Hans Neleman’s success is based on a powerful sense of light and form that recalls the great painters of his native Holland. His stylistic sensibility reflects both the strength of Mondrian’s composition and the dramatic grace of the Dutch master Rembrandt. “I have always fought to diffuse the distinction between personal and commercial work,” says the Dutch-born photographer, whose still life and portrait images are sought after by clients and curators alike. For Neleman, the art and business of photography are symbiotic. His natural artistry has only strengthened his commercial success, which to date has been nothing short of amazing.
Born in the Netherlands in the 1960’s, Neleman was schooled at time when the arts were considered a fundamental part of education rather than merely an adjunct to it. He developed an early talent for collage and sculpture, which led to his acceptance as a student at Goldsmiths’ College of Art in London. After receiving a thorough grounding in the plastic arts there, Neleman continued his studies at Polytechnic of Central London, where he further developed his photographic technique and became deeply interested in semiotics and its related disciplines.
While still a student, Neleman established a name for himself as a commercial photographer, shooting music album covers and editorial assignments. Wishing to expand his personal career horizons beyond the confines of Europe, Neleman came to the United States in 1983. After graduating with a master’s degree from New York University, he continued to build a wide-ranging and prestigious clientele (including AT&T, American Express, Coca-Cola, IBM, Nike, Adidas, Sony and Lexus) attracted by his iconoclastic, highly refined, symbolically charged photographs.
Neleman is highly regarded in international advertising circles for the excellence of his work, but he has always made it his mission to dedicate time to his fine art personal work, including his mission to document the underground pulse of fringe communities worldwide.
In 1998 Neleman traveled to New Zealand with the intention of photographing the intricate designs of Moko. He had attempted an exploration on a smaller scale a year earlier, but had met with major obstacles. The exploitation and invasion of their culture, both in past and present, left Maori suspicious of westerners. Following correct protocol and respecting beliefs and philosophies, Neleman proceeded with diplomatic tact and earned their trust. “Moko – Maori Tattoo” (1999) was a result of that mutual exchange of respect and serves as a document of the modern Maori of today.
"Silence" (2000) a book of his personal still life work soon followed. “Night Chicas” (2003) was launched with a one man exhibit at the Ricco Maresca Gallery in Chelsea, New York City. The work is a harrowing document about sex workers in Guatemala.
Morbid beauty and modern taboos are subjects that connect his work. “Body Transformed,” is another personal photography project. It addresses the extreme forms of modern body modification, and was photographed around the world.
After years of shooting high end stock photography assignments for Getty - during which Neleman became their top grossing photographer - he founded his own boutique agency: WIN-Initiative. WIN stands for Worldwide Image Navigation, and represents the exceptional photography from over 800 photographers worldwide. It is an artistic collection focussed on contemporary concepts and lifestyles from global cultures. www.win-initiative.com
Early in 2014 Neleman decided to pick up the paintbrush to renew his interest in fine art. When he is not in his SoHo studio in New York City and focussed on photography, he can be found painting and creating new assemblages in his loft at the American Fabric Arts Building, a former lace factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut. www.hansneleman.com
He lives in the historic Silvermine district of New Canaan, Connecticut with his wife designer Tessa Pimontel and their three children.