My Entrepreneurial Story

Part of the women of vision series

Marian de Jong-Camfferman talks with A2BwithAB

for Women’s Exclusive

Dutch retail Manager turned Photographer 

A true Dutch story of dedication, ambition and drive with a surprising element of Motorcycle riding…

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Welcome to The Netherlands. The land of tulips, cheese, Bitterballen, Herring and ice skating. Meet Marian de Jong-Camfferman, a Dutch girl who grew up in the Green Heart of the Netherlands, or The Groene Hart, Nederland as they call it in Holland, to become a retail manager and photographer, driven by her passion for excellent service and good communication and an eye for detail she turned her hand to photography. Marian has photographs published in local magazines and has taken photos for some of the best restaurants locally in the Netherlands. Here is an interview with a woman of remarkable strength and dedication and the want to succeed.

Here is Marian’s story…

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Where are you from originally and where are you now ?

I’m was born and raised in Woubrugge, in The Netherlands. A small village in the South of Holland, we call it Het Groene Hart as it is very green, it literally means The green Heart, there are lots of windmills and at the right time of year you will find fields of tulips, mostly the fields are agricultural. I lived in Alphen aan den Rijn for a while but moved back to the village I grew up in and have never left. It is just full of nature. Which is perfect my photography.

As I look back at my childhood I remember this as a very happy time. We lived on the waterside in between farms, shipyard, wooden shoe maker, bakery and a sand and gravel trader. After school and weekends there was always something to do. Playing in the haystack, ice-skating in winter, swimming in the summer. It was such aa magical time. We Dutch love the outdoors and we make the most of it, no matter the weather. The weather changes so much here that we have to go out come rain or shine, of course, we all like the sunshine but the rain wouldn’t stop me.

As children we swam a lot in summertime but when I was 2 years old I almost drowned, I was sitting at the waterside and a boy came running down the sand hill and pushed me in to the water. My mother saw this and came running to me and pulled me out of the water by my hair, ouch!, although I was angry at the time, as I couldn’t swim, my mum took a bicycle tyre inner tube, the bit that goes inside of a tyre and keep in inflated, wrapped it five times around my waist and said, time to learn to swim. So I did.

As a child my mother was always home and my dad was always on the road with work. He was a contractor in the temporarily rental building sector for many big companies and his biggest client was airport Schiphol.

I remember the times he came home with huge buckets full with lost and found unclaimed keys with many beautiful keyring’s, we’d put old newspaper on the table and we’d dig in, that was so much fun, kinda treasure hunting. It is really nice to think back on this today.

When I was about 14 year, we went along with dad to strip down rentals, we loved it. We had everything that we could wish for. Dad was very successful and treated his daughters like princess. At least once a week he took us out to dinner, we went on many holidays and I even went on holiday with my parents when I was 20, I went on holiday with them to America, Canada, Australia. I feel very loved by them.

So, a very happy childhood and one I shall cherish forever, with the passing of time, the memories never fade.

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Marian doing what she does best

What are your passions / hobbies 

Wow, I have so many… My biggest passion is for sure photography, if I don’t shoot a photo a day, my day isn’t done. It has become a bit addictive, I just love going out with my camera and being outside. I see so many beautiful things I want to capture, even when I’m driving, I get very disappointed for missing a photo opportunity, because I couldn’t stop the car. It’s more than a hobby for me, it’s became a very real passion and one I am pressing professionally. I am so proud to have my photos in our local magazine and to have been asked to take photos of some of the best local restaurants in our area. It is truly an honour and it really fuels my passion.

I also love interior design, I have given help and advice to several friends on their home designs. Previously my ex husband and I had a barn conversion and we totally stripped out the interior and started over again, we even added a thatch roof.  We bought an enormous showroom kitchen which was stacked on pallets with no plan and with no plan I put it together like Lego bricks myself. I designed the whole interior of the barn myself.

I love handy things and I believe I got this trait from my mother as she was very handy and I really take after her. I just do it, and I have the entrepreneur qualities from my dad. A great mix I think.

For years I enjoyed Motor riding, I got my licence in 1991 and bought a Yamaha Virago XV 750, I was very slim and had long blonde hair then, can you only imagine the looks I got, but I enjoyed it. Sadly this had to stop after my back injury in 2007.

Motorcycle riding gave me the thrill I needed and I was sad to give it up.

When did you start with your photography .

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Marian’s motorbike with her little boy

Photography was always there, my dad took thousands of photos on his trips as well as photos of us. I liked it so much and I was able to take some photos myself as well.

At the age of 16, I was at school two days a week. I could choose extra lessons. I choose photography. This was the analog days, before digital as we know it today.

I learned how to develop and print in black and white. It was always exciting to see if the photo came out well or not, it felt a bit magical seeing it develop and turn into what I had seen but on photographic paper. I think that was the time my passion for photography truly came alive.

We have several airshows in and around the Netherlands and I specially like to photograph the aircraft and these airforce open days and photograph the aircraft, static and in flight, it is very different photographing a n aircraft that moves so quick across the sky. I think I’ve been to all the ones in Holland.

I was offered a full time job when. Was sixteen at Hema, a Dutch retail shop and worked five days a week, on my day off, and when help was needed, I helped my dad building or disassemble buildings, so sadly Photography slowly moved to the background.

Then Almost two years ago on New Years eve my phone stopped working, it just died, I was in a real panic and I needed a new one immediately. Can you imagine on new years eve trying to find a shop open late in the evening before they closed, who had stock of the phone I wanted, phew it was a challenge but as luck would have it, in the only shop still open on new years eve, they had a phone in stock, This phone camera with a great camera, I had never thought about a phone with a camera before but this was perfect for me. This phone was a Huawei P10 Pro, and I began taking more photos again. I decided that I wanted to take it a step further and bought my first digital camera, a Canon Eos, around 1994. I now use a Panasonic Lumix FZ 1000 as well as my phone occasion, I love it

As I moved to the digital age I became more familiar with the DSLR Camera, I started to explore more and more., constantly experimenting with the settings and objects I was photographing, I saw a whole new world of possibilities for photography in the world around me.

There are so many beautiful and exiting scenes around us, for instance, I can immensely enjoy a 5 o’clock in the morning to capture the rising sun. All alone, birds singing, ducks quacking and the sound of the water, camera on the tripod and sitting on a little folding stool. I love it, its just perfect for me.

I never go out without my camera these days. I’ve been asked to make photos for a local magazine, made photos for the best Chinese restaurant in the area, and the owner asked me if I’m interested in taking photos of the menu. Where I’m particular proud is the photo shoot I did of my son the blacksmith where the article and photographs were featured in a local magazine. After all, a job as a blacksmith is quite different these days.

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Marian waterside in the Netherlands

What type of photography do you practice?

I don’t have a preferred subject, I take it as it comes, but I do love a sunset and sunrise, especially if the suns peaking from behind the clouds, it is like it is saying “good morning Marian.” I love all things nature, from butterflies to flowers.

I have a fascination for natural light, the way it reflects on water, breaks through glass or reflects on Cristal or diamonds, the colour the sunlight spreads before and after it rises or sets captures my imagination like niching else. I can sit there for a long time just me, my camera and the sun waking up.

I would love to take more portraits, but with the privacy law it isn’t easy. You have to have permission and that takes away the spontaneity but I might try some street photography one day, just for fun.

Have you taken up any professional courses or are you self taught?

I am completely self taught in photography, just do it is my motto. I think that you have to have an eye for your surroundings, In my mind I already have the picture I want to shoot. I can’t explain, it’s a feeling I think. A feeling I totally get and love. It’s part of who I am.

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Photo taken by Marian of her son the blacksmith which was published in a local magazine

Who is your role model?

My mother for sure, I admired her so much, she had “golden hands” as we call it here. She could do everything. Tiling, bricklaying, wallpaper, decorate, sewing, gardening, you name it she did it. I learned everything from her by looking and helping. I loved her to death. Unfortunately she suddenly died on her vacation on the Dominican Republic in 2012. My biggest shock in my whole life. I still miss her every day..

I joined a local Facebook page kaag en braassem op zijn mooist the group caught my attention because the photos published by the locals in the area are just amazing, I love them all, and so I became a member.

The photo’s in these groups have inspired me to go out and give it a try. We are like a community of people who have a passion fro photography and we share the beautiful photos of where we live. It’s great.

Then I got  invitations for some other sites, including yours, Social Photo and Social Photo Daily. A great community of photographers both hobbyists, amateurs and professionals and we all learn from each other and help each other.

I was impressed by one of the members of Social Photo, the photo’s by Neil Davies, and got to talk with him. Every time he manages to amaze me with his stunning photos. I love his style, I can always recognise his photos, he has such a unique style. He is a great inspiration for me, as are others within these groups.

I like to try out different styles and experiment with the settings. I haven’t find my specific style yet, that’s because I like so many styles. It’s like music, If the sound and rhythm give me a good vibe I like it. It’s the same with my photography, if the setting feels good or the subject speaks to me, I can get very happy and snap away.

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Marian by the waterside with her camera

What profession are you in ?

By profession I am a store manager at HEMA, a dutch retail store, and I have worked for them for 43 years. At sixteen I became a supervisor at the restaurant, some how I always became the leader.

I’ve done many things at HEMA, most of the time they ask me to help or step in. There are no secrets for me there. I love the company, unfortunately its changing fast and business is getting harder and harder, but my customers are my number one priority and I will keep making sure they get the best service from me and my team.

For more than 43 years I have worked for the same company, you’d think I’d seen it all. Many employees who work for such a long time for one company stop learning and become passive. Not for me! I love a challenge, and even when I don’t feel happy for a while, I will never give up. I’ll keep on fighting, yes sometimes it’s fighting, until I get where I want things to be, and that’s good results with employees who are happy and feel appreciated.

I know I am a tough cookie, direct and not easy to get off my track But I know too, by being clear, honest and respectful you can create a team that can achieve everything. We Dutch like that, we like to know where we stand and things to be clear and honest.

I always tell my team that I can’t do this alone, I need everybody on board, without my team I’m nothing, we have to do it together.

What positives have you being a woman in this sector ?

HEMA  is a company where the majority are women, and our customers are mostly woman. Therefore you can relate to your customers by being a woman.

I never had the feeling that I, as a woman, had to work harder or felt any disadvantage. Maybe it’s my character or attitude.

I’m never shy and not afraid to stand up for myself, walk up to the microphone, and ask questions in front of 4000 people, or walk up to our CEO to say hi and again ask questions. I think when you stop asking questions you might as well give up. In retail these are difficult times no matter what sex you are.

The internet is keeping many customers out of the physical shops on the high street. You have to put the customer first and keep surprising them, walk the extra mile to bring them to your store so they will keep returning.

I think as a woman we can give that extra service, that’s in our nature, on the other hand I teach my male employees to be kind, genuine. I personally can enjoy the contact I have with the customer, I love to walk the extra mile to make the costumer happy. It’s what I am about.

I was for almost five years store manager in Scheveningen in the Palace promenade near the sea and pier, very nice location. A typical summer and holiday destination. There were always international customers and with good weather it is booming there. Fantastic.

This February I was relocated in Leiden. Nothing like Scheveningen, at first I didn’t liked it at all. I miss my foreign costumers, the hectic vibe. The store in Leiden needed thoroughly cleaning up, and I was the right one for the job.

After a few months it was showing signs of progress and I have slowly warmed up to the store. Physically it’s still a challenge for me, it’s hard work and my back is causing me lots of troubles but I love it.

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A photo taken in the Netherlands by Marian earlier this year

What challenges as a woman in business ?

I never had  challenges to overcome in business. Maybe because I always, as I call it, do my homework. If you want something, you have to work out the benefits, show that you care, make a calculation of the costs or efforts and present the positive results. I always got an OK. A lesson we’ll thought,

As a woman in photography what have you learnt the most ? From a female perspective?

I’ve learned to look beyond the obvious and look for that special moment from a different angle. From a female perspective I learned  that there are so many woman who have photography as a hobby and make beautiful photos, I thought it was more a man’s world, and woman are more complimentary to each other. I find we tend to give tips for better results and are always open for feedback.

What have you learnt the most from being in business ?

Before you judge, ask questions. So many people assume far too fast and then come to the wrong conclusion.

Give compliments. Give people credit for what they did, don’t use it for your own benefit. Be fair and honest and do at least do one good deed a day.

Always thank your employees for their effort every single day.

Do you see yourself following your passions even in the years to come?

For sure!! I still have so much to learn. I don’t focus on the end but just enjoy the journey.

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By Marian, low light photography

What areas would you like to further explore in your field?

I would love to buy a full frame camera with all kinds of lenses, to experiment with macro photography, and bigger lenses to capture wildlife and birds.

I would like to go on photo holiday to Africa or any other destination with a group, maybe capture those big picture photographs, the sunset and wildlife. But a weekend will be nice as well.

Sometime soon I would like to build a website for my photography work and maybe sell some prints online and offline. For the moment you can find me on instagram.

What are your plans for the year ahead with respect to your work?

I hope that I have the opportunity to stop working in a few years and have more time to do more of the things I really love, such as my photography. For me there are not enough hours in a day to do all of the things I like to do, and like in business, you have to make priorities. Some choices aren’t difficult, I choose, out with the camera over vacuuming any day!

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Marian de Jong-Camfferman

“Thank you Marian, We wish you every success in your Photography and we hope to speak with you again” It would be great to hear how your photography is progressing.

You can reach Marian by clicking on her instagram link and follow her creative work.

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Founder A2AwithAB

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