On a sunny day in September Gijs, Wouter and I had the privilege to go check out the new, Lier based, Kinsel Studio and meet and talk with the founders behind this creative hub. With years of experience, Nicky as a makeup artist and Mathias as a photographer, decided to join forces professionally, and extend their connection as partners in life on another level. Welcome to Kinsel Studio, a creative space built with passion and attention to detail.
Thanks for having us in your home away from home, it’s great to meet you. Can you introduce yourself?
Mathias: I’m Mathias and I'm 36 years old, right? (confirmed by Nicky) If you want to put me in a box I would say I’m a photographer for more than 10 years now and co-owner of the beautiful studio we are at now. But my interests go way beyond this box. I ‘v published a book (‘Analoog’) where I dig deeper in al the facets of analog photography, designed logo’s, clothing, websites,… and the list goes on.
Nicky: My name is Nicky de Winter and I’m still 37 for a couple of weeks (laughs). I’m a makeup artist and the co-owner of this amazing space.
And Mathias and I are lovers over 10 years and married for 2 years. Together we are also parents of two beautiful boys, Finn and Sil.
Mathias, what got you into photography exactly? Was there a particular moment you decided to start?
I delved into the world of arts at a young age, focusing primarily on drawing and designing. As my skills progressed, I ventured into digital arts and became proficient in Photoshop. Photography soon became an integral part of my creative toolkit, allowing me to bring my envisioned images to life and establish connections with my subjects. The process of capturing photos not only fascinated me but also provided an excellent reason to explore the world around me.
After completing high school, I took a four-year hiatus from photography and entered a conventional day job. However, it soon dawned on me that this wasn't my destined path. I couldn't bear the thought of disappearing into the confines of a factory. Determined to reclaim my passion, I decided to rekindle my love for photography, enroll in college, and embark on a journey of self-discovery, exploring both the world and my own capabilities.
In terms of your work as a photographer, what is your expertise?
Mathias: My photography has always centered around people and their surroundings, although I've explored various photography genres. Right after graduation, weddings became my primary focus as it was the quickest way to kickstart my business. I've been capturing weddings for a significant period. However, over the last three years, working alongside Nicky in and outside the studio, our focus has shifted towards lifestyle, fashion, portraiture, and corporate shoots.
Nicky, is you’re path as a make-up artist similar to Mathias’?
Nicky: Not really (laughs). After my school days, I ventured into various jobs. I even managed multiple clothing stores, in one of those Mathias and I crossed paths, and our story began, but that's a story for another time. In 2019, after the birth of our second son, I developed an interest in makeup. I took a course and soon started getting freelance makeup gigs on the side. Eventually, I found myself spending more time on sets more than at my day job as a buyer for an interior design store. That's when I made the decision to quit my job and fully immerse myself in the world of hair and makeup artistry. It was my way of doing something just for myself.
What is it that you like the most of your job as a make-up artist?
Nicky: I suppose I just have a genuine love for people. There's a unique joy in engaging and connecting with others, making them happy and shine. Every new set brings the opportunity to meet different individuals, which I find incredibly enriching and enjoyable. Being naturally sociable really works to my advantage in this field of work.
You’ve already been through the test of time, raising two healthy sons together, so you knew you were able to work together as a team. How was it giving birth to this Project, in the form of Kinsel Studio?
Mathias: Our collaborations unfolded naturally when Nicky embarked on her own business journey and needed professional photographs for her portfolio. I encouraged her makeup aspirations, although I wasn't entirely sure what to expect as she barely uses makeup on herself. But she grew rapidly, connecting to the right people and growing her skills very fast.
Nicky: since we were working more with models and brands, I noticed that Mathias was not a natural communicator, and with these brands and all this people I took over communication for our business relations. So, I grew more in the production side of the business. It was all very organically that we joined forces.
Mathias: After the companies where fused we had to come up with a name for our new baby. This process wasn’t much of a struggle either, the name 'Kinsel' came about effortlessly. “Kin” is the English noun for family, tribe, or bloodline. We just added “sel” (laughs) – it’s easy to say and just sounds like us!
Was it always the plan, to also have a physical studio space?
Nicky: The first studio space was a big classroom in a repurposed old school building in Mortsel. Much smaller than this one but with the same power of natural light. Having the space to create was so rewarding. This was just before corona, so when the lockdown started, we had to close the studio unfortunately.
Mathias: I really wanted a space to create and to be able to shoot when I wanted so a studio for ourselves was an obvious choice for me.
What is the general idea behind Kinsel Studio?
Nicky: Kinsel Studio is more than just a photography space; it's a creative haven where you have the freedom to use it however you please. Shoots, videos, meetings, workshops, even podcasts (if you don’t mind natural sounds from the world outside) the options are limitless. The studio stands on its own, but you also have the option to request whatever service you need. If you are a store and in need for ecomm/lookbook/product pictures, or you are looking for a makeup artist or light gaffer we will help you! We even have a book with models that work freelance for us. Interesting right?!
Mathias: I envisioned creating a daylight studio, a concept I felt was missing in Belgium. As I began my photography career, Instagram was on the rise, allowing me to observe photographers worldwide right from my phone. I was captivated by the spacious studios used by American photographers I was following at the time, flooded with natural light. When we decided to establish our studio, I wanted it to emulate those open, light-filled spaces where daylight photography was possible throughout the day. I aimed for side window lighting, an industrial touch, yet with a warm and inviting atmosphere.
In essence, we aim for a welcoming environment at Kinsel Studio, not just a sterile photography space — a place where we, too, would love to work. It's a tranquil, warm space that often feels like a home because of its peaceful ambiance.
What do you wish for your future self?
Mathias: Our studio is continuously evolving; at the moment, we're in the process of constructing our office space. Many improvements are in the pipeline. We added blinding curtains on the side of the cyclorama so there can be shoots with artificial lighting. We’re also expanding our collection of props, offering a variety of chairs and other items for versatile use. What sets us apart, I think, is the freedom to use everything available, providing a unique range of options not commonly found in other studios.
Nicky: Looking ahead, I see myself working on commercial and advertisement sets. I am honored every time someone books me, I’m so grateful to be able to do this work! And I would love to assist some bigger names in the business and grow my network.
Oh, and Girls of Dust, if you need me, just give me a call (laughs).
Mathias: Personally, my goal is to nurture relationships with my current clients and attract more lifestyle brands. I really enjoy playful and colorful photography and maintain a consistently busy studio space (laughs).
How is it working together, especially as a couple, I imagine it to be intense sometimes?
Nicky: Our collaboration usually runs smoothly. Our clients love our collaboration and the positive vibes between us, which is a nice compliment and a great stimulus to continue what we are doing.
Mathias: The dynamic between us can be intense at times, but it proves beneficial. Nicky's efficiency contrasts my tendency for perfection. Having a second set of eyes and an honest opinion on set is truly valuable. I trust her vision; together we understands the clients' needs, work faster and capture the essences of the clients request.
Thanks for your time, good luck in the future and hope to see you guys soon.