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Humberto Tan is a real all-rounder: a lawyer, television and radio maker, sports journalist, writer and photographer. For his 'Take Five' Humberto traveled to five countries from all over the world. Five series from five countries with five selected works: “I wanted to make a purely black-and-white photo series. The story of Suriname, Uganda, Norway, Italy and America.” Who helped him with his life story? Text: Mical Joseph
Image: Humberto Tan and Karoly Effenberger

What was your very first part-time job?

“As a 15-year-old boy, I mainly played football and attended the Gymnasium in the Bijlmermeer. Those were my main goals at that age. When I turned eighteen I wanted to join the diplomatic service and work at a Dutch embassy, ​​but in the end I didn't do that. I studied law and at the end of my studies I applied for an ambassadorship at the Foreign Office.”

How did you end up in your current job?

“I was approached for television and did a screen test. At first I thought this would be fun for a few years. That number has now grown to 26. I see diplomacy in a different form, but with a camera: I travel all over the world now. I am interested in the strange, in other stories and countries. As a child I was already interested in photography, but this did not go beyond looking at photos and finding them interesting. My participation in the television program 'Het Perfecte Plaatje' accelerated my photography.”

Who was your wheelbarrow in that?

“I have had several mentors since I got into photography. Celebrity photographer William Rutten and Frans Lanting. The funny thing is that a lot of professional photographers are willing to help me by talking to me. A broader layer is sometimes critical, saying: 'Yes, I can do it with his camera too.”

What is your greatest passion in your profession?

“The great thing about photography for me is that I am 75 percent responsible for what appears in the photo. I say 75 deliberately because 25 percent depends on how it is printed, framed and hung. I am responsible for the creative process and I can give free rein to my own imagination. My series all have potential. By potential in this case I mean that I am walking on the street, for example in Paramaribo, and it is raining, but the palm trees suggest a more beautiful time. An ex-soldier who has been living on the street for three years, looks good, but finds life terrible. A man who killed someone while drunk. And now he's still drunk. I capture these stories on film and that is my passion.”

What has been the biggest learning moment in your career?

“My mother always said: 'You have to do your best for beautiful things and misery will come to you.' This will always stay with me.”

What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?

“Take risks. If you want to move forward in life, you have to dare to fall. If you don't want to fall, you have to lie down.”

What characterizes your photography?

“I drive around the country I am in and arrive in a very small remote village. Eleven o'clock at night. I get out of my car so I can feel and view the surroundings. Then I see someone sitting by the water in the area, where a beautiful line has emerged: a man, a house and surroundings. The house really is all the colors of the rainbow, which of course you won't recognize in my black and white series.

For example, during my trip to Suriname there was a fisherman in the distance. I approached him and the fisherman thought: 'What on earth are you doing here?' For my photos I approach people and talk to them, after which the most beautiful, saddest and most inspiring stories emerge. I capture this on camera. When you look at the eyes of the people in the photos, you see a story.”

What's still on your bucket list to photograph?

“I am currently working on a photo project with 100-year-olds. It is a project with 100 people aged 100 and older. More and more people are reaching this age and I also want to capture their story. I keep telling stories.”