When I was studying cinema at INSAS, an excellent international film school in Belgium, I was attracted to documentary cinema. I discovered the working methods of Robert Flaherty and Johan van der Keuken: intimacy with the subject, immersion and long-term work. They were searching for unpredictability to inject life into their movies. That was what I also wanted to do.
When Flaherty was making a film, he took everything necessary with him: laboratory, assembly bench and projection room. He was perfectly autonomous and could shoot, watch, re-shoot. Like a real craftsman in quest of perfection. One of the reasons I became a photographer was because I wanted to work in that way. I’m also too instinctive. That can be a positive quality for a photographer but a defect for a filmmaker. In cinema, the unpredictable is an important ingredient – but in photography, it’s the raw material. So, I moved into photography very naturally.
My first work ‘Kinderszenen’ was born from my meeting with autistic children. This meeting was triggered by the films of Fernand Deligny, who was also an educator, pedagogue writer and thinker. In the sixties he offered children with severe autism an opportunity to leave the institutions they were living in and to be part of a community in the middle of the French Cévennes. Nowadays, the association J'interviendrais uses a similar approach. This structure also allows people to come and meet with these children. You don't have to be an educator or a psychologist, so I went to meet them. It was incredible.
It was an encounter that was full both of sweetness and extreme violence. Most of these children do not speak, so the first thing you see above all else is disability and sickness. Then secondly, you see mostly children, sincere, brutal, with very strong individualities and a sense of enigma, an indefinable mystery that escapes reason. It is this mystery that I have tried to capture in the form of photography.
Futures, as a platform, gives an international visibility to my work. It's also a great experience to be part of this young photographer's community. I really had that feeling during the presentation of Futures at Unseen Amsterdam.
Actually, I am preparing a book on Kinderszenen. It will be released in April 2020 at the Loco edition. In parallel, I have just finished the first chapter of my new work about oldness and Alzheimer's disease. My working method is still the same, but the context of this new series will be almost the opposite of ‘Kinderszenen’: the four walls of the institutions.