking the plunge and following my heart.  I had no money or tools, but I had an education, a talent and a whole lot of determination.  I knew what I wanted and I went out and got it.  It’s a huge achievement for me having started from nothing and working my way up.

The first shoot that I ever did on my own will always be a highlight.  I was fresh to photography and extremely nervous.  To top things off it was a couple shoot!  But they loved their photos, spent $1200 (which was my biggest package at the time) and didn't bat an eyelid.  It was my moment that told me; yes you are on the right path!

Another achievement was signing up with a daily deal website in Australia and selling 97 photo shoots online, resulting in 68 people that actually used their vouchers.  It was throughout 2011/2012 and I had only one assistant to help with errands!  I don’t believe I have ever worked so hard or so much in my life.  I am so proud that I made it through but I quickly learnt that quantity was not what I was after. 

My biggest and most recent achievement would be packing up an entire studio and business, moving back to New Zealand and starting all over again.  I am so proud of how far I have come in the past 4 years but I know that this is only the beginning; NZ is where I am meant to be, it’s my home!

How do you juggle making others feel beautiful and still spend time on yourself.

When I make someone feel good about themselves, it makes me feel good about myself.  I’m slightly guilty of not taking enough time out for myself, but I just get so caught up in my work that I sometimes forget.  Listening to my body is a sign that tells me I need a break.  If my neck gets sore I go for a massage, if my head gets full I go for a walk, if I’m tired I sleep and if I’m stressed I soak in a hot bath with a glass of red wine! 

How do you define beauty? What makes a woman beautiful?

I don't know if there is just one way to define beauty.  Beauty is a combination of various elements but it truly does come from within.  Some people let their light shine more than others and I see that when I photograph people.  Everyone looks beautiful when they have the right hair, makeup, posing and lighting, but when you meet those women who are just truly confident in their skin and happy with who they are, there is just a glisten in their eyes that no special effects can create.  Loving yourself and the skin you’re in is the most beautiful thing to me.

What do you draw inspiration from?

Other photographers, magazines, movies, the way the light reflects a surface, an old shed in the middle of a paddock, the list goes on.  There is no limitation to my creativity and inspiration.

What are your lessons in……

Love

Love completely, fully, honestly and with all your heart.  Don't hold back.  Learn to love yourself because until you truly do, you will never love another.  It is our reason for living and what makes or breaks our lives, accept it because when you have it and you feel it, nothing else in the world matters.

Attitude

Stay true to yourself.  Don't try to be someone you’re not just to fit in or make someone else happy.  Don't think you’re better than anyone else, respect others and you will get the same in return.

Acceptance

We are all different; we all have different beliefs, ideas and dreams.  Learn from others.  You don't have to agree, but just accept their opinions, you might actually learn something.  Most importantly accept who you are, there is only one of you!

Personal Style

Wear what suits your body shape and what you feel comfortable in.  Just because something is fashionable does not mean it’s going to suit everyone.  Learn what colours and styles suit you and stick with them.  When you get bored, buy some new costume jewellery or a scarf.  Spend your money on your basic signature items and build on top of these with accessories. 

I wish woman knew………

How beautiful they all really are.  The amount of times I have heard my clients say, “Is that really me?”  Yes it is, and YOU are beautiful.  The models in magazines don't wake up looking like that, so don't be so hard on yourself ladies!

 
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