Eyeballs - Aaron Zwaal

Fine work from the Netherlands

24 Apr 2015

Photos by Aaron Zwaal / Interview by Devin Feil

Dutch photographer Aaron Zwaal is someone whose work I've taken a keen interest in recent years. Just barely into his mid-twenties Aaron's vision, control of light, and variety of imagery is highly impressive. Those who appreciate great BMX photography should be glad that when forced to decide between a car and a camera, Aaron made the choice he did. Now feast your eyeballs on fine work produced on and off a bike, from his small hometown in the Netherlands and across Europe.


Where do you reside? How old are you?

I've been living my whole life in the oldest town of the Netherlands. Nijmegen is a nice and cosy town on the east of the Netherlands, like ten kilometers from the German border. As we speak I have been on this little globe for 24 years.

How long have you been riding?

At first I was skating til I was 16, but I wanted a BMX bike because my dad used to live in the middle of nowhere, so I wanted a bike to jump some makeshift ramps and little dirt jumps. That's nine years ago. Time goes fast!

When did you start shooting photos?

I have always tried shooting and filming a bit with friends when we were riding and documenting most of the stuff, but I got my first DSLR(Canon 400D) in 2008. I could choose between a drivers license and a DSLR and I chose the latter, especially since me and my mom were going to New York that year and I wanted to photograph a lot over there as well. Slowly I started shooting more and more and when I broke my elbow at the end of that year, I started slowing down a little bit, and it made me shoot even more.

Influences on your work from the BMX world?

Jeff Z, Vince Perraud, George Marshall, that one guy that shoots for DIG called Devin Feil haha! Also I really like checking pictures on Instagram even though it can't beat print but it's an easy quick fix for pictures.

Photographic inspirations outside of BMX?

I don't really look at too much other non-BMX photographers to be honest, but other then that I really cruise around a lot and find most of my idea's for things from that. My school(photo-academy) also gives me inspiration with assignments that I need to do but I can give my own twist on them which is pretty cool and a really good learning experience.

Current camera equipment inventory?

Phew that's going to be a long list starting with digital:

Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 50mm f1.4
Canon 24-105mm f4
Canon 85mm f1.8
Tokina Fisheye 10-17mm
Fuji x100

Film starting from big to small:

Wista 4x5 VX large format camera
90mm-120mm-150mm for the Wista
Hasselblad 500CM
80mm f2.8 and 150mm f4 for the Hasselblad
Homemade pinhole with a medium format 6x7 back and an F-stop around f220
Konica Big mini 35mm compact for snapshots
And some 35mm SLR's that were given to me


3 Yongnuo 560's triggered by Cactus V5's

I know you just picked up a 4x5 recently. Have you had a chance to shoot any riding with it yet?

I did with Janos Baars last week! He is living in Nijmegen because of university but I have known him for quite a while now.

When I contacted him on a random Monday he wanted to come to Nijmegen in the evening because he wanted to study that day but the sun was shining and he said fuck it. At first we went to ride some street and I couldn't really shoot 4x5 because; for one he was doing quite deadman stuff I didn't want to risk messing it up and secondly It's hard to get film shots published especially black and white.

After the street session we went to the local park and shot some stuff there but it was mostly test shots really to see how it'd work and I cannot wait to shoot some good stuff with it!

Do you have a favorite camera?

I've really starting to like to use my 4x5 because it takes time to use it and it brings the quality up way more instead of just snapping away, especially when you gotta load your own film and you can only fit 6 sheets in a tank for developing. Looking through the ground glass with a loupe is also really amazing! It feels real good to use it. The Hasselblad is also really sick to use and the shutter sounds the best. My 5DMk2 is just convenient for commercial stuff but the sync speeds are messed up though.

What drives you to explore such a wide variety of photographic processes and techniques?

I guess I kinda got bored with the old SD/CF card into the computer and wanted something more out of it. When I have something in my mind then I really got to try it because otherwise I can't get it out of my head, same with medium format and then 4x5. I really like trying out stuff and finding out stuff the hard way.

How'd you capture the "Cruise" series?
It'd take all the fun away if I would tell you that haha!

Any upcoming projects?

I recently joined the exclusive list of staff photographers at a German BMX Magazine that still does print. Super honoured on that and can't wait to produce more stuff for them! I have been really busy with school taking up a huge amount of my photography which isn't quite a bad thing as I also get a lot of motivation and diversity from it. Other than that I don't really have too much on the pipeline so far and most things happen to me quite spontaneously.