In the last three years, some impressive fetish photography has been appearing from Holland boldly watermarked with the name “Me-Chiel”.
The images in question fit technically and aesthetically into the “artistic fetish” category, while at the same time often incorporating distinctive elements of playfulness.
In this body of work, up-and-coming, mainly Dutch modelling talents can be found shoulder-to-shoulder with some of Europe’s best-known and most-photographed fetish faces. All of them seem happy to be a part of what is evidently a conspiracy dedicated to the proliferation of fun fetish photography.
Admiring this work whenever I spotted it on Facebook or in models’ portfolios, I didn’t immediately realise that Me-Chiel was the dapper, rubber-clad character by the name of Michiel Kivits, whom I’d met at earlier Fetish Evolution and German Fetish Ball events.
That’s probably because when I first met him, he didn’t have a camera with him — just his “cheeky chappy” personality, which shines through whenever you photograph him at parties (as I have quite a few times since then).
To progress in such a short time from barely dabbling with a camera (as he was in 2008/9) to being regarded today as part of Europe’s cadre of “proper” fetish photographers is no small achievement.
So when we met again at Fetish Evolution this year, I took the opportunity to quiz him about where it had all gone so horribly right.
“It all started with Ancilla Tilia and her then boyfriend,” he tells me. “He was building a photo studio and he asked me if I could help, so I said yes, why not?
“So then I was building this photo studio. And I knew this great bunch of models from Holland, so I thought: I like photography, I like to watch photography, why shouldn’t I try this myself?
“So I think I did some photos at that first Fetish Evolution in 2009 mainly for practice. Like, ‘this is a camera — how does it work?’. I got some tips from people who were around, and I think things started rolling a few weeks after that event.”
But Kivits soon realised that the kind of on-the-hoof reportage photography done at fetish parties was less appealing to him than working in a studio.
“Studio work is much more fun because I have all the time I need in the world. So in the beginning my shoots would start at 7 pm and finish at 3.30am or something because it was so much fun. The make-up artist at the time was my niece, and she was really great and the models were very enthusiastic.
“During the years, the models got better and better, and I of course learnt a lot. And I met so many interesting people, because they’re such a creative bunch and that’s what I like so much, that’s the best part of it. For me it’s really a great hobby.”
Michiel’s use of the word “hobby” is intentional. Like many fetish photographers regarded as serious practitioners of the art, he does not make his living from shooting fetish, or indeed from photography of any kind.
By profession he’s an engineer, and is very clear about what led him into taking up photography ‘on the side’.
“I want fun. When I started, I explained to the models, ‘I’m not a professional; I try to make great photos we can use, and maybe a designer may also like to use them’, and before I knew it I had a passion for something.”
His new-found passion drove him to use the studio more often than other photographers who wanted to shoot there. “Things started going really fast in the first year,” he says, “and my experience level was also growing really exponentially, to be honest.”
‘The photography is more fun, but why? Because I choose the models or the models choose me, and I say yes or no, and do whatever I want’
But given that his photography so obviously does have artistic merit, it’s quite a surprise to hear that Michiel claims “no artistic background at all”. That’s the fun part, he assures me.
“With engineering I earn the money, and for me that’s OK. Of course the photography is more fun, but why is it so much fun? Because I choose the models or the models choose me, and I say yes or no, and do whatever I want.
“Until recently I had this big studio in Amsterdam — it was on three floors. It was a very expensive hobby, but it was worth it. Sometimes I miss it but mostly I don’t, because now I can keep some money until the end of the month, which didn’t happen before!”
With such a big space, he felt it didn’t make sense to be the only ’tog using it. “So after getting to know a lot of models, eventually I invited a lot of photographers too — because we are colleagues, kind of.
“So I just invited friends over, like, ‘Oh you have a camera, come on, I have a lot of equipment here, just use it, have fun’.”
Apart from being the place where his creativity took wing, the Amsterdam studio provided a convenient crash pad that Michiel — whose home is in a small village between Rotterdam and Antwerp that he nicknames ‘Prisonbeek’ — could use after attending parties in the city.
“That’s the great thing about Holland,” he says, “it’s so small. There’s always things happening in Amsterdam, and I do like that, but I also like the quiet I have at home. I can make a choice to go to Amsterdam or just sit at home and read my book. It’s a good balance.”
I’m sure this balance is partly responsible for the relaxed, self-deprecating demeanour I observe whenever he’s at a fetish event with his girlfriend, Dutch fetish model Lara Aimée, or any of the other gorgeous fetish women he knows.
He is not self-conscious about being photographed in such company and clearly enjoys goofing about for the camera. But then, when surrounded by hot models, you might think: what else can you do but play along?
“That’s the only choice I’ve got and that’s what I’m good at,” he says. “The good thing is that at first these girls sometimes look really arrogant but it translates as being really shy. And it took me a while to recognise that.
“Sometimes they really are arrogant, but even then, if you can pop through that, they’re really nice. For them, if they don’t know you, it’s just, ‘Oh there’s another “guy with camera” and he’s approaching me — oh no’.”
As a fetish photographer or model, getting to work with the people you want to work with depends a lot on networking, and Michiel and I agree that Fetish Evolution, centred around one hotel occupied exclusively by pervs for the duration of the event, is ideal for this pursuit.
“Among my goals when I go to FE are to meet some new people and return with some gorgeous pictures of girls. And it always works, almost by itself. Some weeks I think I didn’t make enough photos, but at FE I shoot four or five sets in a weekend.”
In conversation Kivits comes across as quite modest about his achievements. So how does he feel he measures up against some of the longer-established and perhaps higher-profile talents in the fetish genre that he admires?
“Doing what I do, I’ve met a lot of photographers. There’s this guy in Holland, Patrick Kaas, who’s a fulltime photographer. I really look up to him because his photos are great, he works for Playboy so he has a job, and in between he works really hard.
“I’m a big admirer of that because I won’t do that and I don’t want to do that and now I don’t have to do that because I have this engineering job.
“And I see with other photographers that the important thing is having a network. Well that’s not a problem here [at FE], but having a network to earn money, that’s another kind of question. It’s hard work, it really is.
“With some photographers, I think, yes, you’re at a much higher level than me, but some call themselves professional and I can hardly hold my laughter in because, sorry dude, you’re not a professional.
“Sure, you like what you do and your photos are great, but you’re not a professional. To me it’s really black and white: you’re a professional photographer if you earn a living at it, and the same goes for the models.”
Is there one special photographer whose level of artistry Michiel aspires to? Yes there is. “Allan Amato; every time I see one of his photos, I start drooling. If I reach that level I’ll be a very happy man.”
As many fetish photography fans will know, Amato (who recently married British model Ulorin Vex) first came to prominence for his digital retouching work, but is now equally admired for his camera skills.
“I had him at the studio and he’s so relaxed,” says Michiel. “and his wife is great — so sweet, very shy. But in his work, he’s come a long way, with a big studio in LA. He’s also interested in many of the American writers that I’m a fan of, and he makes photos of them that are amazing.
“If he makes a portrait of a man, it’s very powerful, and I don’t have a clue how he does that! So he has a lot of photos I really admire.”
But what are the elements that Michiel Kivits wants in his own pictures — apart from, obviously, pretty girls and latex?
“One of the things that should be there is high heels,” he says. “I’m a real high heels fetishist and it shows in my photos. And the great thing is, in the studio I had a small collection of shoes and now it’s at home, and still growing.”
His collection is often boosted by models’ cast-offs. “I have way too many women’s shoes — not in my size, I should add! It’s really fun because all the girls are happy to come to the studio because they can choose heels.
‘I’ll barge into Jeroen’s shop with a great-looking girl and say: I have this girl, I have a studio, I need a corset – do you have something?’
“Girls and high heels,” he grins. “That’s not a fetish, that’s an addiction.”
Next to latex and shoes, Michiel’s favourite fetish attire to photograph is corsets — especially since he became friends with Amsterdam’s master corsetier, Jeroen van de Klis of Bizarre Design fame.
Says the photographer: “I will often barge into Jeroen’s shop with some great-looking girl and I’ll say ‘Jeroen, I have this girl, I have a studio, I need a corset — do you have something?’. And he’ll say, ‘What do you like?’. It’s a kind of sport for me.”
Among van der Klis’s fabulous creations is the Geisha corset cress modelled here and on our July cover by Jade Vixen.
Mr Kivits is very proud not only of the images that he captured of this striking garment, but also of the input he had into its design. In the sidebar on the right, you can read his first-person account of how the project was conceived and executed.
Our conversation turns to Holland’s domestic latex clothing industry. It turns out that Rotterdam-based Skintight, which started making latex in 1992, made an early impression on him.
“Linda from Skintight had the first website in Holland showing latex,” Michiel explains. “I was really just starting as a latex fetishist and the internet was just starting, and she had a website selling latex clothes. That was so cool.”
Among newer latex labels, he expresses admiration for Brigitte More, currently one of the most energetic and publicity- savvy latex designers on the European scene, and for Ardita FF, the Dutch-based label of Italian designer and latex appliqué specialist Barbara Sandri, featured not so long ago on a Fetishistas cover.
Then in Amsterdam there’s also Scotch & Pepper, the label launched in 2001 by Caragh Cuddihy, ex-head of DeMask’s Bizarre Rubber department. This is a firm with a great reputation among the cognoscenti but, according to Michiel, one that could benefit from raising its profile now there is more competition.
That competition, he suggests, is coming both from established latex designers and “these younger women coming into it now who are getting better and better”.
An example of the latter, he says, is Amsterdam model and performer Miss Mirjana. “She’s been making latex for a long time for herself and her friends, and she finally convinced herself that the quality’s great and she should have her own label. It’s called Burning Heart Latex.”
But it turns out there’s one style of latex clothing that, while becoming more popular with women, doesn’t float Me-Chiel’s boat. It’s a style typified by the kind of latex ‘couture’ dresses that “have a lot of detail in them but are not tight”.
He explains: “Latex needs to be skintight, I think. If you have one of those ornate latex gowns, it may look great, but it’s not the same for me.”
Given his preference, you may not be surprised that Kivits is rather fond of catsuits from Fantastic Rubber, the subject of our June cover story. So much so that he felt obliged to buy his girlfriend the catsuit she modelled in Fantastic Rubber’s GFB fashion show. See our gallery, right, for evidence of just how well it fits her.
But now, one final question from Mr Mitchell to Mr Me-Chiel: which models are currently on his wish list to shoot with?
“There are three, in no particular order,” he tells me. “Mosh, Ulorin Vex (this time with a proper idea, and some sleep beforehand!) and Kato, the Steampunk Couture girl. Lara and I are both pretty much in love with her looks…”
Hmm, I think those are all choices I can get behind. Now where did I put that magic wand?
‘Miss Mirjana’s been making latex for a long time for herself and her friends, and I think she finally convinced herself that the quality’s great’