I believe Bas Berkhout and I to be creative kindred spirits. Bas explores the human spirit through his art, using short form documentary to reveal the true character of an artist and the nuances of their work.
I met Bas in DUMBO on an absolutely freezing New York morning in early Spring. The sun was shining and the sky was clear. The view from his workspace at StudioMates was at its most beautiful. StudioMates (now Friends Work Here) was a creative workspace neighboring the Brooklyn Bridge started by Tina Roth Eisenberg – the mind behind Swissmiss and Creative Mornings, who also happens to be a career idol of mine.
Bas met Tina in New York when she offered him a desk at StudioMates and invited him to try it out in New York for a while. It was an opportunity he’d been longing for – to take the next step and pursue creative work. He knew if he came to New York and it went well that he wouldn’t return to The Netherlands. Six years later he’s still here.
Creating and following your heart's path seems to occur so naturally for Bas. "Why would you do anything other than what makes your heart sing?" His point of view is contagious.
**Disclaimer: Anyone in transition from the corporate world to a life of entrepreneurship – prepare to be inspired.
When you started your project, Like Knows Like, you decided to dive into the lives of artists and get to the root of their character. Tell me more.
BB: Yes, everyone has a story. Creating these profiles is a true art form especially in the edit. You can really look back and see what you captured. There is a big space to fill with your interpretation. People who know me really well can see little pieces of what I was dealing with at that time shine through.
What is it you hope to achieve with Like Knows Like?
BB: I would say humanizing the Internet. This project was born about a year and a half after Instagram came out. We wake up and go to bed with the people we follow on social media. As a follower you see these beautiful interpretations of life through art. This project shows the real, human, relatable side to these idealistic profiles and the artists behind them. I hope to inspire people.
Amazing. It seems like you enjoy capturing people in their truest form, which we can see through your photos of New Yorkers on the Subway on your Instagram.
BB: The subway is filled with unique faces. They all ooze a story. I started out posting the photos with comments and my interpretation of their story but have since stopped doing that. Now everyone can develop one themselves. There are so many different cultures and backgrounds in this city. I really feel that that they have these stories in them. Sometimes it is a little raw and weird… or beautiful. It just depends on how you look at it. All of these people’s stories contribute to the vibrant energy that is New York.
How do you relate to the folks you make documentaries about?
BB: When we interview them we always ask what their most personal challenge is in life. I find similarities here. Mine would be to find a balance in the highs and lows of my emotions. I find that a lot of artists deal with this.
Bas’ passion projects have led him to find work doing what he loves. For some It is hard enough pinpointing exactly what it is that you love to do, let alone making a career out of it. All of these projects were out of pocket so it required a great deal of guts to go all in. Thankfully Bas’ creative efforts have paid off long term. While we were chatting Bas mentioned a little nugget of wisdom that Tina has emphasized over the years – “Keep working hard and following your heart and the money will follow.”
How do you get from idea to creation?
BB: I love to prepare and know what we are going to shoot just to start the project with confidence. But I also think it is important to let things naturally evolve. I always feel like the result is better if you just let things happen on set.
What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed in New York vs. Holland?
BB: The biggest difference here is that the loudest, screaming kid gets what he wants. I was always taught that you have got to be modest. Don’t stand out. Here it’s all about fake it until you make it - being dramatic and being heard. Scream loud. I’m still trying to figure that out. I just want to be modest and for my work to speak for itself.
Bas encourages others to just go and make stuff. Pick up a camera and shoot it yourself. Go for it and learn. It doesn't have to be perfect the first time. Work with people and bounce ideas off of each other. You learn so much through collaboration. You’ve got to have a lot of energy, discipline and motivation to succeed in doing what you love.
When Bas moved from Holland he had to start fresh and a build a new network from scratch.
Take things one day at a time.
When the time is right, make your move.