Through his lens

A borrowed camera and backpacking through ­Europe were enough inspiration for an entrepreneur.

30 June 2019 | People

“The person looking at it should feel the moment and the energy.” Shawn van Eeden, owner

Windhoek • Yolanda Nel



With no experience or any knowledge of photography, an entrepreneur began looking­ at life differently ­after developing his first set of photos.

Shawn van Eeden, owner of Creative Lab, says he went backpacking in Europe and borrowed his dad's old film camera to capture some memories of the trip. He fell in love with taking architectural and landscape photos. “Although I had no know­ledge, seeing the end product after development was amazing,” he says. “It made me look at something in more detail and appreciate what I see more.”

With a passion for travelling, he went to the United Kingdom with his wife. “We had no money and we had to save up for a ticket. We decided on the UK because it was the only place we could do casual labour without a work permit,” he says. He remembers how they worked on farms, in factories and did any odd job they could find to get enough cash to travel ­further.



Design for life

Eventually, they both managed to get permanent jobs and that is when his design career started. “I landed a junior position at a small design company and here I spent many hours learning the craft. I would come in two hours before anybody else and do online trading to get my software knowledge to a point where I could work more efficiently,” he remembers. After one of his colleagues was offered another job, he was recommended to fill the spot. “Thereafter I moved from agency to agency until I eventually ended up at Leo Burnett in London,” he says proudly.

Shawn believes that it takes hard work to make your dreams come true. “Push yourself harder. Especially when working abroad, you have to give 110% otherwise you have 100 other people that are waiting to take your position.”

Working abroad also gave him the opportunity to meet and work with people from all walks of life. “London is an amazing melting pot of every culture in the world, all in one city, which is super exciting.”

He would definitely encourage the youth to go work abroad if they have half the change. “It is tough and the competition is next level, but that pushes you harder and ultimately you grow and develop until you ­manage to get a good position and reputation that opens doors for you,” Shawn says.

He adds that you learn much in such a short time, not only about your job but also about yourself.



Work life

When it comes to his photographs, Shawn hopes to strike an emotional cord with his work. “The person looking at it should feel the moment and the energy,” he says.

He also wants his clients to feel they are getting quality and value for their money when they hire him.

Shawn especially enjoys landscape and fine art photography, and admits it's because he can apply his own rules. “I can play. Being in a place and time where you are witnessing nature putting on a light display is exhi­larating and emotional. Just being outdoors and away from your daily routine is therapy in itself.”

For those wanting to pursue a career in photography, Shawn says dedication and a willingness to put in the work is very important. “You have to get out of your comfort zone to explore and understand light. I think most people think you buy an expensive camera, go do a shoot, push the button and presto, you have a good picture. This is far from the truth. You need to practice and practice and practice, try, fail, learn and try again,” he says.

For him, making mistakes is part of the learning curve. “This will push you to learn from the mistakes.”



Leap of faith

Shawn decided to start Creative Lab “due to frustration”.

“I actually decided to go professional because I was frustrated with my job as an art director at the time. I was very unhappy and didn't see a future in that profession at all.

“I had spent the last 15 years ­building a career out of it and felt quite trapped. Then one day, I took the advice from Confucius, who said 'choose a job you love, and you will never have to work again'. So I took the leap, and what a journey it has been so far!”

He is inspired when he sees what he imagined come together. “I am inspired to work harder and push harder if my ideas become reality. In some ways photography is a medium­ of self-discovery in that through photo­graphy you learn about yourself and use it to show your perspective on the world.”

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