personal project : DAVE ERASMUS

Update: Check out the article about Dave Erasmus on Medium by Naia Schoonderwoerd!

For quite a while now I was thinking about starting a personal project, where I can combine my love for environmental and editorial portraiture with a subject matter I am equally passionate about.

It took a long time to find the right project, and it just came all together after we moved to Finchley in North London. Out of personal interest I was look looking for community projects and volunteering opportunities, but didn’t really find the right fit yet. Around the same time I was watching ‘Lighting in Layers’ again, a video workshop by American photographer David Hobby, author of, an amazing blog about lighting techniques. In ‘Lighting in Layers’ David not just teaches how to light, but also how to see and understand your ecosystem as a photographer. Seeing him shooting a beekeeper for his  hoco360 blog about his home county was the final piece that made me realize what I want to shoot for my personal project:

I want to take portraits of environmental innovators, thinkers and entrepreneurs, for example urban beekeepers, local organic farmers, environmental community projects, entrepreneurs in solar energy or biofuel, and so on. I want to concentrate on very small businesses or individuals in and around London. I see this as an ongoing project, hoping to be able to capture portraits of inspiring individuals, projects and businesses and maybe even in a few years time show their progress or the evolution of new ideas.

As I am working on this project in my personal time I want to keep it simple. I want to work alone without an assistant and try to use minimal gear (just a few flashes with a couple of light stands and modifiers). That way I will learn the limitations of my gear and how to creatively use it, while also connecting and engaging with the subject, to make interesting environmental portraits.

Hopefully I can create win-win situations for everybody involved: Images that can be used by the subjects to promote their projects on the web and social media, while I can build my editorial portfolio with interesting work I am passionate about and build my network.

I don’t know why it took me so long to find a subject matter for my environmental portrait project, as it was already in the name all along :-)

- Environmental, as in portraying the subject in their environment, such as their home or workplace, telling a story about their life and surroundings.

 - Environmental, as in conservation of our planet, relating to the natural world and the impact of human activity on its condition.

I guess that takes the meaning of environmental portraiture to another level :-)


I thought it would be great to start off the project with Dave Erasmus. I already followed his journey for a while and love his content and what he is doing, especially the Solvey Project and more recently his new project about off-the-grid and alternative ways of living in a place he calls Corcovado, which he documents on Youtube. Watch his first Corcovado video here: Welcome to Corcovado!

Luckily he was up for it and I was honoured to be a guest in Corcovado! Upon arrival Dave showed me round Corcovado and throughout the shoot we had great conversations about his projects, but also nature and life in general. It was definitely one of the most enjoyable and interesting shoots I have done!

Here you can see his tiny house, which was featured in the video I linked above.

You could actually say this is a nice 2-bed house :-) It has a sitting area, kitchen, toilet and shower on the “ground floor” and 2 sleeping areas just under the roof!

It is a really great, tiny space, but the fact that you are in the middle of the woods with just nature around you made it actually feel much more open and calming in general.

The little oven is powerful enough to heat the space properly within a short time and I love the idea of heating up water through the spiral around the oven pipe. Just let the water slowly flow around the pipe and you’ll get a steaming hot cuppa tea. It was literally steaming up my lens :-) 

Dave is also constructing another hut at the moment, so it was a great timing for our shoot, as we were able to capture the underlying structure before it will be covered and never been seen again. I hope it is gonna be a great memory to look back on, when the hut is finished and people are staying in it.

I really liked how the lines of the construction mirrored the trees, and of course it was a lot of fun shooting Dave in this space!

Finally we wanted to take some portraits of Dave just in the woods:

There was a great moment when we were taking the following full body portraits. Dave went quiet as the ground beneath him started moving! 

Actually the roots of the tree were moving, as the whole tree was shaking because of the strong winds, which started coming in with storm Doris.

All in all I had an amazing time, it was great meeting Dave and working together with him. Thanks for having me!! I will be following his journey and maybe at some time in the future I can take photos of the finished hut or any new projects in Corcovado! 

Make sure to follow Dave on Youtube, where he publishes his vlogs every Thursday evening! You can also find him on Instagram and Twitter!

Please let me know what you think and if you know of any interesting environmental community projects, individuals or entrepreneurs, let me know in the comments!