It was photography or architecture. Photography became my choice of study and architecture in photography became my work. I love straight lines. Shadow and light and what they can do to an image.
I was obsessed, as a child, with a pocket camera i found in my parents' cupboard. Such an old thing, with a flash you had to replace the bulbs in every time you took a photo. Later, when I was 14, I got a second-hand camera and a hefty dose of passion on top. I didn't understand the kit, but i took photos of everything i saw. My dad, standing chatting to a neighbour: click. I was only interested in framing and focussing. The subject matter was incidental. After my studies, architecture became a constant presence in my images. As subject matter yes, but also as style. That's how it had to be.
My work evolved when we moved house to antwerp. I worked out my architectural style in still life works, into personal compositions that were an extension of my love for architecture. Yet again, these straight lines, shadow and light, soft colours that merged in their complementarity. Micro-architecture that tended towards painting. People sometimes called them miniature paintings. This was a compliment, as i really wished i could paint. Painting inspires me. And frustrates me. This is why i try to get close to it in my photography. I want to reach down to the essence in my compositions and still life work. Saying as much as possible by showing as little as possible. Aesthetic abstraction. Perhaps i glorify things a bit by doing this, present them as being bit more attractive than they actually are. But i'm not aware of doing this.
I work in a really controlled way. Weighing and balancing until my image finds its equilibrium. This singles me out as a photographer. But not as a human being. because, in my mind, i'm a scatterbrain. This is why i love still life. In my head as well as in my images. Stillness is important for working efficiently. That perfect balance between stillness and noise, that's what i'm after.
Perhaps i underestimate this constant inspiration. I’m convinced that i'm getting inspiration from things and people all the time, without realizing it. Except when i pick up my camera. Then i use everything that i've subconsciously soaked up beforehand.
I have a healthy envy of photographers who do what i don't do. They inspire me because they're different from me. Because they do things that i'd like to be able to do. Some photographers tell the most wonderful stories with portraits. I tend more to tell a story about someone by using the setting in which i photograph that person. This abstraction and form has to be there, and i get less of it from portraits of people. Saul Leiter, for instance, can do things i can only dream of; maybe because he was also a painter. Photography and painting, hand-in-hand; that's what inspires me.
Inspiration is beauty for me. If there's beauty, then you can also provide some beauty in your image.
Words by Heidi Petre